OXFORD, Miss. – With a bye week coming before the Rebels face Alabama September 30, Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo is confident his unit will return to its explosive ways once the mistakes that led to the 27-16 week-three loss at Cal are eliminated.
Despite controlling the game for the entire first half–thanks, in part, to touchdown passes from Shea Patterson to DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf, and to the defense for holding the Golden Bears’ offense to just a touchdown–offensive penalties were a critical factor in the Rebels inability to leave Berkeley with a win.
Out of the 16 penalties the Rebels committed against Cal, the offense committed five false start penalties and three delay of game infractions. After the 70-plus yard bombs to Lodge and Metcalf, the Ole Miss offense just never could find any rhythm as costly penalties kept the Rebels from the success they enjoyed in the first two games of the season.
Though he was sacked five times, Patterson completed 26 of 44 passes for 363 yards. The sophomore quarterback still leads the Southeastern Conference in passing yards (1,281), while three of the team’s receivers (A.J. Brown, Lodge, and Metcalf) are in the top five in the league in receiving yards.
In short, Longo knows the offense will get back to form if it can avoid costly penalties.
“That’s the number one priority for us this week. We need to eliminate those so we can give ourselves a good chance to start drives better than what we have in the previous two weeks.”
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo
The ground game
While the passing game has been stellar, the running game has been slowly coming along. Against the Golden Bears, the Rebels rushed for 53 yards on 29 carries. Against UT-Martin, Ole Miss rushed a yard more on less carries (18). Longo mentioned he was pleased with how hard the backs ran the football against Cal and doesn’t think the running game is hindering the offense from moving the football.
“We converted on third and shorts. We averaged over four yards a carry. I thought the running backs ran hard. We have two long explosive runs called back on penalties, again self-inflicted. I thought we took a step in the running game. If anything, I probably should run the ball a little bit more at times, but that’s on me not the kids.”
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo
The SEC gauntlet begins
After the bye week, the Rebels begin a gauntlet of tough games for the next six weeks. First, Ole Miss will play at top-ranked Alabama on September 30, before then traveling to Auburn the following weekend. The Rebels then host Vanderbilt, LSU, and Arkansas before taking a trip to Lexington, Kentucky to play the Wildcats.
Ole Miss will not play another non-conference game until week 11 when it hosts Louisiana Lafayette.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)