Double coverage. That’s what Ole Miss junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief has seen the majority of the time this season. It’s lowered his numbers so far, but when Moncrief sees a one-on-one battle, he’s made opposing defenses pay.
Moncrief has 355 yards on 23 receptions with four touchdowns this season, but it’s been an up-and-down year due to the different coverages he’s seen. In the first four games, in which Moncrief was double teamed for all of them, he averaged 60 yards a game and had a total of two touchdowns. Against Auburn, however, Moncrief faced single coverage and responded by more than doubling his average number of yards with 122 and matching his season total for touchdowns with two.
“It felt good getting my first big game,” Moncrief said. “Now, we have to start all over again. We have to start making big plays and put up a lot of points for the offense.”
Despite being double teamed much of the year, Moncrief has still been a big reason for the success of the Rebels’ offense. With other play makers on the field, Moncrief’s presence often frees up an opportunity for someone else.
“When I’m double teamed, I know one of the other guys will win because it’s hard to play us man-to-man on each side of the ball,” Moncrief said. “That just means that other people on this side of the ball will be open.”
Overall, Moncrief has been pleased with the offensive system and its variety of options this season.
“You never know where the ball is going with this offense, it’s crazy,” Moncrief said. “We’ll do a play action, we’ll run the ball, we’ll throw deep or we’ll go short. So with that the safeties rock a lot, they don’t know what’s going on it makes it easier for us to make plays.
“Everybody is getting the ball, you just gotta make a big play when it comes your way.”
Moncrief has done just that, catching deep passes of 39, 49 and 67 yards this season. This has been huge for the Ole Miss offense, as it has struggled the past two weeks.
“We would want that, but it all depends on what teams are giving us,” Freeze said of Moncrief and the vertical passing game. “The first few weeks Texas and Vandy played high over him every snap almost, and you can’t do that. But if they give us a look where we have that chance, certainly we’re going to try that.”
Despite Moncrief getting more single coverage against Auburn, Ole Miss’ offense still struggled mightily against the Tigers, giving its worst offensive showing of the season besides the 25-0 shutout in Tuscaloosa the previous week.
“We’re not doing the small things right,” Moncrief said. “We just made some bad throws and didn’t catch a lot of the balls, that’s something we gotta get better at. Coach Freeze tells us what to do and we just have to come out here and treat practice like it’s a game every day.“
This week, Moncrief will look to put up back-to-back big games, and he’ll do it against a struggling Texas A&M defense. The Aggies are 95th in the country in passing yards allowed with 262 given up per game and 112th in total defense, giving up 476.8 per game.
After a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M last season, Moncrief and the Rebels have had their eye on this game all season long.
“Knowing that we had that game all the way until the end, it’s just making us hungrier for this week,” Moncrief said. “It’s our first home game in a long time, so we’re going to rock Vaught-Hemingway.”
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