Postgame Points: Cal 28, Ole Miss 20
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 California game.
1. Turnover Battle
The Ole Miss Rebels lost a 28-20 heartbreaker against #23 Cal on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The young Rebels played very well against a ranked opponent and had a chance to get the game to overtime in the final seconds. In the end, Ole Miss came agonizingly close but ultimately short of a victory. The Rebels sit at 2-2 on the season, while the Golden Bears move to 4-0.
The turnover battle is always a key stat in college football games. More often than not, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. Ole Miss created the only takeaway of the game courtesy of an interception by freshman Deantre Prince. While the Rebels lost the game, it stands to reason that winning the turnover battle allowed Ole Miss to hang with Cal and have a chance to knock off a ranked opponent.
The other impressive piece of the turnover battle is that the Rebels did not commit a single turnover against an outstanding California defense. The Golden Bears have a veteran and very talented defense that was second in the nation a year ago with 21 interceptions. Ole Miss threw 48 passes against that secondary without turning the ball over once. Both young quarterbacks made wise decisions with the ball and gave the Rebels a chance to win the game. It bodes well for the future, as Ole Miss will face more top-notch defenses in SEC play.
2. Stout Run Defense
Ole Miss played stout run defense against a Cal team that prefers to run the ball. Coming into the game, the Golden Bears had run the ball 137 times while attempting just 68 passes through 3 games. Cal was averaging 45 carries and 191 yards per game on the ground prior to Saturday’s meeting with the Rebels.
Ole Miss limited the Golden Bears to a mere 60 rushing yards on 33 attempts. The Rebels allowed no rushing touchdowns, and Cal averaged only 1.8 yards per run.
In essence, Ole Miss took the Golden Bears out of their comfort zone and forced them to throw the ball. Unfortunately, Cal found much success in the passing game. The Golden Bears had lost 6 straight games when throwing 30 or more passes over the past 2 seasons. The Rebels found a recipe for success, but Cal was able to overcome it.
In holding Cal to 60 rushing yards on the day, it marks the third consecutive game where Ole Miss has held an opponent under 100 rushing yards in a game. The last time Ole Miss accomplished that feat was back in 2008 when the Rebels did so during 4 straight contests against Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU, and Mississippi State.
Wide receiver Elijah Moore had a big day against Cal, hauling in a season-high 11 receptions for 102 yards. It is the second time this year that Moore has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game. He has caught at least 4 passes and recorded 60 or more yards in all 4 contests this fall.
Coming into the season, fans wondered who would replace the production of receivers like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, DaMarkus Lodge, and Dawson Knox. Moore has caught 29 passes for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns this season to emerge as the go-to-guy on the perimeter. He is averaging 7 catches and 95 yards per game so far in his sophomore campaign. Moore caught 36 passes for 398 yards and 2 scores in 2018, so he has nearly matched last year’s numbers in the month of September.
4. Stepping Up
While sophomore Elijah Moore has put up some big numbers as a playmaker on the outside, Ole Miss has been looking for more guys to step up to diversify the passing attack. While 13 different receivers have caught a pass this season, no one outside of Moore has more than seven receptions or 91 yards through four games. The Rebels need more weapons to emerge heading into SEC play.
Braylon Sanders returned from injury and made his presence known against Cal. The junior from Georgia grabbed 5 passes for 73 yards on the day. An injury in the Memphis game kept Sanders out of the previous two contests. He looked really good in his return against the Golden Bears and has the talent to make big plays down the field.
Redshirt freshman Demarcus Gregory stepped up against Cal with 2 catches that went for 63 yards. The South Carolina native caught his first pass as a Rebel last week against Southeastern Louisiana. It is worth noting that Gregory’s three receptions in these two games have gone for 20, 41, and 22 yards, respectively. He is a young guy seeing his first action as a collegian, but the small sample size says this is a fellow who produces big plays with the ball in his hands.
Freshman Deantre Prince registered his first-career interception for the Rebels. Ole Miss sacked Cal quarterback Chase Garbers four times on Saturday.
Four different players were a part of the sack party, as Austrian Robinson, Sam Williams, Myles Hartsfield, and Tariqious Tisdale each took down Garbers.
Williams and Jalen Julius were busy against the Golden Bears, as each registered 7 tackles in the game. The 7 stops are a career-high mark for both players.
Linebacker Lakia Henry paced the Rebel defense with a career-best 11 tackles. Through four games, Henry and Julius top all Rebel defenders with 23 tackles apiece.
Ole Miss hits the road this weekend for a showdown with No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide have won 3 straight meetings against the Rebels. Prior to that, Ole Miss beat Alabama in back-to-back seasons. The No. 15 Rebels defeated No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa 43-37 in 2015. Just a year earlier, No. 11 Ole Miss stunned the No. 3 Crimson Tide 23-17 in Oxford. Hotty Toddy!