Five take-aways from the Rebels’ 27-16 win over Vanderbilt
- There were no take-aways. Ole Miss finished minus-2 in turnovers against Vanderbilt, a team that was averaging minus-2.33 per game to rank No. 124 out of 128 FBS teams coming into the game. Chad Kelly’s two interceptions were the give-aways for Ole Miss, and there was nearly a third on special teams.
2. The Rebels were sluggish. A certain level of that was to be expected after last week’s emotional win. Perhaps more important than the emotion spent was getting back at 5 in the morning on a bus trip. Still, I expected Ole Miss to be more smooth and efficient around the middle of the second quarter. The Rebels never really hit that gear until the last Jaylen Walton-led touchdown drive.
3. Speaking of which, the run game was there when Ole Miss had to have it. That’s huge. The Rebels rushed for 151 yards, most of that from Walton. There’s a clear pecking order among the backs now, and it goes Walton, Jordan Wilkins and Akeem Judd.
4. For all the weapons on this team the Rebels still struggle inside the 5. When the field shrinks this still isn’t a team that can power its way into the end zone. Tonight there were other issues like penalties when the Rebels were at point blank range but also the fact that Vanderbilt ranks second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in red zone defense. When Robert Nkemdiche scored on a 1-yard run for a 20-13 lead it was the fourth snap from the 1, and two of those resulted in Vanderbilt penalties.
5. Third downs have to improve on both sides of the ball. The Rebels were just 3-for-13 on offensive third downs. That’s new. We’ll keep an eye on that. Defensively, this problem has been here before. Once is an isolated incident, twice is a trend. Vanderbilt converted 10-off-22 third downs, too many. The Rebels came up with some key third down stops along the way, but every remaining SEC offense they will face will be more prolific than Vanderbilt. That said, Vanderbilt is improved on both sides of the ball, but that improvement shows up more on defense.
More tomorrow in Day After Observations. Tomorrow begins in about an hour by the way.