Column: Thoughts and analysis of Ole Miss’ game one victory

Posted on Sep 1 2018 - 9:00pm by John Macon Gillespie

The Ole Miss defense impressed, and the offense lit it up in the Rebels’ 47-27 win over Texas Tech on Saturday in NRG Stadium.

The Rebel offense, led by its elite corps of wide receivers and a junior college transfer at running back, began its scoring on the second play of the game on a 58-yard pass from Jordan Ta’amu to D.K. Metcalf. The offensive fireworks continued in the first quarter with a kick return for a touchdown by Jaylon Jones, a field goal by Luke Logan and a 39-yard touchdown scamper by Scottie Phillips.

Speaking of Phillips, it looks like Ole Miss may have found its answer at running back. After 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilkins exhausted his eligibility last season, the Rebels had a large

question mark at the running back position.

Phillips addressed that question with an emphatic 204 rushing yards on 16 carries that produced two touchdowns. If Phillips continues to execute at this level, the Rebels’ passing game could have some help this season.

On the subject of the passing game, Ta’amu and his “Nasty Wide Outs” put on a show. Ta’amu went 22-32 for 336 yards and two touchdowns, completing a pass to five different receivers in the process. DaMarkus Lodge led the receiving team with 96 yards, and A.J. Brown and Metcalf each hauled in a touchdown reception.

Although the Rebel offense stalled at times when it got off schedule, the big-play capability remained, and this unit should be able to punish secondaries this season.

Perhaps the most welcome sight was the Landshark defense getting stops when it mattered. On numerous drives, Wesley McGriff’s defense bent but did not break, holding the Red Raiders to field goal attempts instead of allowing touchdowns. The defense also forced Texas Tech to punt five times on the day — a sight Rebel fans were not very familiar with last season. However, Texas Tech still experienced its share of offensive success — even after its starting quarterback, McLane Carter, went down with an ankle injury. The Red Raiders accumulated 486 yards of total offense but could only garner 27 points.

Even though the Rebel defense allowed a decent bit in the yardage category, the action seen on Saturday has to be promising for Ole Miss fans. This is a defense that was toasted in every form imaginable a season ago, especially in the run game. The fact that the defenders were able to force five punts and two field goal attempts is a lot less concerning than what Rebel fans have become accustomed to.

Although the game didn’t feel like a blowout, the score heavily favors the Rebels, and the Ole Miss faithful should feel good about what they saw on the field Saturday in Houston.

Next week brings the Salukis of Southern Illinois to town before the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide come to Oxford on Sept. 15. There isn’t much time to eliminate the mistakes the Rebels committed this week, but there don’t appear to be many mistakes to correct. And that is cause for optimism.