OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre knew the Southeastern offense had both the players and the scheme to attack the Rebels’ defense.
Last Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway, Ole Miss defeated the Lions, 40-29, and while MacIntyre’s unit held the Lions to just 66 rushing yards, they yielded 309 yards through the air. After the game, Coach MacIntyre discussed what the Lions were able to do that caused the Rebels some difficulty in the secondary.
“Yeah, I knew they would attack us differently,” MacIntyre began. “I said at the beginning of the week their quarterback, on film, was very accurate. They had some quick guys, but I thought our kids kept battling, kept battling, kept battling and we had three interceptions, which was good. We caused a couple of fumbles, so I thought that was good,” said MacIntyre.
“But we’ve got to play better,” MacIntyre continued.
“I said our secondary needs to keep working, to play better. They’ll learn a lot from this and keep moving forward. But I knew they would be able to attack us a little bit more vertically and in space. We didn’t do as good a job as I would like on the little flare passes out there, and that’s something we’ve worked on. But I didn’t get it across well enough, so I’ve got to get across better.”
DC Mike MacIntyre
Rebels’ rushing defense shines
Now for the bright side—although the Rebels gave up a good chunk of yardage through the air, the defense limited the opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing in back to back weeks.
McIntyre discussed just how important it is for the defense to stop the ground attack of opposing offenses.
“Yeah, that’s the key,” MacIntyre noted. “I mean, I’ve always said if we can hold teams rushing and they throw for 300 yards, you don’t want that, but they’re going to possibly turn it over. There’s gonna be sacks. There’s gonna be things that happen. You’ve got a better chance. But if they run for 300, just forget it. We’re still going to try to stop the run, try to stop the run, try to load the box, try to stop the run and and do that. And we will improve in the secondary as we go along and our pass rush will keep improving,” he explained.
“We had some big sacks there at the end, which I thought was good, but we’ll keep improving in that area. Especially in the league we play in, we better stop the run. If we would have let them run some today, it might not been very pretty. And so I thought that’s the main key for us.“
Ole Miss DC Mike MacIntyre
Through their ability to force teams to throw the ball, the Landsharks have done a great job of causing turnovers this season.
Against Southeastern Louisiana, the defense forced three interceptions as Myles Hartsfield, Jonathan Haynes, and Donta Evans all came away with one of their own. Benito Jones also notched an interception against Memphis in Week 1 of the season. With the four interceptions forced by the Landshark defense, Ole Miss is ranked No. 8 in the nation and tied for No. 2 in the SEC with Alabama in interceptions.
Looking ahead to Cal
Coach MacIntyre, who was previously the head coach at Colorado, knows what the Rebels may see from No. 23 California.
“They’re a physical, physical football team,” he began. “You’re going to walk in here and see a physical football team. And, you know, they have done well at Cal the last two years on defense, and offensively they take care of the ball. They’re a good football team. In my experience in the past, they have been very, very physical.”
Cal’s starting running back Christopher Brown is No. 5 in the nation with 65 carries—and No. 14 in the nation with 324 rushing yards.
The Golden Bears’ starting quarterback Chase Garbers is 36-of-68 passing for 478 yards with just a 52.9% completion rate. If the Rebels can rely on their ability to stop the run and take the ball out of Brown’s hands and put it in Garbers’, then Ole Miss could end up with a convincing victory against a nationally ranked PAC-12 opponent.