Jake’s Takes: Keys to an Ole Miss Win over Arkansas
Following a loss at Memphis in Week One, Ole Miss hosts Arkansas under the lights Saturday in The Vaught. Here are my three keys to the Rebs getting their first win of the year.
OXFORD, Miss. — It’s only Week 2, but after a gut-wrenching loss to Memphis last week on the road, head coach Matt Luke and his team have a must-win game ahead of them on Saturday night. At 6:30 p.m., Chad Morris and his Razorbacks will march into Vaught-Hemingway, looking to steal an SEC win from Ole Miss.
Following an ugly 20-13 win over Portland State (FCS team), Arkansas is in no better shape than the Rebels. I call this game a must-win for the Rebels, because if they lose, they’ll likely sit at the bottom of the SEC West for the remainder of the year.
That being said, this is a very winnable game for the Rebels, as most oddsmakers have Ole Miss as a 6.5 point favorite at the moment. It’s going to be all hands on deck, though, as Arkansas and Ole Miss always play each other close. Without further adieu, here are my three keys to a Rebel victory this Saturday.
1. Offensive Line
If you watched even one play of the Ole Miss vs. Memphis game, you likely know that the success of the offensive line is paramount. It was subpar last week, and because of that, no other part of the offense had much of a chance. Sure, quarterback Matt Corral struggled at times, but he almost always had a slew of defenders in his face when he was throwing.The inconsistency on the line also made it difficult for running backs Scottie Phillips and Jerrion Ealy to get the ground game going.
But, Coach Luke and offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. have indicated true freshman offensive lineman Nick Broeker will see significant time this week at tackle in order to help the Rebels up front. The O-line needs to figure out how to block the Razorbacks, or this Saturday will be just as long as it was in Memphis.
The Rebels’ o-line needs to figure out how to block the Razorbacks, or this Saturday will be just as long a day as it was last week.
2. Matt Corral Must Step Up
As I said above, Corral struggled somewhat last week. He missed a few open guys and was clearly not on the same page as his receivers at times. It was his very first collegiate start, so that’s understandable–especially given that he was on the run for most of the game.
But the Arkansas defense is very average…very. Corral needs to settle into HIS offense, make the throws we know he can make, and let the rest of the game take care of itself.
If Corral settles in, trusts the scheme, and uses the weapons around him, there’s no reason he can’t throw for 300+ yards this Saturday.
3. Defense Must Repeat Itself
Last week, defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre called a great game and his players executed well. That was the fewest points allowed by an Ole Miss defense since the 38-13 win over Wofford in 2016. In fact, if Ole Miss linebacker Sam Williams doesn’t get hosed on a mystery face mask call, Memphis only scores eight points.
This week, the defense needs to do its best to repeat the performance at the Liberty Bowl last weekend. Despite allowing 192 yards on the ground, the Rebel defense was stingy with big plays. They made Memphis work on every drive, and they gave Ole Miss more than enough chances to win. This week, that’s all they need to do to beat a very average Arkansas team in front of the hometown fans.
To me, the above three keys are all quite realistic. No, the offensive line won’t be perfect; the unit is very inexperienced, but that will slowly improve every week. After seeing the Memphis game on tape, I’m confident the staff can figure out a way to work around those troubles as.
Last week, Corral was 9-for-19 passing for 92 yards and one interception. I’d imagine that this week was much different for him than camp was, and because of that, I expect him to be much more ready this week. After seeing his first real college action last week, everything should slow down for him which will give him a greater opportunity to use his natural talent.
The defense was outstanding last week. Linebackers Lakia Henry and Sam Williams need to be factors again, and guys like Jaylon Jones and Keidron Smith need to continue to limit big plays as much as they can on their end. If the Landsharks play the way they did against Memphis, there is no reason Ole Miss won’t win this game.
I look for the Rebels to emerge victorious from their first SEC game of 2019.
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.