OXFORD, Miss. — Last Saturday against Southeastern, Ole Miss put up 459 yards of total offense. The Rebels stayed balanced as they notched 239 yards through the air and 220 yards on the ground. To beat a very solid Cal team, Ole Miss will need to stay on schedule with positive yardage on first downs and protect the football.
Rebels QB Matt Corral went 21-for-30 against Southeastern, and starting running back Scottie Phillips led Ole Miss with 26 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown. True freshman running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner were also able to take 9 carries apiece on the day for 95 and 51 yards rushing, respectively.
What to expect from the Cal defense
Ole Miss will face its toughest game of the season this weekend against the Golden Bears’ defense. Cal is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation in defensive efficiency and No. 43 in total defense according to ESPN. Last season, Cal led the nation with 21 interceptions—and the players who made 20 of those picks are still on the roster this year.
At his Monday press conference, Coach Luke addressed Cal’s ability to defend the pass.“You just look at them across the board,” Luke began.
“They have the personnel. They’re very, very talented in the secondary. They can play man, they’re experienced in their zone coverages. They don’t give you anything easy. They make you earn it. When you have really good players executing a really good scheme, that’s a recipe for success. It’s a combination. They understand their defense. Coach (Justin) Wilcox has done an unbelievable job of creating that culture on defense. They’re really, really talented as well.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Cal’s defense
Positive yardage every play
Another area of emphasis for the Rebels this week as they prepare to face Cal is gaining positive yardage every play, as the offense struggled on third-and-longs against Southeastern.
“We are not good enough to play behind the sticks, so to speak,” explained offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.
“You know, we’ve got to get positive yards,” Rodriguez began. “We’ve got to stay on schedule. We’ve got to get in a rhythm because we’re not good enough to have the third-and-tens and third-and-twelves and execute that. The negative yardage plays hurt us (against SLU),” he continued.
The Rebels saw a lot of movement on the Lions’ defensive front seven that created a few problems for the young offense.
“We’ve got to learn from that because we are going to continue to see movement. We’re going to practice like crazy against it. We’ve got to execute.”
Rich Rod on preparing for movement from the Cal defense
Coach Rodriguez also talked about what he knows of head coach Justin Wilcox’ Cal team.
“They beat a great Washington team,” Rodriguez commented. “And I do know them a little bit from my Pac-12 days. They’ve been really good defensively the last couple of years and have done a tremendous job, so it’s going to be a huge challenge. Our guys will see that on film.”
Coach Luke knows Cal has a good scheme with solid players who play hard. “We’ve got to go in and protect the football and have to find a way to move the ball and stay on schedule and stay out negative plays. They thrive off turnovers. They had a pick-six against Washington. That was a big play. We’ve got to protect the football and stay on schedule.”
The Rebels offense knows what it needs to do. If the unit can stay ahead of the chains, limit turnovers and finish most of its possessions in the red-zone with touchdowns, there’s a good chance this team will emerge victorious.