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 UT-Martin.
1. Winning Ways
Ole Miss continued its winning ways by flying past UT-Martin at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday. The Rebels improved to 2-0 with a 45-23 victory over the Skyhawks.
An early kickoff time may have contributed to a slow start by Ole Miss. The Rebels were sluggish in falling behind 16-7 midway through the second quarter. Then Ole Miss seemed to wake from its slumber and catch fire en route to reeling off 31 unanswered points. When the dust settled after the third quarter, the Rebels had a commanding 38-16 lead and had sealed up their second win of the year.
2. Aerial Attack
Shea Patterson and his array of weapons dominated the UT-Martin defense on Saturday. The aerial attack produced 489 yards and saw 9 different Rebels catch at least 1 pass. The passing game accounted for 5 of the 6 Ole Miss touchdowns on the day.
Patterson etched his name into the record books by throwing for a school-record 489 yards against the Skyhawks. He completed 32 of 43 pass attempts, which resulted in 20 first downs and 5 touchdowns.
A. J. Brown was the leading receiver for the second straight week with 8 catches for 156 yards and 2 scores. DaMarkus Lodge surpassed 100 receiving yards, as well, when he hauled in 6 receptions worth 133 yards and a touchdown. D. K. Metcalf grabbed 5 passes for 37 yards and 1 touchdown, while Jordan Wilkins added 3 catches for 40 yards and 1 TD.
(Damarkus Lodge (5) and A.J. Brown (1) had a combined 289 yards in receptions and three touchdowns on passes from Shea Patterson Saturday. Photo credits: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)
Van Jefferson and Markell Pack each contributed three receptions on the afternoon. D’Vaughn Pennamon caught two passes, and Eric Swinney and Octavious Cooley each recorded a reception for the Rebels.
3. Pass Defense
While Ole Miss struggled against the run and missed too many tackles in the first half, one area that stood out was the pass defense. The Rebels contained the Skyhawks’ passing game quite well on Saturday afternoon. Ole Miss allowed only 10 completions in the game, and just two of those passes went for 20 yards or more. So, the Rebels did a great job of not giving up a big play through the air.
Ole Miss held the Skyhawks to 115 yards and 0 touchdowns passing, and the Rebels picked off a pass courtesy of Javien Hamilton. A telling statistic of how good the Rebels were in pass defense is that UT-Martin averaged just 6.8 yards per pass attempt. That line suggests the coverage was solid downfield throughout the game, leaving the Skyhawks mostly with dink-and-dunk pass opportunities. Ole Miss needs the secondary to be good with nine Power 5 opponents on the upcoming schedule.
4. Third-Down Conversions
The Ole Miss offense was sharp against UT-Martin, as the Rebels were successful on 6 of 10 third-down attempts. Four of those conversions led to or resulted in touchdowns for the home team. Thus, 28 points came after the Rebels kept drives alive with success on third-down attempts.
I firmly believe that third-down success and/or failure is one of the most important statistics in college football. It is even more vital if the strength of a team is its offense, which is the case for Ole Miss.
The Rebels have made 60 percent of their third-down attempts in both games this season. With the defense still finding its way, and the offense capable of finding the end zone on any passing play, it is critical that Ole Miss continues to be good in third-down situations.
5. Red-Zone Success
Ole Miss made the most of its red-zone opportunities against UT-Martin. With the exception of a missed field goal, the Rebels scored points on 5 of 6 trips into the red-zone. Ole Miss got four touchdowns and a field goal inside the Skyhawks’ 20-yard-line for a net of 31 points. As the competition gets much tougher in the coming weeks, the Rebels must convert in the red-zone and come away with touchdowns the vast majority of the time.
Ole Miss faces a challenging road trip to Berkeley this weekend to take on a surprising Cal team. The Bears were projected to finish last in the PAC-12 but are off to a 2-0 start.
Cal went across the country and beat North Carolina in the season opener. Yesterday at home, the Bears trailed FCS opponent Weber State 20-17 going into the fourth quarter. Cal got a pair of rushing touchdowns in the last 9 minutes to win the game. The Bears were awful on defense, were balanced on offense, and benefitted from three Weber State fumbles. Cal is a young team who has found a way to rally and win both of its games this year. I think Ole Miss beats Cal in a high-scoring contest.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)