Thoughts and observations from the Rebels’ 56-15 win over La.-Lafayette …
In the off-season I thought Lafayette could possibly be the Rebels’ most challenging non-conference game.
It also looked like Vanderbilt would provide more of a test. While Ole Miss has put up 97 points and 1,101 yards the last two weeks it would be nice to think that’s been all about superior offense.
The offense has been very good, starting with quarterback Bo Wallace, but Vanderbilt and ULL have done nothing defensively in their other games to suggest they’re similar to what the Rebels will face on most SEC Saturdays.
Like last week in Nashville, the best thing the Rebels can say about yesterday’s win was that they limited turnovers – just one – and were mostly proficient in running their system.
That’s not so true about the run game. Ole Miss hit some big plays against ULL, but one thing the Cajuns’ defense had shown in its body of work was that it will give up some big plays.
The Rebels had touchdown runs of 40, 56 and 70 yards as part of their 225 rushing yards. That means that on 32 other attempts they managed 59 yards.
While the Rebels have been able to correct Wallace’s interceptions from the first half of the Boise game, the inability to consistently run the football remains a problem. No matter who the running back or what the offensive line combination Ole Miss hasn’t been able to sustain 4- and 5-yard runs on first downs to establish a rhythm.
Hugh Freeze indicated after the game that I’Tavius Mathers and Jordan Wilkins were a little dinged up. He didn’t give a lot of specifics but threw out the word “ankles” to cover several players.
That didn’t really affect the rushing total because it was big play or bust from the start.
Speaking of the OL it seemed to me that Robert Conyers played more at right tackle yesterday. It’s hard to watch the OL when you’re trying to follow the ball on most plays, and when the game gets out of hand like it did yesterday then I’m working more on the game story and other things. It’s possible though that we’re seeing a reemergence of competition at right tackle between Conyers and junior college transfer Fahn Cooper.
The deterioration of play allowed more reps for UCLA transfer Christian Morris than he might have gotten otherwise. That’s a good thing because Morris could enter the picture.
Speaking of Wallace he was 23-for-28 passing after hitting his first 14 attempts. His protection has been good most of the season, and when that’s the case – and he makes good decisions – he’s very, very accurate. Through three games he’s completing 75.5 percent of his pass attempts, about 13 points ahead of where most coaches would like to see their starting quarterback.
Since the first half of the Boise State game Wallace has a TD pass-to-interception ratio of 8-to-1.
Sometimes when you cruise along you get the feeling that you can fit the ball anywhere, and that’s what happened late in the first half on what pass that was almost picked. It wasn’t, and the pick came a few passes later on a throw that looked too high for Cody Core, I was told. I had walked away from my seat at the time. Freeze said the play was a busted route by the receiver – not necessarily Core but maybe someone else – and that Wallace made the right read and decision on the play.
Aside from the run game the concern with the offense after three games is that Laquon Treadwell isn’t getting the ball consistently.
Other teams are guarding him close. I get that. But great receivers find a way to get the football and get involved, and that’s not happening enough with Treadwell. That falls on the staff, and Treadwell needs more touches.
The good news is the rest of the receivers have been better than advertised, especially Core, who showed his athleticism on a touchdown catch yesterday where he kind of tipped the ball to himself.
The open space created by the attention to Treadwell gave Vince Sanders the opportunity for a big day, and he responded with eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively the Rebels again gave up some big plays in the run game early and again responded with the proper fixes.
When ULL was forced to pass it couldn’t get much done. That’s not the Cajuns’ style. Ole Miss didn’t get to ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway with a ton of pressure partly because of his elusiveness. The Rebels, though, covered well in the back end and finished with three interceptions, two from Senquez Golson, who returned one 59 yards for a score. Other passes were defended and batted away in a good day’s work for the secondary.
Red zone offense was more successful though still lacked some proficiency. The Rebels twice had to convert third-and-long plays in the red zone to finish with touchdowns.
Freshman WR Markell Pack was a little more involved in the offense and is beginning to look like a guy could soon break a big gain on a punt return. One of his four returns went for 24 yards.
The Rebels are off this week then at home on Sept. 27 against a Memphis team that looks much improved. The Tigers are at home this week against Middle Tennessee State.