Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 35-31 loss to Auburn …
Let’s start with injuries. Laquon Treadwell is done for the year with what Hugh Freeze called a fracture. I know the injury was lower leg. I haven’t heard any TV discussion or seen any replays. I know Treadwell was in a lot of pain.
Treadwell has take-over-a-game potential and had he not sustained the injury he’d have won the game for Ole Miss. The likelihood is that he doesn’t fumble if he doesn’t have pain shooting through his leg. The pain caused the fumble. Had it not, Ole Miss would have had the lead with 1 minute, 30 seconds left.
Treadwell wasn’t the only injury.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil did not play. His injury was called a shoulder in the press box. It was called a biceps last week. I don’t know if that’s the same injury renamed or if it’s something new. Freeze implied it was a game-time decision on Tunsil, saying Tunsil “couldn’t get any power” in pre-game warmups.
The Rebels also lost junior safety Trae Elston to an undisclosed injury in the first quarter. He was in sweats for the second half.
Back in August when Freeze didn’t feel comfortable enough to name a starting center I never thought a game would turn on Ben Still, but based on what happened in the second half last week at LSU Ben Still’s gutsy performance to play when he’d practiced little this week and missed last week with an MCL sprain was really big.
The Rebels went with Fahn Cooper at left tackle and Robert Conyers at right tackle.
Bo Wallace was sacked four times against a high risk defense that blitzed a lot. That also gave Ole Miss receivers some opportunities downfield.
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner pointed to the Rebels’ other weapons at receiver in saying the offense should be OK without Treadwell.
There’s more truth in that statement than there was in August, but the Rebels’ other playmakers will no longer have the benefit of a defense having to ask itself “where’s Treadwell?”
However, a position group that was thin in August has more experience and confidence now. The wide receiver group has turned into an asset.
That’s not true about the offensive line. Tunsil’s status moving forward is unclear, and his absence will be greatly felt especially if Still is found to have aggravated the knee or something like that when the dust settles after another physical game.
If you had told me before the game that Auburn’s offense would manhandle the Ole Miss defense like it has so many others I would not have thought the score would have been this close.
Offensively Ole Miss hasn’t looked very good the last two weeks. They’ve played some very good secondaries, and Auburn’s a group that had given up a lot of pass yards before it got to Oxford.
I thought Ole Miss had a chance in the passing game, but they needed Wallace to bounce back and play well, and he did.
Except for the fumble. His 341 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions will be forgotten because he fumbled at the 1 on what could have been a game-winning drive.
Bo Wallace is the quarterback, and he’s the best choice for the position. Ole Miss has won more games in Freeze’s first three seasons than it would have won had Wallace signed elsewhere. He’s a high risk, high reward player. The fumble was massive.
Defensively the Rebels twice had the chance to get off the field when the Tigers were in third-and-long situations behind their 30 in the second half. Once Robert Nkemdiche missed a sack, and the second time Nick Marshall hung up a long pass down field and Sammie Coats, who is much bigger than Senquez Golson, made a play. Those were two big-gaining plays that led to second-half touchdowns. They were massive in their own right.
Early in this season the Ole Miss defense showed itself to be more vulnerable against a good running team than a good passing team. The Rebels have a great secondary as the ascent of Golson has been a nice complement to safety Cody Prewitt, and Mike Hilton has been simply steady as always.
But good rushing teams can run on the Rebels, with the exception of FCS Presbyterian next week, there are only good rushing teams left on the schedule.
Arkansas has now lost 17 consecutive SEC games but apparently played well and had a chance to win at Mississippi State last night.
The idea of Ole Miss trying to consistently stop the Hogs’ run game in a few weeks should be a concern. The good news is the Rebels will basically have a two-week open date going into that game. They should be able to rest many of their wounded against Presbyterian, and a true open date follows that.
Maybe the Rebels are a little more healthy, a little revived and will have a good defensive plan going into Fayetteville.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said his team didn’t fit as well as he would have liked against Auburn. We heard that word after the LSU game too, though the Rebels were better in the second half at LSU until they just wore down.
There are a lot of moving parts to Auburn’s offense that make the fits difficult. Nick Marshall does a great job of disguising things.
The bottom line moving forward is that Ole Miss will have to create its own mismatches. It will have to do what it does well – pass the football – and will have to do it sans its best receiver and perhaps its best lineman too.
The passing game is where Ole Miss can off-set the power run advantages that Arkansas and Mississippi State will both have.
We have reached the “you are what you are” stage of the season. The Rebels aren’t going to consistently run the football. They can perhaps hit big plays here or there – as Wallace and I’Tavius Mathers did against Auburn – but they’re not going to scare anybody with the run.
If Ole Miss is to recapture this season and finish strong it needs Bo Wallace to be at his best through the air and to protect the football at all times.