Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining the top five, positive takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are the Postgame Points from the loss to Texas A&M.
1. One More Chance
Ole Miss fell to Texas A&M, 31-24, on Senior Night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The first half featured a lot of offensive fireworks from both teams. The Rebels went into halftime holding a 24-21 advantage on the scoreboard. Ole Miss outgained the Aggies 325-300 in the opening half of play.
Then, the second half turned into a defensive battle. Ole Miss produced just 66 yards and zero points after the break, while Texas A&M managed merely 91 yards and a field goal. The difference in the game was a pick-six by the Aggies in the third quarter. That defensive touchdown turned out to be the margin of victory for Texas A&M.
Ole Miss stands at 5-6, 2-5 SEC heading into the season finale against rival Mississippi State. The Rebels have one more chance to get a victory and to send the seniors out on a high note with an Egg Bowl win. Ole Miss has one more chance to secure bragging rights in the state of Mississippi and to finish the season with a .500 record. The seniors get one more chance to wear an Ole Miss jersey!
2. Run Defense
The Ole Miss run defense was at its best against Texas A&M. The defense did not allow the Aggies to run the ball with any consistency or success throughout the game. The defense has struggled to stop the run all season, but on this night Ole Miss’ ability to shut down the Aggies ground attack was a key reason the game was closely contested.
Ole Miss limited Texas A&M to 119 yards on 44 rushes on Saturday night. The Aggies averaged just 2.7 yards per run. Keith Ford gained 43 yards on a run on the second offensive play of the night for Texas A&M. Taking that big play into account, the Aggies generated only 76 rushing yards on their final 43 attempts for an average of 1.8 yards per rush.
If the run defense can slow down Mississippi State in a similar way on Thursday night, the Rebels will have a good chance of pulling off an upset, as the Bulldogs’ offense is built almost exclusively around the running of Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams.
3. Defensive Stars
Seniors DeMarquis Gates and Tayler Polk did everything in their power to produce a victory in their final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Polk played his best game in a Rebel uniform by leading the defense with a career-best 12 tackles. Gates was close behind Polk with 11 stops on the night. It was the sixth time this season that Gates has recorded double-digit tackles in a game. With 101 tackles this year, Gates is the first Rebel to reach the 100-tackle plateau since the great Patrick Willis accomplished the feat in the 2006 season.
Sophomore Benito Jones registered a career-best night with 7 stops, a sack, and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. Fellow sophomore Austrian Robinson matched his classmate with a career-high 7 tackles.
Junior Breeland Speaks (8) and sophomore Josiah Coatney (7) matched the production of Jones and Robinson in terms of tackles. Finally, sophomore Myles Hartsfield recorded the first interception of his Ole Miss career, creating the only takeaway of the game for the Rebels.
4. Strong Rushing Attack
Senior Jordan Wilkins led a strong rushing attack for Ole Miss against Texas A&M. Playing in his final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Memphis native rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown to pace the Rebels.
Ole Miss outgained Texas A&M 202-119 on the ground. The Rebels averaged 5.2 yards per run on 39 rushing attempts.
Further evidence of the success Ole Miss enjoyed running the ball can be seen in the fact that the Rebels gained 10 first downs on the ground, as compared to 6 first downs through the air.
5. Kicking Game
Senior Gary Wunderlich turned in another solid night for the Rebels. The placekicker from Memphis was perfect on three PAT kicks and connected on his only field goal attempt in the game from 28 yards.
Wunderlich is now tied with Jonathan Nichols for the school record with 63 field goals in his Rebel career.
Senior Will Gleeson had a nice night punting for the Rebels. The Australian native punted 9 times and averaged 41 yards per punt for the game. More importantly, Gleeson placed 4 punts inside the 20-yard line. When a punter can pin the opponent deep in their own territory, it flips field position and puts the defense in an advantageous position.
Next up, Ole Miss hits the road for the season finale at Mississippi State. The Rebels and Bulldogs will face off in Starkville on Thursday in a Thanksgiving night showdown. Kickoff is set for 6:30 pm.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)