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Keys to Victory: What Ole Miss Needs to do to Beat Memphis

Keys to Victory: What Ole Miss Needs to do to Beat Memphis

In less than a week, Ole Miss will march into the Liberty Bowl to take on Memphis and kick off the 2019 season.

OXFORD, Miss. — The summer is over, and it’s finally time to play football! Head coach Matt Luke will lead the 2019 Rebels into Memphis on Saturday to take on the Tigers–who are a 5.5 point favorite over Ole Miss.

The Rebels are one of only two Power-5 schools who are not favored in their opening game over a non-Power 5 school. That being said, Ole Miss can certainly win this game. The boys in Red and Blue will need to play a very clean and physical game to match the Tigers’ high-powered offense.

Yes, there are tons of questions for the Rebels this year on the offensive side of the ball, as they are replacing the majority of last season’s firepower now that Jordan Ta’amu, A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, DaMarkus Lodge, and Dawson Knox have all departed for the NFL.

But although the offense will look completely different than last season, new coordinator and former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is an expert at directing a scheme that best suits his players’ talents–and make no mistake, he has plenty of talented players.

On the other side of the ball, the Ole Miss defense returns eight starters from last year’s team. They, too, will be running a new scheme as new defensive coordinator and former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has moved to a 3-4 defense from last year’s 4-2-5.

The bottom line is with all the new faces and philosophies for Ole Miss this year, the following will be key to a Week One win at Memphis.

1. Limit missed tackles

MoMo Sanogo

Linebacker MoMo Sanogo notched 112 tackles for the Rebels last season. (Photo: Josh McCoy, OMA)

In recent years, Ole Miss’ defense has struggled–especially stopping the run. For the Rebels to win Saturday, the defensive unit will need to limit missed tackles. With more experience on the defense than in previous years, and the return of players like linebacker MoMo Sanogo, tackling and overall defense should definitely improve.

The addition of two Top-10 JUCO players in 4-star defensive end Sam Williams and 4-star linebacker Lakia Henry should give the Rebels more chances to rush the passer and limit big plays, too.

Ole Miss has had high-powered offenses in recent years and can often outscore teams. However, with a new quarterback, new wide receivers, and new linemen, there is no guarantee all the offensive pieces will click right away, so the defense needs to hit the ground running.

With so many veterans, we have a much better idea of what we’ll get from the defense–which is why their performance is crucial.

2. Matt Corral must step up, despite his youth

Matt Corral

Corral represented Ole Miss at SEC Media Days in July.

This one seems incredibly obvious, but it can’t be overstated. Quarterback Matt Corral will be making his first start when the Rebels take the field against Memphis – and he’ll be doing so with all new wide receivers.

Ole Miss’ offensive success has started with the QB position for years now, and Corral has the talent to keep that tradition rolling.

Coach Rodriguez spoke very highly of his young quarterback Corral at Monday’s press conference.

I like his leadership. You’ve got to be prepared to be the face of the program and he is.

Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez on QB Matt Corral

Running back Scottie Phillips is back after a near-1,000 yard campaign last year; however, he cannot carry all the weight of Rich Rodriguez’s new offense on his own–and he won’t have to with the talent around him. Corral has plenty of weapons at his disposal and it will be up to him to put them all together. If he steps up right off the bat, the Rebels are in for a very good day.

3. Running Game

In order for Coach Rodriguez’s offense to work to its fullest potential, there has to be a good balance. With a freshman quarterback and a slew of new wide receivers, it becomes crucial for the the Rebels to establish the run game early.

Scottie Phillips scores a 65-yard TD against Texas Tech, Saturday, Sept. 1. (Photo: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

The running back position is the deepest on this season’s Ole Miss team. Although Scottie Phillips will take the majority of the snaps, the Rebels have five-star freshman running back Jerrion Ealy, freshman Snoop Conner–who has really performed well in fall camp–and the always-dependable sophomore Isaiah Woullard ready to take snaps.

In the first Game-Week depth chart of 2019, Ealy, Woullard, and Conner are listed as the co-backups to Phillips.

These backs have the ability to become a great one-two (three-four) punch for the Rebels. The better the run game is, the more chances Corral will have to spread the ball out in the open field.

One of the key points of Coach Rodriguez’ new offense centers around a much more established running presence. An air raid is great, but a dangerous ground game makes the passing game all the more effective.

Ole Miss has struggled with time of possession in recent years, putting the Rebel defense on the field way too often. If the run game gets going, the defense is on the field less. Pretty simple…if Memphis doesn’t have the ball, they don’t score.

Hotty Toddy! Beat Memphis!

About The Author

Jake Evans

Jake, a 2021 graduate of Ole Miss with a degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications, is from Nashville, TN. Along with his work at The Rebel Walk, Jake hosts "The Flagship Football Show" podcast. He's also a huge fan of the Rebels, Titans, Predators, and Braves.

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