Ole Miss hosted Georgia Tech this weekend in a rematch from last year’s Yellow Jacket extermination. The Rebels won this game in less of a blowout fashion than the year prior, coming out on top by 25 points to move to 3-0.
The game started very slow for both teams; neither offensive unit could string together complete drives, which is a big reason why the halftime score was 10-3. Both teams had more success in the second half, but it was still not an offense-lover’s cup of tea.
There were many times throughout the night where Ole Miss’ offense looked the part of a top 10 unit, but then there were other drives where the play calling, field progression and overall production stalled, and the same goes for the defense.
Nonetheless, Ole Miss found a way to finish the job. A lot can be said about this game, whether it is standout players, highs and lows or anything in between, but the most important thing for Ole Miss is that it escaped an upset.
Offensive MVP: Jaxson Dart
Dart receives MVP praise for his efforts against the Jackets, but not for the reason that many people would have predicted.
Everyone knows that the Utah native is a sneaky dual-threat QB, but not many could have called his explosion in the rushing game against Tech. Without his top pass-catchers in the lineup this weekend, Dart finished his day’s work with 136 total rushing yards on 14 attempts. So far this season, Ole Miss’ rushing attack has been subpar, to say the least. Dart’s performance changed that narrative in an instant.
Dart put a lot of pressure on Georgia Tech’s defense with his legs, and it really opened the doors for others like Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV to combine for just under 100 rushing yards.
Defensive MVP: Trey Washington and John Saunders Jr.
It is rare that two defenders do enough in the same game to warrant co-defensive MVP honors, but Washington and Saunders Jr. pulled it off perfectly. The dynamic safety duo painted the field on defense, wreaking havoc an having an impact on almost every defensive snap.
Before heading back to the locker room, Washington accounted for seven solo tackles and three assisted tackles along with two tackles for loss. Saunders Jr., on the other hand, tallied four solo tackles, the kicker to his performance being his pivotal pass breakup at a crucial time in the game.
Ole Miss needs performances like these to win games, and it looks like Washington and Saunders Jr. fit the bill of a duo more than capable of answering the call.
Shining Moment: Defensive Redzone Efficiency
Aside from two blunders where Georgia Tech forced its way into the endzone, Ole Miss stood firm in its efforts to stunt Georgia Tech near the goal line.
The combination of a 4th down stop and a blocked field goal headline a fairly impressive day in terms of red zone defense. Golding and Kiffin would undoubtedly love to see more consistency from the defense as a whole, but if Ole Miss can make a habit of elite red zone defense, the coaching staff would be put to ease.
Needs Improvement: Defensive Discipline
Ole Miss played extremely hot and cold on the defensive side of the ball. The Rebels would dominate one possession and part the Red Sea on others. If something like this lingers as the season moves along, Ole Miss may not be able to capitalize on its hopes of winning the SEC West.
Georgia Tech ran right through the tackles all game long, and Ole Miss, for the most part, had nothing to say about it. The Jackets rushed for a total of 154 yards, a number that could end up being multiplied against SEC competition.
Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding may still be trying to figure things out in his new position, but he may need to expedite the process, especially since the Rebels face off against Alabama next week.
Up Next: Week 4 at Alabama
After this weekend’s events, Ole Miss must now turn its focus toward the Crimson Tide. Bama comes off a way-too-close victory over South Florida on the road. Ole Miss has the task of trying to triumph over a Nick Saban team that has looked shaky the past two weeks.
Kickoff time is set for 2:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Sept. 23 and will air on CBS.