Coming to you later this morning after the traffic nightmare that was the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium traffic flow and the 3 a.m. home arrival.
It’s quite possible last night’s loss to Texas A&M — the second emotional three-point setback to the Aggies in Oxford in two years — will be the loss that keeps on giving.
There was a lot of coverage about Georgia’s injuries going into its 41-26 loss to Missouri. We could be about to see a similar story unfold for Ole Miss.
Linebacker Serderius Bryant was carted off at the end after losing consciousness on the field. Robert Nkemdiche, Mike Hilton, Woodrow Hamilton and Issac Gross also left the game with injuries. Carlos Thompson and CJ Johnson were already out. All of those were on the defensive side of the ball.
Running back Jeff Scott didn’t play more at the end because he aggravated a thigh bruise injury that he sustained at Auburn last week.
The Rebels face another explosive offense this week in LSU.
Hugh Freeze didn’t give status reports for any of them after the game, but Nkemdiche’s injury was called a strained hamstring during the game. Those tend to linger. Just ask Senquez Golson.
Hugh Freeze talked about the heart with which his team played, and I’ll give you that. I think the Rebels did play hard, but there’s a disturbing trend in the run game.
Scott was basically a non-factor in the game.
The Rebels aren’t getting the corner right now, and they’re not consistently moving chains with between-the-tackles running either. The downhill run game was better last night, but it wasn’t so good that Freeze was willing to attack the middle on the ground on first down when the Rebels went three-and-out on their last possession.
Play-calling seemed to be the No. 1 complaint on social media. Freeze said the first play was a run-pass option by Wallace that Freeze felt should have been run and not passed. The second play was a pass for first-down yardage that hit Ja-Mes Logan in the chest and was dropped.
In my mind I kept going back to Wallace’s comments from a few weeks ago when he said Ole Miss receivers were better than Texas A&M’s. That sure wasn’t the case last night with the drops by the Rebels in crucial situations.
Wallace isn’t playing at the level that he was three weeks ago, but the problem looks to be more in the run game than with his throws. He was 22-for-36 last night (61.1 percent), and the drops kept him from being much closer to 67 percent.
I have high expectations for these receivers, because I think the ability is there. The drops have become a concern.
Freeze: “I’ve seen them do (make plays) time and time again. I don’t know if they’re trying too hard, pressing, but we’ve certainly had some (drops) that hurt us.”
Barry Brunetti has shown that he still has a role on this team. In Freeze’s mind that’s about the power running package mostly, although with recent struggles for the offense it looks like that role is expanding, and Brunetti is passing more.
Freeze was asked if Wallace was definitely his starting quarterback for LSU, and the answer was something less than an overwhelming vote of confidence.
“Yeah, I think so. I have to look at it with what I think we can do. That has something to do with it. Again, I say the game was on the line, and he made a really nice throw,” Freeze said.
I just haven’t seen enough success from Brunetti in the passing game to make me think he’s about to reignite that area of the offense.
Here’s the deal, Wallace isn’t going to be picture perfect on every pass, nor is he going to make great decisions with consistency. The body of work from a year and a half as the starter says he’s a gunslinger and a risk taker. Those risks have paid off a lot during that time.
The SEC’s top quarterback in efficiency rating was Zach Mettenberger — who the Rebels face this week — going into Saturday’s games. He was completing 68 percent of his passes. If you are a receiver catching only 68 percent of the balls thrown your way there are real problems. The Ole Miss receivers are much better than that, of course, but the point is there’s a different standard for and a different expectation for success for the guys who don’t touch the ball every play.
Brunetti has shown the last two weeks that he’s an important part of this team, but he hasn’t shown that he’s going to elevate the passing game.
The Rebels need Wallace at QB to keep balance in the offense, and balance is important until Brunetti shows that it isn’t by consistently driving the offense for touchdowns.
The 38 points and 462 total yards were improvement from Ole Miss over what we saw at Alabama where you get a pass for who you were playing and at Auburn where you don’t.
This improvement comes against a Texas A&M defense that was last in the SEC in total defense and rushing defense and next to last in scoring defense.