Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 52-3 win over New Mexico State …

First, give an asterisk to all achievements on each side of the ball, and consider the opponent.

New Mexico State is a struggling program, has been for a long time, and was playing without its starting quarterback.

This game was always about in-ward focus for Ole Miss. The Rebels needed to play clean and regain some confidence, and there are mixed results there.

They started slowly on defense but cleaned up some things and got better fast. Subtract the Aggies’ opening possession, a 67-yard field goal drive, and they had 172 total yards.

The Rebels didn’t star slowly on offense, per se, but they started slowly in the red zone, and there were groans when they settled for a short field goal after first-and-goal at the 9 on their opening possession.

Hugh Freeze is intent on running the ball inside the 10. Three runs with Akeem Judd could advance the ball only from the 9 to the 4 before Gary Wunderlich gave Ole Miss a 3-0 lead.

Some people think red zone and think inside the 5, but the red zone starts at the 20. Hugh Freeze isn’t only handing it off when he gets in the red zone, but he’s trying to get it done on the ground when in very close.

The second trip to the red zone was better. A 6-yard completion to Evan Engram moved Ole Miss to a first down at the 11, and Jordan Wilkins scored easily on an inside run on the next play.

The first two possessions were a snapshot of what Freeze spends a lot of time talking about these days … execution.

Freeze seems to be struggling right now to push the buttons to help this team go from good to great.

“This team needs me to be more passionate and show emotion. Some teams don’t react real well to that, but I want to tell you, here’s the deal with this team, and our coaching staff. We have got to understand the amount of energy, the amount of focus that it takes to put into every single play in order for that play to be successful, and then forget it and move on.”

Execution is impacted but health, and the Rebels aren’t very healthy right now.

They got a little bit of good news when freshman guard Javon Patterson was declared well enough to play. He didn’t start the game, but was inserted on the second series and made an impact as the game went on.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Sims replaced Rod Taylor on that second drive.

Freeze and his staff have longed raved about Taylor’s athleticism, but he was pulled out for a little coaching up, not because of his shoulder which Freeze says is getting better each week.

If Taylor is indeed getting healthier Freeze may need to scale things back to plays he can understand and execute at a higher level.

That’s not a long-term fix, but the Rebels need to be able to rely on a player of his ability, particularly at this time of injuries along the line. …

I thought the move of Mike Hilton to Huskie paid off, but New Mexico State also provided no real test.

Hilton did a great job of blowing up plays that came his way. Florida hurt Ole Miss with cross routes and underneath passing, but New Mexico State could hurt Ole Miss with much of anything. So it looks like the Rebels improved their pass defense. You’d like to be more certain of that going to face a dynamic pass game at Memphis, but you’ll just have to wait and see. You’ll know soon enough after the Rebels and Tigers kick off next week. …

Laquon Treadwell had eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns including an acrobatic one-handed grab in which he had to regain his balance to stay in-bounds and score.

But Treadwell also had a few drops, and there was a one-on-one meeting with a New Mexico State defender inside the 5 when I thought he could have scored.

He had great numbers but an average day by his standards. …

Eugene Brazley had a 78-yard touchdown run and narrowly missed a 100-yard game on only six carries.

This isn’t the first time Brazley has dominated mop-up time. As Freeze points out, he’s taking advantage of his opportunities.

Brazley has done enough for Freeze to consider a larger role. I like his vision and cutting ability.

The problem is he’s more the size of Jaylen Walton without being quite as physical.

Walton was held out Saturday but is expected back for Memphis.

I don’t think Judd has necessarily distinguished himself as the No. 3 back, but he does offer size, and that’s important.

It’s going to be hard to work Brazley in, but I think I’d try. …

Earlier this season I though Carlos Davis had a chance to be a weapon as a punt returner, but that hasn’t worked out, and Davis is having issues protecting the ball.

I saw Markell Pack back for a punt in the fourth quarter. He was last year’s returner and could be an option here.

Pack wasn’t a big-play threat last year, but he catches the football, and that’s the most important thing right now.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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