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After win over Georgia, Evan Engram and teammates quickly turned focus to Memphis

After win over Georgia, Evan Engram and teammates quickly turned focus to Memphis

OXFORD, Miss. – As the final seconds ticked down on Ole Miss’ 45-14 win over Georgia Saturday, Evan Engram and some of his teammates were already starting to turn their focus to the Rebels’ next opponent, a familiar one that got the best of Ole Miss last season.

Though the players celebrated the win over Georgia, they soon put aside the smiles and hugs, knowing there is yet another talented team for which to prepare. And as soon as Sunday morning arrived, the Rebels started looking at film on the Memphis Tigers.

Engram remembers last season’s meltdown inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, where the Rebels lost a 14-0 first-quarter lead before ultimately falling, 37-24, to Memphis. The Powder Springs, Georgia native can’t remember the specific details about how the momentum shifted in the first half—and was not interested in spending much time reliving the loss.

We went up 14-0 really fast, really easy. There was a lot of hype going into the week and I was like, this might get ugly quick. But they definitely turned the tables really fast. We had our heads spinning a little but that’s in the past, and we’re ready to fix that this weekend.

Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram

Evan Engram scores a touchdown in the win over Georgia. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Evan Engram scores a touchdown in the win over Georgia. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

What exactly does No. 16 Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) need to do in order to win the game?

First, the Rebels’ offense can’t turn the football over to a Memphis team that is averaging 51.67 points per game. Against the Tigers last season, Chad Kelly threw two interceptions—one of which was to Dion Witty that led to a Sam Craft four-yard rushing TD and a 17-14 lead for Memphis.

Secondly, the offensive line will have to make sure it protects Kelly, like it did against Georgia, so he will have enough time to go through his progressions and make the right throw. Last season against the Tigers, Kelly was sacked three times for a total loss of 25 yards.

Lastly, the Rebels’ defense needs to do a better job of limiting explosive plays. Memphis’ quarterback last season, Paxton Lynch, was able to find his receivers with ease. Anthony Miller led the Tigers with 132 receiving yards and a TD on 10 receptions. Mose Frazier and Alan Cross caught Lynch’s other two touchdown passes.

In last year’s game, Lynch was able to hit 10 different receivers.

A turning point

Engram believes last year’s loss to the Tigers was a catalyst that led to better team play the remainder of the season.

Anytime you lose a game, there’s a lot of self-reflection and looking back at what we could have done differently or better. But it was kind of reality hitting and we had to start from scratch, look ourselves in the mirror and address the things we had to address.

Evan Engram

After losing to Memphis last season, the Rebels won five of their next six games–losing only to Arkansas by one point in overtime.

That was a turning point for us honestly. Nobody has stopped our offense since that game. We’ve been a great team all-around since that game. So that was definitely kind of a kick in the butt as far as getting us on the right track.

Evan Engram on 2015 Memphis game as a turning point

Familiar faces on Tigers’ defense

This year’s Memphis team brings back some familiar faces on defense. The Tigers’ defensive backfield is loaded with experience, featuring seniors Deondre Jordan, Chauncey Lanier, Arthur Maulet, Chris Mosley, Dontrell Nelson, and B.J. Ross. Maulet intercepted a pass in his team’s season-opening 35-17 win over Southeast Missouri State, and his teammates Mosley, Nelson and Jahmahl Pardner all had picks against Bowling Green last Saturday.

Memphis’ experience on defense shows in its high national rankings. The Tigers (3-0) rank fourth in the NCAA in passing efficiency defense (84.21) and sixth nationally in total interceptions (7).

At Monday’s weekly Ole Miss press conference, Engram explained what he has already noticed about the Tigers on film.

Their defense has great athletes and they move around really well. They move a lot pre-snap and throw a whole bunch of different types of looks. I was watching some film and I honestly couldn’t really get a bead on some of the stuff and the things they feel comfortable with. So they do a lot of moving around and they’re a really explosive team.

Engram on Memphis’ defense

(Feature image: John Bowen, 247Sports)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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