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Physical, aggressive Ole Miss defense shines through first three games of season

Physical, aggressive Ole Miss defense shines through first three games of season

ATLANTA – Ole Miss scored 42 points Saturday at Georgia Tech, and not too many people are shocked about that fact around the country.

Ole Miss also pitched a shutout against the Yellow Jackets and that raised a few eyebrows around the nation.

Yet, no one on the defensive side of the ball expected anything less last week. Of course, it helps when Georgia Tech could only muster 53 yards rushing and surrendered seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss

I think the two starting ends are playing like really elite rushers. And then Ivey plays a lot so that’s a lot to deal with. So, we moved (Cedric Johnson) around today and ran some plays that give our offense problems all the time. So, we’d really saved some things through two weeks offensively and defensively. We used some of those today. Some were the engineered run game with the quarterback involved in it. Then on defense moving around a lot with Ced.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin

Johnson finished with seven tackles and a sack.

But it was the number of sacks that got the defense excited. Each time the quarterback was dropped, other Rebels’ defenders wanted to get in on the act.

Sack Party
Ole Miss’ 7.0 sacks against Georgia Tech are the most since tallying 9.0 against Liberty in 2021. This marked the 17th game in Kiffin era with multiple sacks and the fifth time in that span with 5.0 or more after notching four such games in 2021.

“I think we just we’re just all feeding off of each other like I got one, now Tavius (Robinson) gets one and I’m ‘Okay, I’m going to go get one,’ the next guy’s going to go get one,” Johnson said. 

It’s just a good energy (when) we’re feeding off each other.

Ole Miss DL Cedric Johnson

Johnson, Robinson, Otis Reese, Austin Keys, Isaiah Iton, Demon Clowney, M.J. Daniels, and J.J. Hawkins all got on the stat sheet in the sacks column.

On the season, Ole Miss has sacked the quarterback 13 times and recorded 26 tackles for loss. On the ground, the Rebels have given up 350 yards, but if you subtract the 135 yards in losses, the net is only 215. That is only 71.4 yards per game.

Troy Brown and Tysheem Johnson lead the team with 19 tackles. Khari Coleman paces the Rebs with 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Johnson also made a significant special team’s play against Tech with a blocked punt.

“We were actually in punt safe when Ced just made a great play,” Kiffin said. “I could be like every other coach and be like ‘Yeah, we worked on that all week. It was all us.’ That was just a really good player making a really good play.”

Johnson was surprised about how the play developed.

“We were going safe, so I’m like okay, I’m just going to run off the ball like I always do,” Johnson said. 

So, I’m running off the ball and I didn’t think I was running as fast as I was (and) they slid away from me and I’m like ‘the punter’s coming my way,’ so I’m saying, ‘I might be able to block this,’ and then I actually blocked it, so it’s crazy.

Cedric Johnson on his punt block

Crazy is how the defense has been playing this season. Ole Miss has given up just one touchdown – and that was late in the season opener against Troy – and in the last two games the Rebels have outscored Tech and Central Arkansas 101-3.

Ole Miss has held eight straight opponents to 21 or fewer points, the longest active streak among Power-5 teams and the longest by any Ole Miss team since a streak of 10 in a row across the end of the 2013 season (two games) and into the 2014 season (eight games).

Up Next

This Saturday, Ole Miss hopes to keep the train on the tracks when it hosts Tulsa at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game is set for 3 p.m.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

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.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

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.

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