To the casual eye it may look like the Rebels have been efficient in the first half. On defense they have. It took until the final minutes of the second quarter before the Rebels began to show some proficiency on offense.
The Rebels spent much of the first half in poor field position, but they weren’t able to drive themselves out of it. Tennessee defenders got off blocks and made plays. Good linebacking crew for the Vols.
The Tennessee offensive line is as advertised. That’s the good news. In spite of great field position most of the half the Vols have been able to get only three points.
That came on a seven-play, 38-yard drive that stalled in the red zone. UT quarterback Justin Worley compensated for the poor offensive line play then by getting the ball out of his hands quickly. It’s not a trend he’s been able to maintain throughout the half. Ole Miss averages 1.83 sacks per game and had five in the first half.
The Rebels finally hit a couple of big plays, both from Bo Wallace to Vince Sanders, and got on the board at the 5:08 mark of the first half with Sanders’ 39-yard touchdown catch.
That 73-yard drive required Wallace to keep a third-down play alive by coming off his first read, moving up in the pocket and finding Sanders in almost the same spot on the previous play, a 28-yard gain.
A Senquez Golson interception followed, and with much better field position the Rebels looked a little more in sync offensively. They converted a fourth-and-inches with a 21-yard run by Jordan Wilkins who took a quick flip from Jeremy Liggins.
After a first half of struggle the Rebels have a little breathing room.
Ole Miss has a 174-109 yardage edge.
Wallace was 4-for-13 in the first quarter when Ole Miss had more punts (5) than pass completions. He’s now 8-for-19 for 128 yards and a score.
Deep into the second quarter the Rebels were at minus-6 rushing yards. Right now they have 46 yards on 20 carries.
Tennessee has minus-11 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
Worley is 13-for-19 for 120 yards and two picks.
One item to note, the normally fundamentally sound Ole Miss secondary is doing OK but not great. The Vols’ receivers are physical and hard to get down. They’re getting yards after contact.