Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 76-3 win over Tennessee (the Martin campus) …
Not a lot of complaints in an overwhelming season opener for Ole Miss.
There was a fella who felt I was being overly critical on Twitter. I didn’t think the defense was particularly dominant against Martin’s run, and I questioned throwing the pass to Robert Nkemdiche in this game as opposed to unveiling it later to surprise someone that isn’t quite so overmatched.
On the whole it was a very good first game. Understand that everything good and wonderful thing that happened needs to be valued in direct proportion with the opponent.
I think Jaylen Walton is a weapon, but he bounced off a few tackles on one of those runs that he’s not likely to bounce off in Tuscaloosa.
The run game was good, though, with 338 yards on 36 attempts.
There were the dirty runs that Hugh Freeze talks about, those 2 and 3-yard bursts, but also big plays.
Walton scored on a 60-yard run, Eugene Brazley on a 70-yard run. Brazley’s run allowed him to lead the team in rushing with 88 yards on six carries. That means he had 18 yards on five other attempts.
I like Brazley. I think he changes directions well, and if injuries take place he can absorb the impact.
Much of his action today came in the second half. That’s just where he is in the pecking order.
The big backs ran well too. I thought Jordan Wilkins looked a little better than Akeem Judd, but both had some yards after contact, and that’s the name of the game for those guys. Be physical. Run with power. They both moved piles, and Judd showed a nifty stiff-arm a time or two.
The backs are going to be OK. Where the run game goes this season is going to be defined more by run blocking, and Martin had only one tackle for loss.
The Rebels were able to get by without Laremy Tunsil for this game. Freeze says he has “no idea” about Tunsil’s availability moving forward.
From what I’m hearing the NCAA isn’t sharing a lot of information with the school. It’s possible that Ole Miss sits Tunsil again against Fresno State and rolls the dice the next week against Alabama.
I think the Ole Miss offensive line is improved, but it’s not going to be the best it can be without Tunsil. No offensive line would be if you take away a possible No. 1 overall pick.
I mentioned during the week that we wouldn’t answer all questions about this Ole Miss team after one game against an FCS opponent.
Fresno State will offer more of a challenge next week. The Bulldogs held Abilene Christian to 1.2 yards per carry in a 34-13 win.
As with Martin, consider the opponent.
All things considered it was a great day for all three Ole Miss quarterbacks. All three were effective and threw touchdown passes. They were accurate.
It looked to me like Freeze threw deep with Chad Kelly more than he did Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. That’s what sets Kelly a part, and it’s why he needs to be the starter moving forward.
Kelly missed a couple of throws early that could have been touchdowns to Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell. He didn’t miss by much, and he corrected himself and came up with long touchdown throws to Markell Pack and Cody Core.
The game’s only turnover was charged to Kelly, an interception that was a perfectly thrown ball to Treadwell that bounced off Treadwell’s hands and to a defender.
Treadwell looked OK, not great. He agreed with that assessment and said part of that has to do with just not being in rhythm for so long. Freeze said the same thing in his statements.
Physically Treadwell looked really good. He was strong running through tackles a couple of times in the first quarter. He’s only going to get better. He will find his rhythm and make big catches.
Defensively A.J. Moore had nice game getting a lot of snaps that might have gone to C.J. Hampton had he not been suspended along with C.J. Johnson. Moore had five tackles and a sack.
Tony Bridges led Ole Miss with six tackles, but we didn’t get much of a read on the new corners because Martin wasn’t going to stand in the pocket and throw much.
I did think the Skyhawks hit their spots well. They had some nice play calls that allowed them to run away from the thrust of the defense.
Some of that had to do with the numbers of players subbing in and out for Ole Miss.
I thought one of the highlights of opening day was Carlos Davis in the return game. Looks like he can give the Rebels a weapon back there and not just a guy who can catch the ball without turning it over.
The stats have him at 80 yards on six returns, one of those for 58 yards. I thought he was better on the other five.
Lots of potential with him back there.
All in all a solid opening day for Ole Miss.