Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining the top five takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are the Postgame Points from the win over Georgia.
Ole Miss jumped out to a huge lead on #12 Georgia on Saturday. The Rebels raced to a 31-0 lead by halftime, much to the delight of the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd. Unlike what happened in losses to #1 Alabama and #4 Florida State, this time Ole Miss finished its opponent off in the second half. The Rebels extended the lead to 45-0 in the third quarter before the Bulldogs got a couple of late touchdowns.
With the win, Ole Miss improves to 2-2 on the season, 1-1 in the SEC. The Rebels moved up in the rankings to the 16 spot in the AP Top 25 poll, but I maintain that this team is still a top ten squad. If the Rebels can win the turnover battle and finish games strong in the second half, Ole Miss has a chance to win every remaining game on the schedule and can reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the third season in a row.
2. Third-Down Defense
Coach Hugh Freeze wanted to see his defense perform better and get off the field on third down, and he got exactly what he asked for from his Landshark defense.
The Rebels smothered the Georgia offense all afternoon and allowed the Bulldogs to convert on just 4-of-16 third-down attempts. In fact, Georgia was able to convert just 1-of-12 third downs to start the game. The Bulldogs were successful on 3 of their final 4 third-down attempts when the game was out of hand in favor of the Rebels.
When its defense creates two turnovers and gets off the field on third-down plays, Ole Miss is hard to beat. It gives the explosive Rebel offense more opportunities to score points while allowing the defense to play fewer snaps and to keep bringing the energy and pressure on the opposition.
3. Turnover Battle
On Saturday, Ole Miss won the turnover battle with Georgia, 2-1. In reality, the Rebels won the battle 2-0, as the lone Ole Miss interception came in the fourth-quarter by backup quarterback Jason Pellerin with the Rebels holding a commanding 45-7 lead. Thus, the Rebels played smart, efficient football on offense. On the other hand, the Landshark defense was opportunistic in recovering a fumble and scoring on an interception return for a touchdown by Derrick Jones.
Turnovers play a huge role in who wins in college football. Ole Miss lost the turnover battle in both of its losses this season. In the opener with Florida State, the Rebels committed four turnovers, while the Seminoles had no miscues on the night. Against Alabama, the Crimson Tide edged the Rebels in turnover margin, 2-1. If Ole Miss does not turn the ball over on offense and the defense can create some takeaways, it is a recipe for success that should lead to more victories for the Rebels the rest of the season.
4. Balanced Offense
Ole Miss excelled in both the run game and the passing attack in the big win over #12 Georgia. The Rebels produced 180 yards on the ground to compliment the outstanding passing performance by Chad Kelly and his arsenal of receivers.
Every opponent knows how dangerous Ole Miss is through the air, so it is very important for the Rebels to be able to effectively run the ball and keep defenses on their toes. The Rebels were quite successful in having a diverse offense against the Bulldogs.
Chad Kelly torched the Georgia defense for 282 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. He was efficient throwing the ball, completing 18-of -24 pass attempts. As well, Kelly led the Rebels in rushing with 53 yards on 4 carries for 1 touchdown, while Akeem Judd contributed 41 yards in 7 rush attempts.
Evan Engram had another outstanding day catching the ball. Engram hauled in 6 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. DaMarkus Lodge chipped in with 2 catches for 72 yards and a score. In all, Kelly connected with 8 different Rebel receivers on the afternoon.
5. Evan Engram
Senior tight end Evan Engram had another banner day against the Georgia Bulldogs. As mentioned above, Engram burned the Bulldogs for 95 yards and a touchdown with his 6 receptions. He is the leading receiver for Ole Miss this season and a huge mismatch for any opposing defense from the tight end position with his size, speed, and ability to catch the ball.
Simply put, Engram is this year’s version of Laquon Treadwell for the Rebels, the go-to-guy who makes plays.
Georgia simply had no answer for containing Engram on Saturday. He has recorded at least 95 yards receiving and a touchdown against each of the three teams ranked in the top 15 that the Rebels have faced this season (#1 Alabama, #4 Florida State, #12 Georgia).
Engram makes plays in the biggest games, just as Coach Hugh Freeze had to be hoping for when Engram announced last winter his decision to return for his senior year. Rebel fans are ecstatic that Engram came back for one final campaign in the red and blue, while opponents are having nightmares trying to figure out how to cover him.
Engram is on the watch list for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s outstanding tight end. Earlier this week, Engram was the first tight end added to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the country’s top receiver, regardless of position.
Engram is the leading tight end in college football with 26 catches and 397 yards, and he has scored 3 touchdowns. An extraordinary young man both on and off the field, Engram is highly deserving of this recognition.
The Rebel Walk congratulates Evan for earning his spot on both watch lists, and we know his mom is extremely proud of her son!
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)