Clearing the cob webs from my brain after powering down at 2:30 a.m. Here are a few notes and observations from the Rebels’ 39-35 win over Vanderbilt. …
If there was any possible way to inflict a more painful defeat on Vanderbilt than the one the Rebels suffered in Oxford last year I think the Rebels found it.
That kind of pain is just the emotional part of college football, an unintended consequence.
But after their red zone failures in 2012, Ole Miss coaches and players really felt like they let one get away.
For the Rebels, watching Vanderbilt rally from a 23-6 second-half deficit to win 27-26 in the final minute at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was not an easy thing from the Ole Miss side of the field.
Last night, the Rebels left Vanderbilt the faintest of hopes to come back and win again, indeed pinning the Commodores back at their own 24 with a fourth-and-18 with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left, only to watch Austyn Carta-Samuels find his big play receiver, Jordan Matthews.
Then to lose to the tight end on the very next play, it looked like Vanderbilt was about to deal another crushing blow.
Then along came Jeff Scott on a 75-yard touchdown run.
With all the drama that took place in that last 2:09 the win still wasn’t secure until Cody Prewitt picked off a tipped ball inside the Ole Miss 30 in the final seconds.
I haven’t covered one like that in quite some time. Had Vanderbilt completed its final drive with a touchdown there would have been three touchdowns scored in the final 1:30 of play.
That’s kind of where this rivalry is these days, however. That’s a good team that Ole Miss beat on the road last night. Matthews is a big-time receiver. The Vanderbilt defensive front, with three new starters, was physical. Carta-Samuels will help the Commodores win differently than Jordan Rodgers did. There’s a good running game, though it took getting into the Wildcat formation and getting a different look at the Ole Miss defense for Wesley Tate and Jerron Seymour to have their best runs.
We knew going in that this was not the Vanderbilt of five or six years ago. Last night did nothing to disprove that theory.
It’s a nice rivalry that Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have going on right now, and with two energetic young coaches that’s probably not going to change soon.
A few other thoughts on the game …
The matchup of Matthews against the Ole Miss corners expected to be trouble for Ole Miss, and it was. Quintavius Burdette and Dehendret Collins have very little experience, and that showed. Charles Sawyer played a good bit off the bench, and Senquez Golson some, but it didn’t matter. No matter what the Rebels did there was no answer for Matthews.
Might Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt’s suspended receiver, made a difference in the other direction? It’s possible. But this wasn’t about Vanderbilt’s other receivers not making plays. Jonathan Krause (6 catches, 66 yards) didn’t hurt his team. Carta-Samuels just targeted Matthews, and Matthews delivered with 10 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Subtract a 55-yard run with a screen pass in which the Rebels were never really close to Matthews, and those numbers look a lot different. They’re still not lock-down numbers, but without that play Carta-Samuels throws for 245 yards, not 300.
The Rebels were able to survive for a big win on the road. Now Golson can get more integrated into things, and Ole Miss can take a breath against Southeast Missouri, a team that lost 45-7 to Southeastern Louisiana last night. This might be a week to look closer at Anthony Standifer or Bobby Hill or simply “coach up” Collins and Burdette more. There’s a month’s worth of first-team reps invested in those two. …
It was a fantastic debut night for four freshmen who played like juniors.
Robert Nkemdiche was not a constant force in the backfield, but he put pressure on Carta-Samuels that didn’t always show up in the box score. He finished with two tackles, a TFL and a pass break-up. He will forever be remembered for his 11-yard run on a fake punt, but I’ll also remember him for beating a blocker with one hand and dragging down a Vanderbilt running back with the other with no Ole Miss teammates around.
Tight end Evan Engram showed his athleticism, and so did Laquon Treadwell, who was targeted repeatedly by Hugh Freeze in the second half and was a big spark on offense. He had nine catches for 82 yards and no drops, one of those grabs a leaping one-hander.
Vanderbilt’s Matthews clearly had the edge on Donte Moncrief in the matchup of the most highly profiled receivers. Moncrief did have a 39-yard catch and drew a pass interference call on another deep ball.
Offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson, and DB Tony Conner, who had an interception and a PBU to go along with three tackles, also played well. …
Offensively the Rebels protected better in the second half after Bo Wallace was sacked four times in the first.
Wallace got the passing game going. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner said he was pleased with Wallace’s decisions, though a couple of passes were nearly picked by the Dores. Still, Wallace and the Rebels played a turnover-free game.
The running game was inconsistent, but it was strong in the red zone, as Barry Brunetti and Wallace each had two short touchdowns runs, and in the second half Wallace was able to successfully picks his spots on the read option.
Without his game-winning touchdown Scott had only 63 yards.
We really didn’t see much of the backup tailbacks. I didn’t see Mark Dodson or Jordan Wilkins get in the game. Kailo Moore, who I believe will play a role on this team, carried once for no gain. Jaylen Walton carried two times for six yards, and I’Tavius Mathers didn’t make the trip. …
While pass defense struggled, the run defense held Vanderbilt to 3.8 yards per carry. …
There were mixed results on the first night for kicker Andrew Ritter. He was good on a 30-yard field goal, close from 55 yards and shanked a 44-yarder. On kickoffs I think he reached the end zone every time on seven tries. Four of those were touchbacks, and there was solid kick coverage on every one but the last one, a 34-yard return by Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims – with a personal foul against Denzel Nkemdiche tacked on – that made Prewitt’s INT very necessary.
It was a nice opening night for Tyler Campbell, who averaged 44.8 yards on four punts, one of them for 53 yards. He will be a weapon this season.