After three seasons of struggle the Ole Miss defense took a noticeable step forward. The Rebels appeared to line up correctly, communicate and tackle better.
They were responsible for 13 of the 15 points scored by Memphis, which added two points on a late safety. That’s the fewest points allowed by the Rebels’ defense since Ole Miss defeated Texas A&M 22-3 in October of 2015.
Offense was a struggle, though credit coordinator Rich Rodriguez for second-half adjustments that helped the Rebels run better and score 10 points over the last 18-plus minutes.
The Rebels had just minus-1 yard rushing at halftime and didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 3:11 mark of the third quarter.
Keys To Victory
(Reviewing the scouting report from our GameDay edition)
Run the football
The second-half improvement was too little, too late for a ground-oriented offense that struggled to sustain drives.
OLBs rise up
As linebacker play went it was the newest inside linebacker – not an outside backer – who shined most as junior college transfer Lakia Henry was one of three players with a team-best seven tackles.
Reserve OLB Luke Knox, a redshirt freshman, was also a bright spot with three tackles and two tackles for loss.
Trust your coaching
The Rebels seemed to do this very well on defense under new coordinator Mike MacIntyre. On offense it was less about trust and more about execution as an inexperienced offensive line had trouble blocking the shifting Memphis fronts, and redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral often looked like a redshirt freshman.
How about MVC, Most Valuable Coach?
It was a low bar to clear for improvement, but the Ole Miss defense left no gray areas. The unit looked much better but clearly can improve. Defensively it was what you hope to see from a first game.
Corral will likely improve, but he and his mates will have to improve quickly if the Rebels are to improve in the win-loss column. Otherwise Ole Miss may only be swapping bad defense for bad offense.