By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Thumbs up, down
– Thumbs up: Quarterback Jevan Snead was successful throwing the ball downfield. Wide receiver Shay Hodge had a big day with 96 yards and several nice catches, one of them for a touchdown off the back of the defender. … Linebacker Patrick Trahan had 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and an interception while playing with an injured foot.
Thumbs down: Quarterback Jevan Snead threw three interceptions leading directly to 14 points, the last one returned 64 yards for a touchdown. … The Rebels were unable to defend the option, so they were unable to get off the field on third downs. The Rebels forced State into a third down quite often, but this is the SEC, not the CFL, and State converted the first down 9-of-13 times.
Keys to victory
– Reviewing the three keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay edition:
Limit turnovers:Four turnovers does not constitute “limiting.” In addition to their inability to get the Bulldogs off the field with their defense, the Rebels gave away the football when they did have it. While the Rebels’ average gain per play (7.3) was almost 2 yards more than the Bulldogs (5.6), MSU ran 73 plays to 53 for Ole Miss.
Run DMC:Dexter McCluster did in fact run, his 5.1-yards per carry average higher than Anthony Dixon’s 4.6. But the Bulldogs kept McCluster from making big plays in the run game and in the process kept him from getting his 1,000 yards on their field. McCluster needed 93 yards to reach 1,000 but finished with 82. As the Rebels were forced to throw in the second half, McCluster finished with just 16 rush attempts, the fewest he’s had as the starting tailback.
Slow down Dixon:Ole Miss was well on its way to doing this. Dixon had just 17 yards on 10 carries at halftime, but when Chris Relf got involved things changed. Suddenly there were two weapons to defend, and Dixon found more running room. He finished with a game-high 133 yards.
–Shay Hodge: The Rebels’ wide receiver was able to get open against the MSU secondary. He had a nifty touchdown catch on a fade route, grabbing the ball off the body of the MSU defender, and finished with 96 yards on six catches.
–This is a team that has to have its defense to win. The offense doesn’t have the weapons it was believed to have early in the year. McCluster is a dynamic player, but when he doesn’t break free for big plays, this isn’t a team that plays well from behind. The last game leaves a powerful taste for teams in the off-season. Fortunately for Ole Miss there’s one more. A win in a bowl game would give the Rebels wins in four of their last five, not bad in the big picture.