Notes and observations from the Rebels’ 34-3 win over Tennessee …
It was highly unusual to see Bo Wallace complete less than 50 percent of his pass attempts. That’s not terrible surprising. Tennessee has some talent in the secondary. The Vols are pretty good against the pass.
What’s concerning is so is LSU.
The Tigers went into their thrashing of Kentucky second to Ole Miss in pass defense efficiency and ranked No. 10 nationally to Ole Miss’ No. 7.
Wallace was able to make some plays in the passing game as the night wore on. He completed only 13-of-28 passes, but two went for touchdowns.
The first was to Vince Sanders who made a physical move at the end to get in the end zone. That play covered 39 yards, and on the play just before, Wallace kept a third-down play alive by stepping up in the pocket, coming off his primary receiver and finding Sanders on the right side.
Late in the third quarter he connected with Evan Engram from 24 yards out, and the Ole Miss tight end made a great diving catch.
There were some nifty throws and catches during the game.
After Hugh Freeze talked about conservative play-calling and trying to play behind an outstanding defense that is really locked in right now.
I get that.
I’m not sure you can wait that long to flip the switch at LSU and expect the same results.
The book on LSU this year has been that the Tigers are one-dimensional and can’t throw the football.
If that’s an accurate read I think Ole Miss can put together a plan to limit – not dominate but limit – the Tigers’ run game.
Ole Miss is better defensively now than it was a month ago, and that improvement is in run defense.
Alabama ran on the Rebels in spots, but nobody else really has since Louisiana-Lafayette. Memphis has run the ball well in its conference but got very little done against. A&M and Tennessee aren’t in the upper half of the SEC’s run teams – in fact Tennessee is last – but the Rebels have smothered the run game the last two weeks.
The Rebels’ real strength has been pass defense, but in order to win at LSU cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton are going to have to be sure tacklers in run packages. I think they will be up to the challenge.
Speaking of Golson, he had his SEC-leading sixth and seventh interceptions against the Vols. He’s in position and finishing plays. Can’t recall an interception that he’s dropped this year. Lots of times you’ll see a DB come close to picking one off and pound the turf in frustration. That’s not what Golson is doing this year.
The Rebels’ three interceptiosn plus one fumble recovery against the Vols made them plus-4 in turnover margin for the game and plus-8 over the last three games.
Turnover margin is a huge stat for winning football teams.
Looks like freshman Gary Wunderlich has taken over the place-kicking chores. He missed a 52-yard field goal wide left. Had plenty of leg which makes you think he’ll hit those soon. He was good from 34 and 27. The biggest thing the Rebels need there is consistency, and Wunderlich may be on the way to providing that.
Good night for Will Gleeson in the punt game, though he was used far too much. The Rebels had more punts (5) than completions (4) in the first quarter. Gleeson had four punts inside the 20 and had a long of 67 yards that seemed like it rolled forever.
For the first time in three weeks the Rebels didn’t have a big play in the kick return game.
Punt return has gone from being an area in which the Rebels might hope for a big play to being one in which you hope they don’t turn it over or make a bad decision. Lots of room to improve there.
Ole Miss is going to have to play cleaner earlier in the game next week.
One reason the Rebels were so successful at A&M was because of how they took the fight to the Aggies from the get-go before their 110,000 fans.
Ole Miss is 7-0 and will go to Tiger Stadium as a rare favorite.
The way this football season has mushroomed with the rankings, the national attention and whatnot, this is no longer about counting wins and hoping for nine or 10 in the regular season. This is about winning the SEC West, something this program has never done.
There’s a lot of playoff talk right now, and rightfully so. That’s fine. It goes with the territory, but if the Rebels finish strong and win the division and win in Atlanta the playoffs will take care of themselves.
This team is good enough to do that with a defense that is outstanding, and an offense that right now is taking care of the football.