MEMPHIS – The most-asked question of August was “How’re they looking?” Now there is some point of reference to provide an answer.
No. 8 Ole Miss looked like a lot of other teams on opening weekend, sluggish some and at times showing the spark that has it in the top 10.
A 45-14 win over Memphis indicates a level of dominance far from what was displayed at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in the final game – for at least the foreseeable future — between the neighborhood rivals.
One of the big question marks for this team is left tackle, and it’s hard to leave the opener thinking All-American Michael Oher has been aptly replaced.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said sophomore Bradley Sowell did “pretty good” in his debut, but Sowell was clearly beaten a couple of times by Memphis end Jada Brown in the third quarter, one of those plays resulting in a sack of Jevan Snead when the Rebels were in field goal range.
Turns out Sowell was close to dehydration at the time, and there was some question as to whether he was going out on the field for that series.
It was hard to get a read on Sowell in the first half, because Nutt wasn’t throwing downfield. Nutt wasn’t opening things up early for two reasons: One, the ground game was clicking with Brandon Bolden, and two, he didn’t know what to expect from Sowell.
Left tackle is a position to keep an eye on, but honestly, there aren’t a lot of options behind Sowell. If a change is made it would likely mean turning to freshman Bobby Massie, who was moved over to the right side midway through camp.
Often when Snead did pass in the first half he was rolling away from the left side.
It may not be sink-or-swim with Sowell, but it’s close. Had he not gone back into the game in the third quarter, you’d have seen another starter at left tackle and a shuffle on the line.
The two interceptions Snead threw in the first half were not about Sowell. They were about reads by Snead and a strong-armed quarterback trying to force a throw.
This was a problem at this time last year, and Snead worked through it. He also showed last season that he is a streaky player. Sometimes it takes him a while to work through a streak, and he did that in the fourth quarter Sunday.
The guess is those streaks will be fewer in the coming weeks, and he’ll do a better job of minimizing the damage when he isn’t “on.”
With an open date and Southeastern Louisiana on the horizon, the Rebels have some time to work out the kinks.
“How’re they looking?”
They need to look more consistent on offense when they go to Columbia, S.C., on Sept. 24.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal