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 Auburn.
1. Strong Finish
Ole Miss fell to 2-3 on the season with a 44-23 setback to No. 12 Auburn on The Plains Saturday. While the Rebels came up short on the scoreboard and dropped to 0-2 in SEC play, the team’s performance in the second half is a positive sign. Rather than quit with the contest already decided, Ole Miss provided a strong finish to a tough day!
The Rebels outscored the Tigers 20-9 in the final two quarters. Ole Miss scored three touchdowns and held Auburn to a trio of field goals. The Rebels showed some fight and determination that was missing in the previous two contests. Ole Miss showed its true potential in the final thirty minutes of action. Hopefully, the team can use the strong finish to this game as a springboard for success heading into a three-game homestand against struggling SEC opponents Vanderbilt, LSU, and Arkansas.
2. Coming Home
Ole Miss suffered its third straight loss to conclude a three-game road trip through the most difficult portion of the 2017 schedule. The good news is that the Rebels are coming home for the remainder of October. In fact, the Rebels will be on the road only twice the rest of the year. With five home games to play, Ole Miss has plenty of opportunities to turn the season around.
The Rebels start the three-game stretch of home games with Vanderbilt this weekend. While the Commodores began the season 3-0, their most impressive win was a narrow home victory over a mediocre Kansas State team. This is the best Vanderbilt team in the Derek Mason era, but this is a struggling squad that Ole Miss can defeat at home.
3. Passing Game
The passing game produced some big results Saturday, as quarterback Shea Patterson connected on 34 of 51 passes for 346 yards and 2 scores and no interceptions. He looked comfortable in the pocket and made good decisions all afternoon.
A. J. Brown was a force in this game with 10 receptions for 109 yards. It is the third time this year that Brown has topped the century mark in receiving yards and had at least 8 catches in a game. Keeping Brown healthy is a must for the Rebels going forward.
Van Jefferson had a productive day with 8 catches for 89 yards. Running back Jordan Wilkins caught 5 passes for 66 yards to go along with his 65 rushing yards on the day. Wilkins’ 131 all-purpose yards was tops for the Rebels.
D. K. Metcalf made the most of his 4 receptions by scoring 2 touchdowns. As well, tight end Dawson Knox made an impact in the game with a pair of catches for 32 yards.
4. Offensive Line
The offensive line may have played its best game of the season at Auburn on Saturday. The line was able to protect quarterback Shea Patterson against one of the better defenses in the country. Auburn recorded 14 sacks and created 9 turnovers in its first five contests coming into Saturday’s matchup with Ole Miss.
The Rebels allowed just one sack and did not turn the ball over against the Tigers. For the most part, Patterson had time to look downfield and find open receivers. When a quarterback has adequate time in the pocket, he can progress through his reads and make good decisions with the ball. The line kept him clean, which enabled the sophomore signal-caller to complete 34 of 51 pass attempts for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Ole Miss has a gifted quarterback and talented receivers. If the offensive line can continue to give Patterson a clean pocket, he will find his big-play wideouts and help this team win SEC games!
Ole Miss was not able to get into the win column at Auburn, but the Rebels were efficient in several key areas of the game. First, the Rebels did not turn the ball over. To play turnover-free against a top-notch defense that had forced 9 turnovers prior to Saturday’s matchup is a sign of encouragement that can help this team win SEC games in the weeks ahead.
Second, Ole Miss converted on 8 of 18 third-down attempts in the game. To be successful in this league, the Rebels have to keep drives alive on third down and give the defense a breather.
Third, Ole Miss played a pretty clean game in terms of penalties. The Rebels drew 4 yellow flags for a total of 30 penalty yards against the Tigers. When the margin for error is slim in SEC games, a team cannot afford to hurt itself with mental errors. If Ole Miss can avoid costly penalties, it has a much better chance of winning these next three home games.
Finally, the Rebels were successful in the red zone at Auburn. Ole Miss scored on each of the 4 possessions in which it reached the red zone. The Rebels got 3 touchdowns and a field goal out of those opportunities, good for all 23 points scored against the Tigers.
Ole Miss returns to the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to host Vanderbilt this coming Saturday. After playing three straight road games, the Rebels have three consecutive games at home to finish October. As well, Ole Miss plays five of its next six games at The Vaught, where the team is 2-0 this year!
(Feature image: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)