Ole Miss has seen its fair share of disappointment in the first six weeks of the football season, but there was none to be found on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
In a game that saw the Rebels hold a 49-7 advantage at halftime and Matt Corral take snaps the entire second half, Ole Miss fans got a taste of a blowout win in a stretch where those have been few and far-between. Even though the Warhawks play in the Sun Belt Conference, that didn’t matter to the Rebel-faithful who braved the heat for the annual homecoming game.
The defense’s play was the most surprising sight of the game. The Landshark defense held ULM to 427 yards of total offense and just 21 points, 14 of which came after the game was already decided in the second half. Although the Warhawks were blown out by Georgia State 46-14 last week, seeing the Ole Miss defense look football-ready was a sight for sore eyes, especially considering its performance as of late.
One of the biggest questions heading into the week was surrounding how former running backs Armani Linton and Tylan Knight would perform in the defensive backfield. That question was answered as the two combined for nine tackles, two of which were for a loss. On a defense that, to say the least, has had its share of troubles this season, Knight and Linton’s performances are a promising sign for the Rebels going forward.
While the first-string Ole Miss offense was ridiculously efficient on the day, backups and presumed-future-starters like Matt Corral showed flashes of excellence, as well. Starting quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was 21-24 passing for 374 yards and three touchdowns, and Corral was a perfect 10-10 passing for 143 yards and two touchdowns. The freshman also carried the ball six times for 78 yards and a touchdown 61 yards in length. The main members of the Nasty Wide Outs, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge, all had a touchdown and more than 100 yards receiving. The Ole Miss offense broke the school record for total offense in a single game, with 826 yards.
Although ULM is the last non-conference opponent the Rebels will face this season, Saturday’s performance should give hope to Rebel fans that not all hope is lost for 2018.
Coming into the season, most realistic followers of college football could have pinpointed some almost-guaranteed losses on the Rebels’ schedule, including the games against SEC West foes Alabama and LSU. With those games now behind Matt Luke and his squad, there are plenty of chances to win more games before the season ends.
While no SEC game is ever a guaranteed win (and the Rebels certainly won’t be favored to win all of the ones that remain), the point stands that the games left on Ole Miss’ schedule are much more winnable than the matchups against Alabama and LSU. With trips to Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M left on the docket and home games against Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State, the remaining tasks are not nearly as daunting as those already faced.
I’m not arguing that Ole Miss will win out; in fact, I don’t believe they will. But I do believe that the chance for an even season (or even a winning season) is still on the table. This team can be fun to watch when it clicks, and it did so on Saturday, even if it was against a weaker opponent. If the offense and defense can compete well at the same time, similarly to how they did on Saturday and in the opener against Texas Tech, this team could pick up some steam as the season wears on.
All hope isn’t lost. This team may not always play pretty, but it still has chances to pick up some nice wins before the season is over.