Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 38-10 loss to Florida …
I was willing to excuse some obvious flaws against Vanderbilt, flaws like pass coverage where Tony Conner would have helped, an inability to run the ball consistently and a pocket that seemed to be collapsing quickly.
Those same issues were there against Florida, and it’s not surprising they weren’t corrected, because Florida is a much better defense.
The Gators are quicker in the front seven than Alabama and cover better in the secondary.
I was forgiving against Vanderbilt, because the Rebels were coming off such an emotional win in Tuscaloosa, and because Vanderbilt is indeed improved.
What you have now, though, are some obvious offensive line needs that Ole Miss must address if it’s going to contend in the SEC West.
Truthfully, a lot of people had the Rebels at 4-1 right now but with the loss coming against Alabama and not rebuilding Florida.
It’s really better this way. Ole Miss still has in its pocket a win against an important SEC West rival.
What the Rebels didn’t have in the Swamp was an answer for the Florida front seven.
There’s a lot of talk about the Gators’ secondary, and they’re good, but Chad Kelly passed for 259 yards and would have passed for more yards and touchdowns had he been better protected.
This isn’t only about Laremy Tunsil’s absence. Tunsil, though, would have played a huge role in the game. It’s possible that Florida wouldn’t have gotten three sacks and four tackles for loss in the first half had Tunsil played. With Tunsil, maybe the Rebels get off to a better start and put themselves in better position later in the game.
This isn’t to say that all pressure came from left tackle Fahn Cooper, far from it. But with Tunsil, Cooper goes back to right tackle, and the same trickle down affect on the OL that hurts the Rebels now trickles in the other direction.
There’s no word on when or if Tunsil will come back.
There are also injury and health issues up front with Justin Bell still out and multiple players playing hurt.
Ole Miss was able to mask some issues and get some things done in other games, even against Alabama.
Florida’s front seven was too good, though, its pressure too strong.
The Rebels should be able to block and score in the next two weeks against New Mexico State and Memphis.
But with Texas A&M’s ends coming up after Memphis it could be more of what the Rebels experienced at Florida.
Tunsil’s loss is glaring right now, but so is Tony Conner’s. Florida repeatedly burned Ole Miss on crossing routes over the middle, places where the Huskie or linebackers should be covering.
Cornerback coverage is holding up downfield, but teams don’t have to throw long when they can throw a 7-yard pass and have it turn into a 77-yard touchdown as Florida quarterback Will Grier did when he hit Brandon Powell over the middle with about 7 minutes left in the second quarter.
And let’s talk about Grier.
Not only is this guy a redshirt freshman who had played wire-to-wire as a starter for just two games, he had the flu, some level of it, during the week.
Even perfectly healthy Ole Miss should have been able to pressure Grier and get him rattled.
The Rebels often got close to Grier, but they could not finish with sacks the way the Gators did, and Grier certainly wasn’t rattled.
Like Ole Miss, offensive line play is not the Gators’ strong suit, but they protected Grier enough, and they succeeded in making Robert Nkemdiche look average.
The red zone issues the Rebels experienced against Vanderbilt were there again. So much of this goes to offensive line play so stop me if you’ve heard this.
As weak as the Rebels are there right now you still should be able to punch in a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 1. Ole Miss was not able to and backed up 4 yards before settling for a short field goal to get on the board in the third quarter.
Understanding his flaws up front Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is going to have to find something that works when he gets that close.
There was social media commentary, some of it from injured defensive lineman Herbert Moore, that said Freeze should have thrown to Treadwell when in that close.
Throwing to Treadwell is never a bad plan, and it’s time to accept that running at the middle, even from 1 yard out, is not a guarantee to get you to the end zone with this team.
Freeze also did not opt for the “jumbo” package he’s used several times this year with Robert Nkemdiche and DJ Jones in the backfield.
Hours before the Rebels’ 6 CT kick there was talk about Ole Miss as the possible new No. 1 had Ohio State not righted its ship against Indiana.
The Buckeyes did take care of business, however, and as we would soon learn the Ole Miss No. 1 talk was moot.
The Rebels have been brought back down to earth and have learned that they have several areas to clean up if they’re going to truly contend in the West.