Notes and thoughts from Ole Miss’ 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU …
You can talk about the rivalry and talk about how the games in the series are almost always close, but nobody expected what happened last night.
The beleaguered Ole Miss defense intercepted Zach Mettenberger three times. Not only did the Rebels intercept Mettenberger, they pressured him and sacked him too. Then they got their legs under them and began to play well in the run game too.
Early on it looked LSU tailback Jeremy Hill was running downhill and that the Tigers would control the game on the ground.
But the Rebels got a timely sack from Lavon Hooks to stop LSU’s first drive, and after Ole Miss punted from near its goalline, the Tigers got the ball across the Ole Miss 40 to start their second drive. That’s when LSU took a shot downfield and Chief Brown came away with the first of three Mettenberger interceptions.
That kind of play calling is what LSU fans were railing against as I listened to WWL out of New Orleans on the way home.
LSU may very well have taken advantage of the Rebels’ ailing defense had they pounded away more, but that’s not what balanced offense do — Hugh Freeze is an example of this — and LSU has been balanced all season.
The Ole Miss defense played inspired but did not come out and beat the Tigers at the line of scrimmage. They made big plays to stop drives.
Brown and Cody Prewitt both had interceptions in the end zone, and Charles Sawyer’s pick came at the Ole Miss 11 on a play that originated from the 47.
It wasn’t just the picks but the sacks.
Hooks’ was huge, and Cameron Whigham also had a sack that stopped an LSU drive near mid-field in the first half. The Rebels took the punt that followed then moved 83 yards to score on Barry Brunetti’s pass to Nick Parker. That’s something I didn’t think I’d be writing last night.
LSU rushed for only 114 yards after the sack yardage was totaled, but beyond those sacks the Rebels didn’t get a lot of tackles for loss as they often do. LSU’s backs still had good averages, Terrence Magee with 5.7, Kenny Hilliard with 5.4 and Jeremy Hill with 4.0.
Credit the Ole Miss defense with inspired play and really honing in on wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham when they were in two receiver sets. Those guys have gotten open against a lot of people this year, but there was good coverage from Charles Sawyer, who has played a lot of football at Ole Miss, and from Derrick Jones, who hasn’t.
I didn’t quite understand all the criticism of Bo Wallace after last week’s loss to Texas A&M. Wallace was 22-for-36 in that game and was four drops away from completing 67 percent of his pass attempts.
Wallace made the throws last night and his receivers responded with a far better performance. The only drop that comes to mind was an early one by Quincy Adeboyejo, although there was a route where Donte Moncrief seemed to pull up early on a ball that he might have caught up with. That might have been a communication issue there.
The result was a great game for Wallace, 30-for-39 for 346 yards. He also had some timely runs.
It was great to see Ja-Mes Logan bounce back with a solid game after his ill-timed drop on the Rebels’ last possession against Texas A&M. It’s clear that Wallace still has a lot of confidence in Logan.
Back in August I spoke about the depth at running back on this team, but when Jeff Scott got the hot hand early there weren’t many opportunities for Jaylen Walton, and I’Tavius Mathers got off to a slow start with the ankle injury.
Walton showed that he can also be a strong inside runner. He gave a glimpse of this back in the Compass Bowl when he was bouncing off contact on inside runs. Walton rushed for 105 yards and two scores, and averaged 5.8 yards a carry. Mathers averaged 4.0 yards with 52 yards on 13 attempts and had the big 12-yard run to put the Rebels in field goal range at the end.
It was good to see Andrew Ritter nail the kick at the end. I’ve seen him struggle in practice, and it’s made me question his accuracy, but he’s come through in games. He had hit seven in a a row and eight of 10 when his 29-yard attempt was blocked early in the fourth quarter.
That was a very unfortunate turn of events at the time, because it would have given Ole Miss a two-possession lead.
I’m told by those on the field that Ritter’s game-winning kick would have been wide right had it been from five yards further back.
It wasn’t, and Freeze got his first “signature” win. It was the Rebels’ first win over top 10 foe since beating LSU in 2009 and the highest-ranked team the Rebels had beaten since Houston Nutt’s 31-30 win over No. 4 Florida in 2008.
The Rebels exceeded expectations in Freeze’s first season, but those three SEC wins were against struggling Arkansas and Auburn teams and an MSU team that was falling back at the end of the season.
This was a big win against a top 10 team after coming close against Texas A&M this year and LSU last year.
We’ll see what the injury list brings this week. This week the Rebels face an Idaho team that is 1-6 after losing by 24 points at Arkansas State last week. The Vandals were off last night.
Though Missouri remains, the toughest part of the Ole Miss schedule is now in the rear view mirror, but they need to get some people back on defense to keep fatigue from being a factor and getting surprised by someone down the stretch.