OXFORD, Miss. – As the final seconds ticked down on Ole Miss’ 45-14 win over Georgia Saturday, Evan Engram and some of his teammates were already starting to turn their focus to the Rebels’ next opponent, a familiar one that got the best of Ole Miss last season.
Though the players celebrated the win over Georgia, they soon put aside the smiles and hugs, knowing there is yet another talented team for which to prepare. And as soon as Sunday morning arrived, the Rebels started looking at film on the Memphis Tigers.
Engram remembers last season’s meltdown inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, where the Rebels lost a 14-0 first-quarter lead before ultimately falling, 37-24, to Memphis. The Powder Springs, Georgia native can’t remember the specific details about how the momentum shifted in the first half—and was not interested in spending much time reliving the loss.
Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram
What exactly does No. 16 Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) need to do in order to win the game?
First, the Rebels’ offense can’t turn the football over to a Memphis team that is averaging 51.67 points per game. Against the Tigers last season, Chad Kelly threw two interceptions—one of which was to Dion Witty that led to a Sam Craft four-yard rushing TD and a 17-14 lead for Memphis.
Secondly, the offensive line will have to make sure it protects Kelly, like it did against Georgia, so he will have enough time to go through his progressions and make the right throw. Last season against the Tigers, Kelly was sacked three times for a total loss of 25 yards.
Lastly, the Rebels’ defense needs to do a better job of limiting explosive plays. Memphis’ quarterback last season, Paxton Lynch, was able to find his receivers with ease. Anthony Miller led the Tigers with 132 receiving yards and a TD on 10 receptions. Mose Frazier and Alan Cross caught Lynch’s other two touchdown passes.
In last year’s game, Lynch was able to hit 10 different receivers.
A turning point
Engram believes last year’s loss to the Tigers was a catalyst that led to better team play the remainder of the season.
After losing to Memphis last season, the Rebels won five of their next six games–losing only to Arkansas by one point in overtime.
Evan Engram on 2015 Memphis game as a turning point
Familiar faces on Tigers’ defense
This year’s Memphis team brings back some familiar faces on defense. The Tigers’ defensive backfield is loaded with experience, featuring seniors Deondre Jordan, Chauncey Lanier, Arthur Maulet, Chris Mosley, Dontrell Nelson, and B.J. Ross. Maulet intercepted a pass in his team’s season-opening 35-17 win over Southeast Missouri State, and his teammates Mosley, Nelson and Jahmahl Pardner all had picks against Bowling Green last Saturday.
Memphis’ experience on defense shows in its high national rankings. The Tigers (3-0) rank fourth in the NCAA in passing efficiency defense (84.21) and sixth nationally in total interceptions (7).
At Monday’s weekly Ole Miss press conference, Engram explained what he has already noticed about the Tigers on film.
Engram on Memphis’ defense
(Feature image: John Bowen, 247Sports)