Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining five takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are his Postgame Points from the victory over Southeastern Louisiana.
1. A Big Day
The Ole Miss Rebels defeated Southeastern Louisiana 40-29 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The win moves the Rebels to 2-1 on the year and one victory closer to bowl eligibility.
Ole Miss used a balanced offensive attack to take down the Lions. The Rebels racked up 239 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. Ole Miss produced 220 yards and 2 scores on the ground and featured 3 running backs that finished the game with 50 or more yards.
Scottie Phillips rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown to pace the Rebels. Freshman Jerrion Ealy added 95 yards and a score, while fellow freshman Snoop Conner contributed 51 rushing yards on 9 carries.
Ealy had a big day for Ole Miss with a breakout performance against the Lions. Ealy returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the opening quarter to score his first collegiate touchdown. He added a 30-yard run for his second touchdown in the second quarter.
Ealy finished the day with 6 receiving yards, 95 rushing yards, and 172 yards in kickoff returns. In addition to the 94-yard kickoff return, he showed off his big-play capability with a couple of long runs that went for 30 and 52 yards, respectively.
Ealy’s 273 all-purpose yards are the most for a freshman in the Ole Miss record books and the fourth-most by any Rebel in history. Ealy is the first Rebel to score a touchdown on the ground and with a kickoff return since the great Deuce McAllister did it during a 38-16 route of Arkansas back in 1999.
2. Active Defense
For the second consecutive week, the Ole Miss defense was up to the challenge of stopping the run. The Rebels limited Southeastern Louisiana to 66 yards on the ground a week after holding SEC rival Arkansas to 61 rushing yards. The Lions averaged just 2.8 yards per run on Saturday. The last time that Ole Miss held opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in back to back games was against Florida (84) and New Mexico State (98) in 2015.
Ole Miss was good at getting off the field on third-down plays. The Rebels limited the Lions to just 5 of 13 on third-down conversion attempts in the game. Ole Miss has been consistent this season with its third-down defense. Through 3 contests, the Rebels have allowed opponents to convert on just 16 of 45 third-down opportunities (35.5%).
As well, the active defense recorded 9 tackles for loss in the Southeastern Louisiana game. Ole Miss has recorded at least 8 tackles for loss in each of its 3 games this year. Ole Miss accomplished that feat in just 4 games in all of 2018. The defense has made a great deal of progress from a year ago and should continue to do so as the season moves forward under Mike MacIntyre.
3. Efficient Quarterback
Quarterback Matt Corral turned in another terrific performance on Saturday afternoon. Corral completed 21 of 30 pass attempts (70%) for 239 yards against the Lions. He tossed touchdown passes to Elijah Moore and Jason Pellerin while throwing zero interceptions.
Corral has looked more comfortable in each of his three starts this season. Any time a team is breaking in a new coordinator, it takes time for the coordinator to adjust to his personnel and for the players to acclimate to the play-caller.
With three games together under their belt, it appears that Corral and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez have gained a level of comfort and trust with each other. This point is especially important considering that the next two opponents are California and Alabama, both of whom have tremendous defensive units.
The Ole Miss defense tallied 4 takeaways against Southeastern Louisiana. Jacquez Jones forced a fumble that was recovered by Isaiah Woullard, and the Rebels got interceptions from Jon Haynes, Donta Evans, and Myles Hartsfield.
The 4 takeaways are the most for the Rebels since registering 5 takeaways in the 31-28 win over rival Mississippi State in Starkville to end the 2017 season. The last time Ole Miss picked off 3 passes in a game was during a 48-28 victory over regional foe Memphis in 2016 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
After creating just 1 takeaway against both Memphis and Arkansas, this is a nice step forward for the defense. If the Rebel defense can be aggressive and attacking and force turnovers, Ole Miss will have a chance to win a lot of games.
5. Red Zone Perfection
Ole Miss continued its season-long red zone perfection by scoring on all four opportunities against Southeastern Louisiana. The Rebels collected two touchdowns and two field goals in the red zone against the Lions.
On the season, Ole Miss has scored on all nine possessions in the red zone. When an offense can combine some big plays with success in the red zone, it is a healthy recipe for winning games!
Ole Miss plays its third straight game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this Saturday when the Rebels host the #23 Cal Golden Bears. Cal is off to a 3-0 start to the season, with home wins over UC Davis and North Texas. The most impressive win for the Golden Bears came in week two when Cal upset #14 Washington 20-19 in Seattle. This will be the second meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Cal. The Golden Bears won the only previous contest 27-16 in 2017 in Berkeley.