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OXFORD, Miss. – Here is the “In a Nutshell” account of Ole Miss’ 27-14 win over Liberty at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, a win that moves Ole Miss to 7-2 on the season.
THE POSITIVE: The first-half pass rush. Ole Miss had trouble chasing Auburn quarterback Bo Nix a week ago. Saturday, the Rebels got after Auburn-transfer Malik Willis. The Liberty quarterback was sacked six times in the first half and that was a big reason Ole Miss was able to race out to a 24-0 halftime lead.
THE NEGATIVE: Too many big runs allowed, especially up the middle. Liberty had double-digit runs of over 10 yards in the game. Many of those were right up the middle. As stout as the pass rush was, the run defense was struggled.
MOST IMPRESSIVE UNIT: The passing defense collectively. The Landsharks notched nine sacks, got three interceptions and made a potent Liberty passing attack look average.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PLAYER: This is not an easy selection. Sam Williams had a record-setting day, Chance Campbell had a pair of sacks and A.J. Finley picked off a pair of passes.
On offense, Jerrion Ealy looked like, well, Jerrion Ealy. And how about the receiving tandem of Dannis Jackson and John Rhys Plumlee. With starting receivers Jonathan Mingo and Dontario Drummond out with injuries, Jackson and Plumlee got their chance to get on the field Saturday, and the duo combined for 13 catches for 236 yards.
THE MOMENTUM SWING: As Liberty looked to get some momentum going into halftime, Finley picked off Willis at the Ole Miss 11. At the time, the Rebels led 17-0. Not only did the interception keep Liberty out of the end zone, the offense then marched down the field to a 40-yard Jackson touchdown catch. Had these plays not happened, Ole Miss would have not had the cushion it would need in the second half.
WHAT THIS MEANS GOING FORWARD: The first half offensive performance, combined with the defense bending-and-not-breaking second half tells Ole Miss if they can put together a complete game, the Rebels can play with anyone. This would be a good week to put it all together as Texas A&M comes to Oxford next Saturday and will be joined by ESPN GameDay who announced they’d be there also.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.