OXFORD, Miss. – Here are three keys to victory for Ole Miss against South Alabama, as the two programs square off for the first time Saturday night on the gridiron at 6:30 p.m. (CT) in Oxford.
Get off to a quick start
Remember when Mississippi State jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead over South Alabama in the Bulldogs’ season home opener last season? MSU’s offense, led by Damian Williams, got off to a quick start against the Jaguars before State’s ensuing meltdown in the second half.
Ole Miss needs to get off to a similar start against South Alabama—and then keep its foot on the throats of the Jaguars. With the talent on offense, the Rebels shouldn’t have any issues putting touchdowns on the scoreboard early.
Sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson has plenty of options at the wide receiver position in A.J.Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Van Jefferson, DaMarkus Lodge, Markell Pack, and Tre Nixon. Just sit back and watch Patterson get the ball to these talented receivers.
Keep the foot on the gas
Remember when MSU mustered only three points in the second half against South Alabama and then went on to miss a 28-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the game that likely would have won the game?
The Rebels need to have balance on offense and not let up if they get a big lead. Damian Williams was responsible for MSU’s two touchdowns against South Alabama last season, which came in the first half, but after that, Williams wasn’t effective until the Bulldogs’ final drive that led to the missed field goal.
Ole Miss has an excellent field goal kicker in preseason Lou Groza Award watch list honoree Gary Wunderlich, but in all honesty, it shouldn’t come down to a field goal in the final seconds of the game against a program that is 1-4 all-time against teams in the Southeastern Conference.
Defense needs to get off the field quickly
The Ole Miss defense needs to get off the field on third down and give the offense every opportunity to score. The Rebels will have to deal with a dual-threat quarterback in junior Dallas Davis and a veteran running back in Xavier Johnson; however, Ole Miss has enough experience on the defensive line in the form of Marquis Haynes, Benito Jones, and Breeland Speaks which should be enough to help contain Davis and Johnson.
Ole Miss and South Alabama kick off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) Saturday in Oxford. The game will be shown on ESPNU. Follow us on Twitter (@TheRebelWalk) for game updates.
(Feature image credit: Mario Parham, The Rebel Walk)