Ole Miss Football Rewind

Thumbs up
– Ole Miss outplayed LSU for most of the game. The Rebels continued their November trend of offensive improvement, putting strong performances back-to-back for the first time in SEC play.
Ole Miss put up 426 yards against a very good defense, 99 more than did Florida.
Dexter McCluster was solid again, and Jevan Snead did not throw an interception.
The defense took away the Tigers’ run game and limited big plays.

Thumbs down
– The defense also gave up a couple of big plays, none bigger than the Hail Mary on fourth-and-26 from the Ole Miss 48 that led to the drama surrounding the final 1 second. The offense was unable to finish early drives with touchdowns and had to settle for 3 after reaching the LSU 5 late in the game. A touchdown would have removed all doubt.

Keys to victory
Reviewing the three keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
Limit turnovers: For the first time in five games the Rebels finished on the plus side of turnover margin. They fumbled twice but lost neither and did not throw an interception.
Cassius Vaughn had a first-quarter pick against LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the only turnover of the game.
LSU had a fumble but did not lose it. In a flashback to 2006 in Baton Rouge, when the Rebels tried to scoop up a loose ball instead of falling on it and running out the clock, the Rebels tried to scoop and score but were unsuccessful.
The Rebels went into the game 11th in the SEC and 104th in the nation in turnover margin at minus-8. LSU was third in the SEC and 15th in the nation at plus-9.
Run the football: This has become the M.O., of the Ole Miss offense. Dexter McCluster ran for 148 yards and averaged 6.2 yards a carry.
The speed of LSU’s secondary kept McCluster from breaking a really long run more than once, and even then the Tigers caught him with angle pursuit.
The Rebels had 193 rushing yards as a team. They can still do a better job of power running in short-yardage situations.
Don’t take off on Holliday: The SEC’s leading punt returner, Trindon Holliday did not have a punt return.
The Tigers were effective with their kick returns, however, averaging 28 yards on six returns. LSU’s first-quarter touchdown came after not Holliday but Ron Brooks returned a kick 41 yards to the 47.
The punt game was weapon for Ole Miss in the third quarter when freshman Tyler Campbell and his coverage unit had the Tigers starting drives from their 1 and 6.

MVP
Dexter McCluster: With 148 yards on 24 carries it was an average day in the run game for McCluster. His TD pass to Shay Hodge proved to be the game-winner. It fooled 11 LSU defensive players and more than 61,000 spectators.

Next up
– The Rebels close the regular season Saturday at rival Mississippi State.

Bottom line
– The Ole Miss coaching staff has made late-season changes that have made the offense better. Undoubtedly Mississippi State, an improved team unable to go to a bowl and remembering a 45-0 embarrassment from last season, will play with more emotion than usual in the regular season finale. The Rebels need to maintain their consistency on offense and not get caught up in the emotion of playing their in-state rival with a chance to go to the Capital One Bowl still on the line.
Parrish Alford

Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal