Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 30-22 loss at Auburn …
Well, the four road trips to begin the season are now complete. I realize the Southeast Missouri game was in this opening stretch, but it sure seems like four-straight road trips.
In August I thought if Ole Miss reached this point 3-2 it would be a good thing, and it would give the Rebels a chance to do something on the back end of the schedule.
But there’s the feeling of opportunity lost after a 3-1 start. Most people who had Ole Miss 3-2 at this point had them losing at Texas.
I thought the Auburn game would be a tricky one, but it’s one the Rebels would have handled if they’d have played as well as they did against Texas and Vanderbilt — and even Alabama — in run defense.
But a team that sees the read option when it practices against its own offense looked as though it had never seen it before. Hugh Freeze and Dave Wommack said they prepared for it even though Auburn hadn’t shown it much this year, but there was very little execution to stop Nick Marshall.
Wommack talked more about poor tackling than poor execution. Sunday is truth day they say, so we’ll see what the film showed on Monday.
Here’s something you know without seeing the film: Johnny Manziel can run a little read option too, and if Ole Miss can’t block Auburn who’s to say the Rebels can block Texas A&M?
Auburn sacked Bo Wallace six times and had 14 tackles for loss. It was a very weak performance by the Rebels’ offensive line, and there was blame to share. It wasn’t just one guy.
I’ve had a lot of people ask why Ole Miss hasn’t taken more shots downfield this season. I think protection plays into that. You have to protect to give the deep routes time to develop. Part of the reason for few vertical attempts earlier in the season I suspect was that Ole Miss was having success on the ground. There hasn’t been much of that in the last two weeks. Saturday night the Rebels took more shots downfield. It was a long time before they were rewarded with any success, but ultimately Donte Moncrief had a big catch for a 49-yard score late in the third. Then early in the fourth Moncrief grabbed another deep ball and scored on the next play, a 12-yard swing pass off the right side with good blocking from Justin Bell and Evan Swindall on the edge.
We’re almost to the mid-way point of the season which is the “you are what you are” stage.
There’s not a a hero waiting in the wings to come in and make this offensive line better. Freeze is going to have to figure it out with what he has, whether that’s more quick passing game or rolling Wallace out to take shots downfield.
There is a blueprint for taking away the Rebels’ perimeter run game, and they are going to have to run between the tackles. We saw a little more of I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton against Auburn but still sporadic success.
On the whole I thought the Rebels took a step back. Didn’t tackle or stop the run on defense, didn’t block on offense. While Moncrief had some good catches, he had drops too, and so did other receivers with the possible exception of Ja-Mes Logan. He had a strong game, particularly in the first half.
Auburn didn’t try to throw the ball downfield much, but when it did, I thought the Rebels got some pretty good play from corners Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson.
Also, Cody Prewitt’s strip of the Auburn running back to put Ole Miss in position to take the lead with a touchdown drive was a big-time play, one on which the Rebels failed to capitalize.
Kudos to Andrew Ritter. I’ve been on him about the inconsistency that I’ve seen from him in practice, but he nailed some big kicks, two from 40-plus.
The bottom line is Auburn’s not a great team. If you can’t block and tackle against them you’re going to have trouble ahead, particularly in the next two weeks against A&M and LSU.