Ole Miss went into the Alabama game fourth in the SEC and 22nd in the nation with a 51.2 percent success rate on third downs and went 4-for-14 on third downs against the Tide.
The Rebels were 3-for-7 on third down in the first half. Only two of them were 2 yards or less, and a third-and-1 was converted with a 1-yard rush by Bo Wallace.
After halftime the Rebels were 1-for-7 on third downs, 1-for-3 in the third quarter and 0-for-4 in the fourth. Three of those third downs were for 3 yards are fewer. The conversion was an 11-yard pass to Donte Moncrief. The other two were incomplete passes.
The fourth quarter did include a fourth-and-2 conversion on the Rebels’ first drive when Jeff Scott ran over the left side for 5 yards. That came after an incomplete pass on third-and-2. That drive began at the Alabama 31 after an interception by Cody Prewitt and ended on fourth-and-10 from the 18 when Wallace was incomplete.
We still haven’t seen much of I’Tavius Mathers this season. Part of that, of course, has to do with his ankle injury, but he seems to be past that. He had four carries against Southeast Missouri, one of them a very physical 35-yard run.
Mathers carried two times for 8 yards against Alabama, one of them a 7-yard gain in which he looked good turning it up inside off the right side after lining up behind left guard.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has said he likes Mathers as a power back and that it changes play-calling when he’s not available.
Here’s Freeze on Mathers in the Monday presser leading to the Southeast Missouri game: “He’s more of a guy we feel like we can line up and run some power and gap scheme plays. We sure do miss him, but hopefully he can get healthy, and we can add his style back to our playbook.”
You could see in August camp in 2012 that Freeze liked Mathers down by the goalline, but neither he nor Jaylen Walton got many opportunities in SEC games as freshmen last year.
Right now I think there’s a real trust factor going on with Freeze and Jeff Scott, who has become a better inside runner.
Running back is one position where this team has a lot of depth. We’re just not seeing that right now.
One reason, I think, is that Scott has played so well, and there’s a chemistry that has developed between Scott and Wallace in the read option, which is the Rebels’ best running play.
Mathers and Walton are both talented, but this team still doesn’t have the big banger that runs through contact in short yardage.