Notes, thoughts and observations from Ole Miss' 42-24 win over Southern Illinois ...
As Matt points out below, the Salukis brought out some concerns. While there were was frustration in the way the Rebels lost 14-13 to BYU last week, there was also hope because of the effort of the defense.
Yesterday the defense looked more like last year than last week. The Salukis gained 420 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per play. They had scoring drives of 10, 12 and 16 plays. They had 223 rushing yards.
The 420 yards wouldn't look so bad if not for three plays, a 53-yard completion against cornerback Marcus Temple in the first quarter, a 74-yard run when the Salukis were backed up to their 6 and a 44-yard completion on the last play of the game that had SIU at the Ole Miss 6 at the end of the game.
SIU got a total of three points off those three plays. Take them away, and the Salukis had only 249 yards.
But you can't take them away, and the big plays allowed were reminiscent of 2010 and will create more doubt than confidence going into this week's SEC opener at Vanderbilt.
The Commodores got a defensive touchdown and a field goal in the last 7 minutes, 4 seconds to beat UConn 24-21 last night.
For Ole Miss, what was not reminiscent of 2010 was the fact that the Rebels picked off four passes, one of them by Damien Jackson at the goalline. The Rebels have five picks in two games, a number they didn't achieve last year until the 11th game.
SIU was able to get push with their line, and it appears that power running teams are going to give Ole Miss trouble.
It was good to see Wayne Dorsey turn in some big plays last night with a sack and an interception, but it was another pedestrian outing for Kentrell Lockett. Dorsey also had two tackles for loss and broke up a pass.
Freshman C.J. Johnson got in the game and finished with one tackle.
Offensively, coordinator David Lee was not pleased with the run game beyond Jeff Scott until the final 5 minutes when it produced with a 64-yard drive - seven plays all on the ground - to put the game out of reach with Devin Thomas' 3-yard run.
A key play on that drive was a 25-yard run by Randall Mackey. I thought he would be needed to help spark the Ole Miss run game, and that proved true. The Rebels may have Enrique Davis back for Vanderbilt this week, but Mackey needs a larger role, not because Zack Stoudt was't playing well, but because Mackey has to spark the run game while Brandon Bolden is out.
For the second straight week there are concerns about the Rebels' offensive line, which gave up nine tackles for loss and two sacks.
There was steady rush against Stoudt. For the second straight game he handled it well, but for the second second straight game he had a fumble that led to a touchdown. He finished 11-for-18 for 118 yards and a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Jamal Mosely.
He threw no interceptions and hasn't thrown an interception this season. That's a big deal, given the fact that Ole Miss QBs have thrown 50 picks in the last three years, 35 in the last two.
Houston Nutt says he wants a quarterback who can stay away from disasters. Stoudt is almost there, and does more than just stay away from picks in the passing game.
The lack of interceptions has Ole Miss at plus-2 in turnover margin after two games. The Rebels haven't finished a season on the plus side of turnover margin since 2003.
It looks like roles are shaping up for receivers. There's more trust in Donte Moncrief than in any of the other freshmen. Third-year sophomore Ja-Mes Logan is the other go to possession receiver. Logan had four catches last night, Moncrief two.
Tobias Singleton was involved in special teams, and there's a continual effort to get a big play out of Nick Brassell. It hasn't happened yet - Brassell had one catch for 6 yards, one rush for 12 yards - but it's coming. Before there's success in the deep passing game there needs to be better pass protection.
There were no obvious injuries last night. Sometimes injuries spring up that aren't obvious. We'll talk with Nutt later today.
Looking ahead, coaches rarely call any game a "must win," especially in September, but given the state of the Rebels right now and the schedule that looms ahead, Vanderbilt is a game they really need to chart a path for six wins.
All in all, the best thing the Rebels did last night was close the game. SIU rallied from a 35-10 deficit to make it 35-24 with lots of time left in the fourth quarter.
Players say they weren't thinking of the Jacksonville State game then, but I know a lot of people who were.