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 Southern Illinois. Hotty Toddy!
1. Mission accomplished
Ole Miss defeated Southern Illinois, 76-41, in the home opener at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday. It was a wildly entertaining contest that kept Rebel fans on the edge of their seats all afternoon. While Rebels would have preferred to see Ole Miss put this game away by halftime, the Salukis scored enough points to make this game interesting into the second half.
At the end of the day, however, Ole Miss won this shootout to get to 2-0 on the season. The goal of any college football game is to come away with a victory. With that in mind, the Rebels accomplished their mission.
The coaches and players are working hard this week to clean things up and improve heading into the showdown with top-ranked Alabama. For now, let us celebrate the fact that Ole Miss is 2-0.
2. Aerial attack
Through two weeks of action, the Ole Miss aerial attack has been lethal to opponents. Much like Texas Tech in the season opener, Southern Illinois had few answers for stopping Jordan Ta’amu and his talented wide receivers.
Ta’amu had a banner day against the Salukis. He completed 23 of 33 pass attempts for 448 yards and 5 touchdowns on Saturday.
After just two games this season, Ta’amu has completed 45 of 65 passes for 784 yards and 7 scores with no interceptions. As a team, the Rebels are second in the country with an average of 407.5 passing yards per game.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown was the top target for Ta’amu against Southern Illinois. Brown collected 8 receptions for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore D.K. Metcalf matched Brown’s production with 7 catches for 93 yards and a score. Braylon Sanders averaged more than 33 yards per reception against the Salukis. Sanders caught 4 balls for 133 yards and 1 touchdown.
A week after running for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns in his Ole Miss debut, tailback Scottie Phillips proved he is capable of giving the Rebels consistency in the ground attack. Phillips carried the ball 15 times for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Salukis.
As a team, the Rebels are averaging 188.5 rushing yards per game this season. Another statistic not to be overlooked is that Ole Miss has been balanced offensively through two contests with 67 pass plays and 60 run attempts. This balance is part of the reason that Ole Miss has scored points in all 8 quarters played so far this year. As the Rebels head into SEC play, running the ball consistently and effectively is important to keep defenses honest.
4. Taking care of the ball
Ole Miss did not commit a turnover against Southern Illinois. The Rebels lost a fumble in the opener versus Texas Tech, but that is the only turnover through two games. Coach Matt Luke has to be pleased that the Rebels are taking care of the ball.
Senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has been very impressive in this category, as he has not thrown an interception in 65 pass attempts this season. Taking care of the ball goes a long way towards winning games, especially when the competition gets stronger in SEC play.
The Ole Miss defense struggled to slow down Southern Illinois in the first half of the home opener on Saturday. In the second half, the Rebels came alive and created three takeaways that helped Ole Miss pull away from the Salukis.
The Rebels scored twenty points from the takeaways, and the defense itself put the ball into the end zone twice. Both Victor Evans (fumble recovery) and Vernon Dasher (interception return) scored touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as the Rebel defense outscored Southern Illinois 14-3 in the second half.
As the Rebels move into the heart of the schedule and SEC play, creating some takeaways becomes very important. The more times the defense can get the ball back into the hands of the potent offense, the better the chances of Ole Miss winning some big games.