Notes and observations from the Rebels' 47-29 win over Central Arkansas. …
What did we learn?
One, the defensive line isn't as physical as it will need to be. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said UCA's success in the first half was due in large part to the Rebels' running themselves out of position because they were so much stronger than the Bears.
Gap responsibility was a big issue in the first half. Whatever the issue was, it was good to see the Rebels make adjustments and have more success in the second half. UCA went from 237 yards in the first half to 110 yards in the second half. The Rebels struggled in the third quarter in several games last year, so that was good news.
On the whole, it looked like a reversal of what Ole Miss showed for a month of practice in August. The offense moved the ball and scored consistently. It protected the ball except for one Bo Wallace interception on a tipped ball. The Rebels have rarely won the turnover stat in recently years but were plus-1 last night.
The defense, though, for a half, got pushed around and was on a pace to give up 40 points after two quarters.
Individually, Denzel Nkemdiche was active with eight tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss. Joel Kight and Dehendret Collins each had seven tackles, and C.J. Johnson, who is expected to be a major part of the defense, had six tackles and a sack.
The Rebels really applied more pressure in the backfield in the second half. Ole Miss had just 13 sacks last year but had four in the second half last night.
Channing Ward got on the field and was credited with one tackle. As many have said, he certainly looks the part.
The competition amps up this week with UTEP. The Miners were down just 10-7 at Oklahoma after three quarters before giving out and losing 24-7. Normally explosive UTEP gained just 244 yards, but that was against the OU defense.
Offensively, the two-quarterback system will continue. It's too early to appoint Bo Wallace as the answer at the position, but he had a great first start. Remember, it was against an FCS opponent.
Barry Brunetti will continue to play not because Wallace looked like he needed the help but because Brunetti brings something valuable to the position with his running. A couple of passes that Brunetti completed on his third-quarter TD drive really weren't good passes but good catches by tight end Jamal Mosley.
Wallace may have solidified his role as the starter, but he won't be the only player. He showed he can be an effective runner too, and that's important in the Freeze offense. The quarterback is going to run the ball.
On the whole Wallace made better decisions than he made in much of August practice. He stayed in the pocket and made accurate throws in the face of UCA pressure.
That the Bears got in the backfield so much is a problem. The Ole Miss offensive line only recently began to come together and assert itself against the Rebels' defense. On the whole it was not a bad debut, but it's a concern that UCA was able to get 11 tackles for loss.
Then there was that stretch in the late second quarter when the Bears had three sacks and a TFL on four consecutive plays. Two of those came after the Rebels had reached the UCA 3 with a second-and-goal. Bryson Rose pushed a short field goal attempt to the right, and the Rebels missed a scoring opportunity.
But there was enough blocking up front and enough “reading” from the quarterbacks to get the ground game going. The backs ran hard. Randall Mackey's debut was a bit of a disappointment (15 carries, 50 yards, 3.3 per carry), but it turns out Mackey was sick.
The young backs ran hard, and there was good production from both Jaylen Walton, who got to the corner and scored on a 10-yard run, and I'Tavius Mathers, who had 20 yards on four carries.