Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 41-35 loss at LSU …
I know the history that says the Rebels always get up for LSU, but I thought I was seeing fatigue and emotions take a toll on Ole Miss. With that in mind, I thought LSU’s talent would take over and allow it cover a 19-point spread.
The MO for Ole Miss in two previous encounters with top 10 teams on the road was that the Rebels would compete and be in the game for stretches of time, but the score would heavily tilt away from Ole Miss by game’s end. That’s way it was at Alabama and Georgia. That’s not the way it was at LSU.
You get 147 rushing yards, and that’s not usually cause for celebration, but given the way Ole Miss had run the ball for the last month, and the fact that the Rebels were going up against the No. 7 rushing defense in the nation, it was quite impressive.
Hugh Freeze told us after the game that he thought improvement in the run had more to do with different blocking schemes than anything backs Randall Mackey and Jeff Scott were doing.
It did appear to me that Scott was more willing to plant and cut back inside that try to stretch everything to the sideline, an approach that didn’t work for him against Vanderbilt.
Mackey had a nice game, some physical inside runs. He moved the pile forward and pushed his way into the end zone on his 6-yard touchdown run.
He’d kind of fallen off the map of late. Exactly why isn’t clear except that Freeze was really committed to Scott after Scott’s back-to-back 100-yard games against Texas A&M and Auburn. Mackey had a nice game against LSU, playing against his home-state school for the only time in his career. A juco transfer, Mackey was suspended last year and unavailable.
Going back to August, I really thought Mackey was running tough and physical and was setting himself up for a big year. He’s contributed in a number of different ways but hasn’t had monster numbers in any single game.
LSU adjusted to the run game, and the yards were more difficult for the Rebels later on. It’s late in games that lack of depth begins to through fatigue, particularly in the secondary, but also on the offensive line.
Offensive line coach Matt Luke, presumably, designed those effective blocking schemes, but it’s the same guys blocking the whole game. Freeze and Luke haven’t been able to develop offensive line depth that they trust to put in a game. So run yards were more difficult later, and the LSU defensive front, really dominated Ole Miss when the Rebels had a first down at the LSU 16 in the final minutes and a chance to re-take the lead. After the big play by Mackey to get the Rebels down there, LSU had a tackle for loss and two sacks on the net three plays, setting up the miss on a 53-yard field goal by Bryson Rose.
What the Rebels did against one of the nation’s top defenses was impressive, but this team — because of its depth — still has trouble finishing games. It’s not enough for this offense to get to the fourth quarter with a one-score lead. It’s going to have to be bigger.
Bo Wallace took a backward step in his quest to play turnover-free football, throwing three picks. But Wallace is a fighter, and he’s going to make plays, like the 58-yard touchdown run and two touchdown strikes to Donte Moncrief.
It was good to see Moncrief put up big numbers again. Doing it in a CBS afternoon game against LSU might get him on an All-SEC team.
After winning its fifth game against Arkansas you could look down the schedule and peg Vanderbilt as the Rebels’ best chance for No. 6 before the Egg Bowl. LSU will go down as another big one that got away, but it ultimately played out that way … a loss to Vanderbilt, followed by a loss to LSU and now the Rebels face the in-state rival with one final chance to get to a bowl.
A month ago I gave the Rebels a pretty good chance against Mississippi State. I was beginning to re-think that position as long as they were struggling so mightily to run the football.
Ole Miss would have removed a great deal of pressure by handling the bowl business against Vanderbilt, but if the Rebels can run the ball the way they did against LSU, they’ll be balanced enough on offense to give State some trouble.
And maybe snap a three-game skid in the series and qualify for postseason at the same time.