Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 51-21 win over Troy …
I had Ole Miss scoring 49, which was pretty close, but I thought Troy would score a few more points. They have on everybody this year except Mississippi State.
I wrote during the week that I didn’t think Ole Miss’ slugglish play from the Arkansas game — so defined by the Rebels’ coaching staff — would be fully behind it for Troy.
There was a sloppiness about the Rebels early that showed up in the pre-snap penalties. The good news is that was corrected fairly quickly, and as Bo Wallace mentioned, when the Rebels weren’t hurting themselves, Troy couldn’t stop them. When the Rebels stopped hurting themselves that was evident.
I’ll tell you right now I don’t expect sluggish or sloppy play from Ole Miss this week against Missouri. Players have been looking at this schedule like everyone else. They saw the daunting task at the front end with all the road games. They know what a big win they earned against LSU, and LSU signaled the end of that difficult front stretch.
Yes, anyone can beat anyone on a given day, particularly in the SEC and all that. But after LSU player openly spoke of their desire to get on a roll and string some wins together. They looked at Idaho and Troy with an Arkansas team struggling in SEC play in between. They knew it was quite possible to get on a roll, and they’ve done that. They haven’t been sloppy or sluggish to the point that its cost them.
Remember, Freeze called the play in the Arkansas game sluggish at times, and you still had Wallace completing almost 80 percent of his passes for a career-high 416 yards then.
Freeze mentioned after the LSU game that it’s not realistic for coaches to think they can get players so emotionally prepared as Ole Miss was that night. I agree.
So it’s been a while since that emotional game. I would expect the Missouri game to be one of those where the Rebels come out on an emotional high. It’s a top 10 opponent, a night game and the seniors’ last home game. These players know what’s at stake with what kind of bowl standing they can achieve with another win or two.
I will be surprised if there’s sloppy play against Missouri.
Back to Troy.
Aside from the big play allowed in the passing game early in the first, it was pretty solid defensive day from the regulars.
Troy’s second touchdown came with a short field, a 17-yard drive after an interception thrown by backup quarterback — way backup — Robert Ratliff. The third touchdown was a 75-yard drive against a collection of defensive reserves who don’t play that much.
Troy went into the game 15th in the nation in passing yards at 324.4 per game. They were well under 300 until that final drive.
Several solid defensive performances come to mind. Serderius Bryant showed a lot of energy finishing with three tackles, two for loss, one of them a sack which caused a fumble.
Robert Nkemdiche had his first sack of the year, a big one for a 12-yard loss. I’m sure the freshman is going to get that one under his belt. Truth of the matter is that if Nkemdiche’s future remains at tackle, he’s not likely to rack up huge sack numbers. If he can, that will obviously be welcomed, but Nkemdiche’s worth at tackle will be better measured by tackles behind the line — Two of his four were TFLs — and by how many times a linebacker or somebody else explodes into the backfield because Nkemdiche is tying up blockers. Nkemdiche has seven tackles for loss this season, second only to Bryant’s team-leading nine.
In two games back Nkemdiche has shown no effects of the hamstring injury, and that’s good, because those things can linger if not fully healed.
Offensively, Wallace was again on target and protected the football. He was 17-for-26 for 272 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. Over his last four games Wallace is 89-for-121, 73.5 percent.
That’s pretty strong, and that’s a credit to the growing consistency of his receivers as much as his own. I’ve called those guy out for drops this season, and they’ve really elevated their play.
It was clear against Troy that Freeze wanted to get Jeff Scott as many touches as he could to get him back in rhythm and put him in position to help the Rebels against Missouri.
When is the last time you’ve seen a team rush for 382 yards and not have a single player gain as many as 70 yards?
Ole Miss has talent and depth at running back — We’ve said that since August — but Saturday was about a woeful Troy defense as much as the Rebels’ talented backs.
Basically, the Rebels have done what they’ve needed to do in the aftermath of the LSU game.
Freeze and his staff managed injured players and allowed them to regain their health. The Rebels have avoided the big injuries that played them for a stretch, and they’ve beaten three teams that are not as good as they are.
Sluggish play in the next two games isn’t likely to be so easily overcome as the last three.
The Rebels are capable of playing cleaner, and they’ll to do just that against Missouri’s talented defense where a five-yard pre-snap penalty stands to be a greater hindrance than it was against Troy.