OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss defeated Arkansas, 31-17, in the Rebels’ SEC opener at Vaught-Hemingway Saturday. Here’s a look at who we think are the Offensive and Defensive MVPs as well as the Breakout Player of the Game.
Offensive MVP – Slot Receiver Elijah Moore
Sophomore Elijah Moore had a huge game against Arkansas, notching seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. When he got the ball in open space, the 5-foot-9, 184-pound slot receiver absolutely dominated the Razorbacks’ secondary.
His touchdowns gave Ole Miss its first score of the game as well as points on a crucial touchdown drive following a mishap on offense that led to a Razorback defensive touchdown on the previous series. Moore’s second score came on a 46-yard completion where the shifty receiver operated in open field, weaving in and out of defenders to score the touchdown.
Matt Luke spoke about his star receiver after the game. “He made some big plays with two touchdowns,” Luke began. “Then, the big play of the game, he beat his man on cover one and took it to the end zone. He’s just a sophomore, but he’s one of our leaders. We’re so young on offense but he’ll continue to get even better,” Luke added.
Defensive MVP – Linebacker Jacquez Jones
Jacquez Jones stepped up at linebacker last night — and the Rebels were fortunate he did. Starting inside linebacker MoMo Sanogo went down on special teams on the first punt for Ole Miss and was lost for the game and the season.
Jones and Donta Evans would help fill the void from the loss of Sanogo in this important SEC contest. Jones, a 6-foot-0, 232-pound sophomore out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, not only responded to his team’s need—he did so in a big way, leading the team with 9 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a half sack on the night.
Last season, Jones was named to the Freshman All-SEC team after finishing with 36 tackles on the season. How did that experience help him tonight against the Razorbacks? “Really, last year was just like a stepping stone,” Jones explained.
“I just want to go out there and play the role that I need to play for this defense and do my job.”
Ole Miss LB Jacquez Jones
Jones certainly did that last night as he filled in for some pretty big shoes at inside linebacker. The moment was not too big for the rising sophomore talent. I would be shocked if he wasn’t list as the co-starter with Donta Evans next week against Southeastern Louisiana.
Breakout Player – Tight End Octavious Cooley
Octavious Cooley really wowed a lot of people last night with his ability to make defenders miss him in open space. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound tight end looked as if everyone else was on ice skates sliding around him as he picked up several big first downs.
Has offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez ever coached a player that big who can make players miss in the open field like Cooley did last night? “He’s got a very unique talent. He’s a very good athlete. He loves the game,” Rodriguez said, when asked.
“I’m biased, I think Coach Magee is the best tight ends coach in the country,” Coach Rod continued. “And Cooley made some really big plays for us.”
The senior tight end notched two catches for 28 yards, but perhaps the biggest impact Cooley makes on the field—blocking—may go unnoticed, at times, to the casual observer. Rich Rod praised Cooley’s blocking ability after the game.
“He blocked really well for us. Cooley may be the best blocking tight end in our league.”
Coach Rich Rod on Octavious Cooley
If the senior tight end out of Laurel, Mississippi continues to block as well as he has thus far and makes the most of his opportunities when the ball is thrown his way, look for Cooley’s name to be called in the 2020 NFL Draft.