The true freshmen shined again.
John Rhys Plumlee and his crew of running backs had a strong night rushing in Rich Rodriguez’s offense as Ole Miss put Vanderbilt away 31-6 on Saturday night. While Plumlee still has a few question marks in his passing game (he finished the game 10-for-18 through the air for 99 yards), it’s obvious that Ole Miss will roll with him into next week and the foreseeable future as their starter under center.
In the first quarter, Plumlee carried the ball six times and found the end zone on a 33-yard rush. It was clear that his explosiveness on the ground was too much for the Vanderbilt defense.
All three Ole Miss running backs — Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Scottie Phillips — scored touchdowns in the second half, meaning all four of Ole Miss’ rushing touchdowns came from different players. The Rebels racked up 413 rushing yards, and 165 of those came from their quarterback.
It was obvious coming into this season that Ole Miss’ underclassmen would need to step up in big ways if the Rebels wanted to be successful in 2019, and at the halfway point of the campaign, it seems a few of them have hit their stride.
Most of the Rebels’ quarterback room is made up of freshmen with Matt Corral being the veteran as a redshirt freshman, and it appears that Rodriguez has found a solution at quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee.
While Plumlee still has some passing development to do (he is a freshman, after all), his explosiveness gives the Ole Miss offense something it was missing early in the season.
With Plumlee taking snaps, a big play could happen at any moment, and if he can make defenses respect his passing game, this Rebel offense could be dangerous as the season winds down.
That passing game, however, has to be Ole Miss’ biggest concern after this dominating win. Head coach Matt Luke and the coaching staff stated that their offense is not a finished product, and passing efficiency, especially taking shots in one-on-one situations in coverage, will be a point of emphasis moving forward.
Coming into the game against Vanderbilt, 82.1% of Ole Miss’ offensive production had come from freshmen, the highest percentage in the nation. It is yet to be seen whether these freshmen can lead Ole Miss to its goal of bowl eligibility, but if you’re an Ole Miss fan, you have to be pleased that your young athletes are putting up strong numbers against SEC competition.
Outside of New Mexico State on Nov. 9, the defenses Ole Miss will face in the remainder of the season will be more talented than Vandy’s, so the difficulty level will only increase for the Rebels’ young stars. Still, they sit at .500 at the halfway point of the season, and, as I’ve said each week, winnable games remain on the schedule.
Reaching six wins is still possible, but Luke and company will have to lean on their young talent if it’s meant to be.