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 road game at California.
1. Learning Experience
Ole Miss suffered its first loss of the young season at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. The Rebels fell to the Cal Bears by a final score of 27-16. Ole Miss has a 2-1 record heading into SEC play in two weeks.
The Rebels need to use this loss as a learning experience. The offense found some success early in the game but was shut down in the second half. Ole Miss struggled to run the ball for the third straight game, which put added pressure on the passing attack. The coaches must look at the film from this contest and find ways to run the ball effectively and to open up the passing game.
The defense looked much-improved against Cal, but the Rebels still have a long way to go to help this team win conference games down the road. It is early in the season, and there is plenty of time to fix some issues on defense. With two weeks until the Alabama game, the coaches need to emphasize better tackling and getting off the field on third-down situations by using the Cal game as a learning experience.
2. Big Plays
While the offense had trouble finding a rhythm on Saturday night, it did make some big plays. Ole Miss had sixteen plays that went for more than 10 yards against the Bears. The three biggest plays of the night were good for over 40 yards apiece.
Twelve of those big plays came through the air, including both Rebel touchdowns. Shea Patterson delivered a pair of touchdown tosses that went for more than 70 yards to D. K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. The other highlight pass went to Metcalf for 42 yards and set up a field goal. These explosive plays helped the Rebels claim a 16-7 lead at the intermission.
After halftime, the Bears made some adjustments in coverage and did not allow Ole Miss receivers to beat them down the field. This is where the Rebels need to be able to run the ball well to prevent opponents from sitting back in coverage.
3. Wide Receivers
Despite losing A. J. Brown to an injury early in the game, the Ole Miss wide receivers had a big night against Cal.
Van Jefferson hauled in 10 receptions for 94 yards to lead a deep and talented receiving corps. Freshman D. K. Metcalf had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career by grabbing 3 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Junior DaMarkus Lodge recorded his second consecutive contest with 100 yards in receptions when he caught 4 balls for 100 yards and a score.
The Rebels continue to be one of the top wide receiver units in the country at this point in the season. Hopefully, Brown will be healthy and ready to go against Alabama. In case he is not able to go in two weeks, it is good to know the Rebels have plenty of options on the perimeter who are capable of making game-changing catches.
Through two weeks of action, Ole Miss had managed to create just a single turnover. The only forced turnover by the defense was a Javien Hamilton interception late in the game against UT-Martin.
So, it was good to see the Rebels create a pair of takeaways against Cal courtesy of C. J. Moore. The junior defensive back intercepted a pair of passes in the second quarter to give the Rebels their first meaningful takeaways of the year. They were the first two picks for Moore in his Rebel career. As well, Moore was the Rebels’ second-leading tackler with 9 stops in the game.
While the defense needs to improve heading into SEC competition, one thing that can help this unit find its way is creating takeaways. A defense can get away with giving up too many yards by forcing turnovers and keeping opponents out of the end zone. Going forward, the Rebels should put an emphasis on being aggressive defensively and attacking the football.
5. DeMarquis Gates
DeMarquis Gates turned in a stellar effort against Cal on Saturday night. The senior linebacker did everything he could to help Ole Miss pull out a victory. Gates notched a career-high 14 tackles in the game. Eleven of his tackles were solo stops, which marked another career-best for the Georgia native. Though the Rebels came up short on the scoreboard, Gates’ performance was commendable!
Ole Miss gets an extra week off before going on the road again to face #1 Alabama. The Rebels have time to learn from the Cal game and to get some players healthy.