Day After Observations

Updated 1:27 p.m.

Notes and thoughts from Ole Miss’ 35-13 win over Boise State …

All wins are great and all that, but there was too much sloppiness in this one to leave with a great feeling of confidence.

Boise had some good skill players and could obviously exploit you if you gave them a crease, but Ole Miss didn’t do that much.

Still, I suspect many watching at home said, “This is the No. 18 team?” It was a performance that justified that rationale.

As I mentioned during the game it was disturbing that Ole Miss was unable to run the ball, and I think this was a reflection more on the Rebels’ offensive line than on Boise’s defense.

Boise was trying to take away the run. I get that. You’re going to have to come up with different ways to get some things done on the ground if the base offense is not working.

Some things were working. I thought the offensive line pass protected well except for some times in the second half. Because the Rebels were able to hit some plays in the passing game Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze didn’t have to show a lot of different looks in the run game.

Jordan Wilkins had some nice straight-ahead runs, but those came late in the game when he was fresh and Boise was tired.

We are still traveling back from Atlanta. Since I posted this a couple of hours ago a Twitter reader says that Freeze had previously announced that Akeem Judd would be redshirted. I missed that. So that leaves Wilkins as the power back, and I suspect he’ll be fine if they can address other issues in the run game. …

Based on post-practice reports I kind of expected to see Anthony Alford as the shotgun quarterback a little more. As it turned out, we saw a lot less of the second quarterback role. I think Alford was in there late in the game for a snap or two. The first cracks at that went to Jeremy Liggins on a fourth-and-1 and DeVante Kincade down by the goalline.

Liggins moved the pile and got the first. Freeze had downplayed Liggins’ short-yardage role, saying he wanted him to focus on his tight end responsibilities. There was too much time invested in Liggins in the spring not to use him in this short-yardage role. He’s good at it, and there’s certainly a need. Obviously they’ve continued to work along that path.

Kincade’s only carry was not successful because he bobbled the snap, and the play never really had a chance. It was not a good snap, low and wide left, but it didn’t roll back to Kincade, and as a quarterback you’ve got to be ready to catch snaps that aren’t perfect.

The change-of-pace running quarterback was a big part of this offense for two years with Barry Brunetti, and it may take that to spark the run game again. The question is whether it will be Kincade or Alford.

Last night I didn’t see a cause to turn to that a whole lot. The running game was clearly not working, but it wasn’t like there were three-and-outs for the offense. There was rhythm in the passing game when there weren’t interceptions or pre-snap penalties.

As for Wallace, you reach a point where you are what you are. Bo Wallace is a guy who’s going to make a lot of big plays, and he’s going to make poor decisions too. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and think he could have a big year based on his health and experience, that maybe he really had found his place in the offense. Then after the game Freeze says that two of Wallace’s interceptions came as he strayed from his normal progression of reads. That’s not what you want to hear from a third-year starter and the most experienced guy in the league at his position.

Freeze was also quick to say, “He’s our guy.” That’s probably a vote of confidence rooted more in the fact that neither Ryan Buchanan nor Kincade had taken a game snap before last night. Buchanan still hasn’t.

Wallace is going to have big games this season, but until he shows he can string several games together without a turnover you’ll always be waiting for that big mistake to come.

Elsewhere …

Robert Nkemdiche had a nice game. He didn’t have a sack or a turnover, but he was in the backfield and changed the timing of the Boise offense. I’m sure Grant Hedrick could tell you if Nkemdiche remembered to put on deodorant. Nkemdiche’s batted pass resulted in an interception for defensive end C.J. Johnson. …

I thought the defense was impressive most of the night, but it was not complete dominance. Boise finished with 399 yards and did get some things done in hurry-up mode late in the game. By that time Ole Miss had already surged out in front. It was a 28-6 game with less than 5 minutes to play before Boise got its touchdown.

Boise was very fundamental on offense, and the Rebels didn’t always tackle well. They did a good job of getting off blocks and getting to the ball, but some big plays could have been avoided with better tackling.

Late in the first half Boise began to get to the edge in the run game mostly with some misdirection. That allowed its running back, Jay Ajayi, to have a little more success between the tackles, but that was only for a brief period. Boise wasn’t going to block the Ole Miss front too many times.

The targeting call that resulted in the ejection of Serderius Bryant was the correct call for the rule. Looked like Bryant’s head hit Hedrick’s chin on the replay.

Bryant’s ejection showed how much depth this team has at certain spots. Keith Lewis had seven tackles off the bench and in a game where the Rebels delivered a lot of big hits, he may have had the biggest.

The surprise player of the night, though, was Taylor Polk, a walk-on redshirt freshman from Brandon, who had four tackles and a tackle for loss.

On a defense with a lot of talent Polk and John Youngblood are going to make contributions by being where they need to be and being assignment sound. …

There were other surprises like Cody Core and Will Gleeson.

Core had a good camp at receiver, but nobody saw his big night coming. He had four catches, no drops, and a two-touchdown game can only increase his confidence. I doubt he outruns many SEC secondaries, though.

The receivers on the whole had a good night. I don’t recall any really embarrassing drops as there were in camp.

Gleeson in his first start at punter was good in the short game and was supported by strong coverage to have three punts downed inside the 20. That was no doubt deflating for a Boise team that realized early it was going to be tough to drive against the Rebels’ defense. Gleeson also had a 70-yarder, and it wasn’t 50 yards of roll.

Next up is a Vanderbilt team that was hammered 37-7 by Temple. Lots to work on for Ole Miss in Week 2, most of it at quarterback and OL.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • rcpylon

    Great recap!

  • Colonel_Panic

    PA, if my memory is correct then this group of coaches has been together for 3 years now without any major changes to the staff. Hypothetically, if OM struggles on offense continue, specifically the OL, do you think Freeze has the moxy to replace a few assistants? I would love to see him go out and hire a guy from a big time program that runs a similar offense (think TAMU or Auburn). It seems like these schools have the ability to run this offense more efficiently and effectively. Any thoughts, PA?

    • Killer_Beeze

      Nothing wrong with the O-line that can’t be corrected. Boise St. did a great job (in the first half) of causing them to commit false starts. Rebels adjusted at half time and the problem was solved…for the most part. The O-line is like a basketball team…they have to learn how to perform as a unit. New guys will always slow down that process. They are talented and should catch on quickly.
      As for offensive play calling. I thought the play calling against Boise St. was too ‘vanilla’. I would hope they add some different flavors in the future…like running the Wild Rebel… throw to tightend Liggins…screen pass to the tailbacks…more long passes to Cody Core! Just mix it up more. That keeps the opposing defense guessing.

      • Parrish Alford

        Beeze, I thought the same thing about the play-calling as I was watching the game. I think because the OL was protecting fairly well and Bo was finding targets when making good decisions that Freeze held some things in reserve. Typical for a first game.

        • Killer_Beeze

          Yeah, you’re probably right. Given that assumption, Coach Freeze might be holding all his tricks in the ‘play calling bag’ until Alabama rolls into town.
          Plain vanilla football–more likely than not–will win the next 3 games.

    • Parrish Alford

      Panic, A&M had the most prolific player in college football the last two years. As far as their game with SC, from the little I saw I thought Hill looked composed at QB, but he was not pressured much at all. I think the game was more about A&M’s OL. Last year Auburn had an experienced OL and although Malzahn was new as coach they’d had some experience with his style when he was the OC at Auburn. Ole Miss has an NFL talent in Tunsil and needs to add a similar talent level around him. Your best OLs have fourth- and fifth-year redshirt players. For Ole Miss, only Justin Bell really fits that bill right now. Aaron Morris is a junior but is coming off ACL surgery. While a lot of positions have added talent and depth this one is still a work in progress and is going to need to block the run game better even when teams are crowding the box.

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