By Jeff Roberson
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the reason he and his staff played more people against Vanderbilt in the Rebels’ 27-16 victory Saturday night was simple.
“Alabama. Second half. No question about it, we were worn down,” he said of the Rebels’ 43-37 win on the road after leading 30-10 in the third quarter. “Go back and look at it.”
So the defensive coaching staff decided the key at this point is to play more guys.
“When you’re tired, you don’t function as well as you need to,” Wommack said. “It’s a long season. We’ve got to make a commitment to play more people, and we’ve done that.”
Wommack said there was indeed a plan to make that happen against the Commodores.
“Absolutely,” Wommack said. “We already had a plan going into the game who was going in what series. We weren’t going to make wholesale change, but we were going to bring some guys in and out. There was improvement. We played a lot more people.”
Overall he didn’t give his defense a grade, but he was pleased that Vanderbilt scored just one touchdown and the Rebels held them to three field goals and another missed field goal.
“I thought in the first half, other than that one drive when they came out and did a nice job scheming us on some stuff, we adjusted,” he said. “I thought we got hurt with some penalties in the third quarter.
“But I thought there was some good things. I thought they had one decent run, and probably averaged two and a half or three yards a carry. We had a crucial third down stop after their turnover down there (late), which was a big difference in the game, I thought.”
Tony Connor was out for this one and for the next several games after an injury and surgery last week. Wommack thought his replacements stepped in and did well.
“I think they did alright. The biggest thing I was disappointed in was some third downs they got. I didn’t think we locked down some coverages like we needed to. They’ll learn. They don’t have the experience Tony does. They’re getting better.”
Wommack said C.J. Johnson was at his best at linebacker.
“C.J. played one of his best games. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” he said of the senior who had six tackles including two solos, a pass breakup and two hurries. “I was keeping an eye on him and watching what they were doing to us. I know that he played really, really well.”
Vanderbilt was effective at some points in the game with the passes from quarterback Johnny McCrary to their tight ends.
“Earlyon they did. We started doubling and took that away,” Wommack said.
Ole Miss is 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference, heading to Florida for a game next Saturday night.
The veteran defensive coach has been through many wars just like the one against Vanderbilt and knows walking out of the stadium with a victory is the main thing.
“I’m glad to get a win. It was probably tighter than we wanted it to be,” he said. “But you have to go through these games to learn. It will be a learning situation in some areas for us to get better.”