Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 40-29 win over Southeastern Louisiana …
This is not OK.
It also does not mean devastation for this season. That may come, but right now the Rebels are in a manageable position at 2-1.
Ideally, the FCS game would have been a blowout. The starters would have played 2 ½ quarters, would have been clean and efficient, built a big lead and gained a lot of confidence going into this week’s game against Cal.
Clearly that didn’t happen.
That warm, fuzzy feeling most folks had for the Ole Miss defense turned to heartburn as the outside linebackers failed to set the edge on two touchdown runs, and Southeastern quarterback Chason Virgil passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
He’d have passed for a lot more if he’d have been a little more accurate. Virgil completed 29 of 44 attempts. He missed wide open receivers at times.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said after the game the Lions “exposed” some things with the Ole Miss pass defense.
This was what defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre complained about during the week. He liked what he was seeing from his run defense but thought he could get a lot more from his secondary. He was hard on his safeties during the week.
MacIntyre wasn’t pleased with his unit’s overall effort Saturday, but he didn’t act like the sky was falling either.
The sky will fall later on if the Rebels don’t cover better, but the idea that this defense will merrily transform into an upper tier SEC unit with no difficulty is fool’s gold.
There were warning signs last week when Arkansas quarterback Nick Starkel passed for 201 yards in the second half.
What looked different against Southeastern was the Rebels’ defense against the quick swing passes. The Rebels looked fast to the ball and sure in their tackling against the Memphis short passing game.
The Southeastern receivers made them look slow at times.
Not all the times. Myles Hartsfield had some good coverage early in the game, one of those plays resulting in an interception.
Give the Ole Miss defense credit for picking off Virgil three times including Donta Evans’ interception with less than 6 minutes left that stopped the Lions’ quest for a touchdown and tying two-point conversion.
Ole Miss had four take-aways and was plus-2 in turnover margin.
I’m not sure last year’s defense would have made those plays.
But Southeastern was 5-for-13 on third downs and 2-for-3 on fourth downs. Defensively you’ve got to get teams off the field.
The Lions had only 66 net rushing yards. That’s a huge improvement for the Rebels, who have struggled so mightily against the run, but Southeastern got around the end pretty easily on those touchdown runs.
In the first game without Mohamed Sanogo at inside linebacker the combination of Willie Hibbler (7 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Jacquez Jones (6 tackles, 1 ½ TFLs, 2 forced fumbles) and Donta Evans (4 tackles, 1 INT) played well together at inside linebacker.
However, junior college transfer Lakia Henry, who played so well in camp and earned a starting spot alongside Sanogo, had just two tackles and after posting seven tackles against Memphis to start the season has just five tackles over the last two games. Henry was also beaten badly in pass coverage on a 5-yard touchdown toss to tight end Bransen Schwebel. Join the club I reckon.
Offensively the Rebels were good in spurts but were not good enough to sustain drives consistently and put away the Lions.
The Ole Miss line struggled with the Lions’ shifting fronts, and Southeastern posted 10 tackles for loss.
Corral was sacked three times, twice by defensive end Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund. The second time, which resulted in the lost fumble, was shared responsibility between the line and Corral Luke said.
I don’t know about that. I saw a good replay of that one, and Berglund, coming on a delayed stunt, ran between Ben Brown and Eli Johnson untouched.
Corral made good decisions with the ball, but his two fumbles (the first was recovered by Jason Pellerin) were both the result of being several steps deep in the pocket and under pressure.
Every now and then you’re going to have to drop and throw a deep route. Rich Rodriguez is going to have to pick his spots carefully to keep Corral from spending too much time back there, getting sped up from the pressure he knows is coming and making poor decisions.
Corral was 21 for 30 passing. Elijah Moore led the way with seven catches for 88 yards. That’s going to be a trend, but the ball was spread around much better, and Jonathan Mingo got his feet wet with three catches for 23 yards.
Braylon Sanders (hamstring) was held out again, but I’d expect to see him against Cal.
The Rebels ran the ball for 220 yards, and Rodriguez called runs on 50 of 80 plays, 62.5 percent of the time.
Scottie Phillips got his 100 yards, but it was just 103, and it took 26 carries to get there.
Phillips had a lot of what Hugh Freeze used to call “dirty runs,” those 3- and 4-yard runs that keep things moving forward.
His only real break-way was his touchdown run of 27 yards.
Jerrion Ealy had a big day as well. Take away his 52-yard run, and he still had 43 yards on eight carries, better than 5 yards per rush. That’s not even mentioning his 94-yard kick return. His impact grows weekly.
It was good to see Jarod “Snoop” Conner productive in the fourth quarter again. Snoop finished with 51 yards on nine carries including a 37-yard run in the fourth quarter.
This run-based offense can work, but until the Rebels get better up front the inconsistency Rodriguez talked about is going to be hard to overcome.
The end result was a win, about the only positive you can take from this game.
The week of in-ward focus didn’t yield much fruit.
The reality is these SEC/FCS games play out sloppy sometimes and are not wholly indicative of what a team will become.