By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Quarterback Bo Wallace overcame three first-half turnovers by completing 15 of 22 pass attempts for nearly 300 yards against a highly regarded MSU secondary.
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief won the 1-on-1 battles almost every time.
The Rebels blocked the Bulldogs and rushed for 233 yards, and Ole Miss controlled the line of scrimmage on defense too, sacking Tyler Russell three times, hurrying him many others, and posting eight tackles for loss.
Wallace threw two interceptions and fumbled, all in the first half, to keep the game close. Coverage busts in the secondary helped MSU achieve big plays.
Keys To Victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1.Play hard, coach harder: Clearly the Rebels were the more motivated team. Hugh Freeze and his staff coached hard too, getting the Rebels ready after a string of close, emotional losses that could have solved the bowl-eligibility issue much earlier in the season.
Freeze found a way to revive a previously sagging run game and to get pressure on Russell with base defensive calls.
2. Get to Russell: Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and coordinator Dave Wommack seemed confident they could apply pressure to Russell, who had been sacked just 1.18 times a game, second in the SEC. The Rebels sacked him three times and got the pressure they wanted.
3. Make the play: Had the Rebels made “the” play, any single play, against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt or LSU, they would have achieved six wins and bowl-eligibility earlier in the season.
Against their in-state rival they made the biggest plays, like pass break-ups to get off the field or forced MSU to kick a field goal, second-half touchdown passes to Moncrief to extend the lead and finally the 16-yarder to Vince Sanders to put the game away.
Donte Moncrief. Clearly the best receiver on the field, he had a career-high for the second straight week with 173 yards and 3 TDs on seven catches.
The Rebels wanted the game more. You still have to execute, and first-half mistakes had the game in a position to swing either way at halftime. Over the last two quarters, the Rebels were able to combine effort and execution.