After the strangest, 35-point victory in Ole Miss history, here are a few thoughts from The Rebel Walk’s Jake Evans, who covered the 76-41 win over the Salukis.
OXFORD, Miss. — If you were like me on Saturday, you probably felt like the Rebels’ game against Southern Illinois took a few years off of your life. Ole Miss scored at will in the first half and went into the break with 35 points on the board. However, the Southern Illinois Salukis went to the locker room with 38.
From the beginning, the Rebels were on their heels. All week, defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff emphasized SIU’s potent ground game, saying: “They run the ball…If that doesn’t work, they’re going to run it again. If that doesn’t work, they’re going to run it again.”
That ended up the exact opposite of what the Rebels saw from the Salukis, as SIU opened the game with five straight pass plays–marching down the field in 50 seconds–en route to the game’s first touchdown. From there, it was a back-and-forth offensive shootout.
At halftime, Ole Miss trailed, 38-35, following a 70-yard circus TD for the Salukis that put the visitors ahead with just under a minute to go. After intermission, however, the game was all Ole Miss, with the Rebels outscoring SIU 41-3 in the second half as the home team notched a 76-41 victory.
I watched the game from the press box at Vaught-Hemingway, and here are some of my thoughts from one of the strangest Ole Miss football games I’ve seen in a while.
Ole Miss offense can score at will
If anyone had any doubts about the scoring ability of the Rebels, they likely have none now. Ole Miss scored 11 TDs yesterday, with an average scoring drive of 5.18 plays. The Rebels tallied 646 yards of offense and pretty much torched the Salukis whenever they wanted last night.
Jordan Ta’amu can throw the deep ball
Jordan Ta’amu can throw the deep ball better than just about anyone in college football. The Ole Miss offense is built for explosive plays, and Ta’amu is the perfect quarterback for that. He hit D.K. Metcalf for a 51-yard completion that set up Braylon Sanders’ 30-yard touchdown the next play. The next drive, Ta’amu hit Elijah Moore for a 50-yard TD. After that, came a 38-yard TD to A.J. Brown.
The Rebels opened the third quarter with a 46-yard strike from Ta’amu to A.J. Brown. Two drives later, a 55-yard bomb to Braylon Sanders set up a Metcalf touchdown a few plays later. Suffice it to say, Ta’amu and his NWOs are more than happy to go for that deep shot at any moment, because, quite simply, they’re fantastic at it.
The best quote of the night came from Ta’amu in post game interviews:
“With our receivers, one-on-one means they’re open.”
Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu
Scottie Phillips can flat-out play
After a 204 yard, 2 touchdown game last week versus Texas Tech, Ole Miss running back Scottie Phillips didn’t slow his roll against SIU. The JUCO transfer tallied 107 yards last night and added two more scores. He could’ve been well on his way to another 200-yard game; however, most of the carries in the second half were split between Isaiah Woullard, Tylan Knight, and Armani Linton.
Scottie showed good breakaway speed on his longest run of the day, 31 yards, and had great bursts through the line all night.
Whatever adjustments were made at halftime, they worked
After the game, defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said he could’t really say on camera what adjustments were made at halftime. However, all the Ole Miss coaches alluded to effort and preparation being a significant part of why the FCS Southern Illinois Salukis were able to put up 629 yards of offense on the Rebels, with some players perhaps looking ahead to this coming Saturday’s matchup against No. 1 Alabama.
After two games, the Ole Miss defense ranks 126th in the nation versus the pass and 107th against the run, giving up an average of 557.5 yards per game thus far this season.
Despite the poor first-half performance, however, the Rebels only gave up three second-half points and forced three turnovers. One turnover resulted in an 88-yard INT return for a TD, and the other in a 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
That second-half defense HAS to show up next week, because we all know that Alabama is for real.
The NWOs are talented and deep
Yesterday, Ole Miss’ NWOs showed out again, but with a few new faces this time. A.J. Brown finished with another monster game, tallying 8 catches for 158 yards and 2 TDs. D.K. Metcalf snagged 7 passes for 93 yards and 1 TD.
The new faces, though, were Braylon Sanders and Alex Weber.
Sanders had 4 catches for 60 yards last week vs Texas Tech, and he added 4 catches for 133 yards and 1 TD yesterday. Starting in place of DaMarkus Lodge, who is in the concussion protocol, Sanders was arguably the player of the game. Although Weber just had one catch last night, it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The 31-yard reception came from backup quarterback Matt Corral and might be one of the catches of the year.
The NWOs showed out again last night–and they added a few new faces. The talent is obvious, but the depth is astonishing.
Ole Miss hosts the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday, September 15, at 6:00 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.