Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 24-3 win over Memphis …

While Memphis is an improved team it’s simply hard to take much confidence from last night’s win into this week’s daunting task against No. 3 Alabama.

That’s mainly because the Rebels were mistake-prone on offense. You can’t say they played poorly. They gained 426 yards. They got Laquon Treadwell involved with explosive plays. They rushed the ball better than they have at any time this year.

But they shot themselves in the foot. They made mistakes and had turnovers that everyone knows will certainly spell disaster against Alabama.

It’s alarming that Ole Miss looked as sloppy as it did against a slightly better opponent. Vanderbilt may have improved a little in recent weeks, but that was a bad football team in Week 2, and La.-Lafayette wasn’t much better.

Maybe the precision the Rebels showed in the passing game against two lesser teams built a false sense of confidence.

If that’s the case, and a slightly better foe brings out this, what will happen against Alabama which is probably a little better than Memphis?

I didn’t think Memphis would be good enough to be a legitimate “trap” game for Ole Miss. I didn’t think Ole Miss would lose, though the Rebels challenged that theory for three quarters.

I did think an improved Memphis team inspired to be playing against the local SEC team would be good enough to make Ole Miss look bad.

That’s what happened.

Players and coaches can say what they will, but this is an Ole Miss team that had one eye on Alabama and the tremendous opportunity this week represents.

They didn’t talk about Alabama, and they didn’t insert packages for Alabama into last week’s practices.

But there’s been too much hype for this game from outside sources to think it wasn’t weighing on their minds to some degree.

You heard Hugh Freeze say it after the game. He told Matt Luke he was glad to get the Memphis game behind him.

Maybe that distraction contributed to the turnovers and the penalties. Bo Wallace certainly looked distracted.

Wallace is a senior and a three-year starter and needs to rise above the distractions. He sets the tone for the offense.

That being said I expect a cleaner performance against Alabama.

There will be no looking past the Tide.

The Memphis game should serve as a humbling experience to remind the Rebels that they have to be at their best each week against the teams that will now appear on their schedule.

The good news from the game was that the Rebels were better in two key areas in which they’ve been trying to see improvement – running the ball and stopping the run.

There were more 4- and 5-yard runs on first downs to put the Rebels in more advantageous down and distance situations. Much of the night – not always – backs had space and ran hard.

The most important thing I thought was the run defense improvement. The Rebels had Memphis to 31 yards on 23 carries, and that may be something to build on.

Every SEC team Ole Miss is about to face is going to be solid in the run game. They’ve got to be better against the run than they were the first three weeks, and they took a stop forward last night.

It was good to see a resurgent performance from Denzel Nkemdiche. He had six tackles and two tackles for loss. He downplayed his game, but he hasn’t looked like that in a while. I called him the wild card earlier this year because if his head’s on straight and he’s healthy he can be a difference-maker as he was in 2012. Good step forward for the older Nkemdiche.

While the run defense was improved the secondary was good again save for a bust from Senquez Golson that resulted in a 44-yard drive for Memphis on its field goal scoring drive. That play helped the Tigers reach the Ole Miss 7, but they were promptly driven back to the 23 and hit a 40-yard field goal.

The Tigers never really threatened the end zone zone even when Wallace’s fumble gave them the ball at the Ole Miss 30.

Wallace was under pressure when he fumbled, and he seemed to get a little more pressure tonight than he did in the first three games.

The bottom line is the Rebels survived a sloppy performance with stellar defensive play.

Alabama will have more weapons than Memphis, but I expect the Rebels to have a cleaner performance.

Freeze talks about the handful of games in which coaches can call on the emotions of players and get them to play at a higher level.

This week will be one of those games.

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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  • Killer_Beeze

    Bottom line: Ole MIss won by 21 pts. Most predicted a 3 touchdown win. Two missed field goals and two turnovers in the redzone caused the Rebels from tacking on another 20 pts. I would loved to have seen a 41-3 shellacking. But it is what it is.
    In 4 games, the Rebel defense has only given up 2 touchdowns and are only giving up 8.5 ppg. That should be #1 in the SEC.
    Now, if the offense can turn in a performance like the defense did last night when playing ‘Bama, then Ole Miss has a chance to upset the Tide.

  • NashvilleReb

    Seriously? Come on Parrish…your first eight graphs are the most negative I’ve ever read. Yes, it was not pretty. However, look at a Memphis team that barely lost to UCLA by 7. Yet, Ole Miss wins by 21 and shuts their offense down. Get over yourself.

    • Parrish Alford

      It gets more positive at the end. Kind of like the game last night.

    • Colonel_Panic

      Sorry that some of us don’t wear the rose colored glasses at all times. The Rebs played the worst game of the year after a bye week and the week before one of the biggest games Oxford has every seen. So yeah… The only good part was the defense. If not for them, we would be 3-1 and watching gameday go to another awful Midwest city for some crappy big 10 showdown. These next few weeks are put up or shut up time for this team and for coach freeze.

      • NashvilleReb

        Rose colored glasses? Really? Yes, we didn’t play well on offense and we all know it. However, this team took UCLA to the ropes and the UCLA team being heralded as playoff team barely won by seven. We did what had to be done to win. It’s what all good teams do – even when one side of the ball is marginal at best. Just remember – we haven’t been in a situation like this in years. Three years ago we were 0-8, 2-10. Put up or shut up time for the team and Freeze? Wow, I think they have put up more than enough in only two years. Don’t forget how far we have even come….

  • Lee814

    Parrish: any chance Golson gets suspended by the SEC this week, since video shows that he actually threw the punch that got Wunderlick ejected?

    • Parrish Alford

      I would think that’s possible if the SEC decides to further review that play.

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