QB1 Film Room: A look at what happened in the Rebels’ loss to LSU
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the QB1 Film Room where David Walker, former four-year starting NCAA quarterback and two-year captain, takes a look at the Rebels’ most recent offensive performance. David still holds the record for the NCAA’s youngest starting quarterback — as he played his entire freshman year as a 17-year-old — and was the first quarterback awarded Freshman of the Year in college football.
OXFORD, Miss. — What started out like a house a’fire turned into nothing more than a smokescreen as the Ole Miss game at LSU wore on this past Saturday. By the fourth quarter, the Rebels’ running threat, hampered due to Zach Evan’s injury absence, was extinguished and the pocket-passing game reduced to rubble.
The Rebels notched back-to-back 75-yard touchdown drives in the first quarter with their sleek offense humming as though it was going against air. The offense amassed 200 total yards and the Rebs held a 14-3 first-quarter lead in a sold-out Tiger Stadium on CBS-TV.
When Jonathan Cruz nailed a 48-yard field goal early in the second quarter, the Rebels had extended their lead to 17-3. Ole Miss had won 21 of the previous 22 games in which they’d held any kind of lead.
And then the most important lesson of the 2022 season came storming in on them: trusting a scoreboard in the heat of battle is no different than ingesting other forms of “rat poison” that present themselves beforehand or afterward.
A seemingly-adoring scoreboard and an undefeated record can be the most lethal rat poison of all. It should’ve served as a cautionary tale that LSU was the last team to overcome a deficit against Ole Miss and win.
In 2020, Ole Miss fought back from 17 down to take a 48-40 lead with 8 minutes to play, but the Tigers rallied to win, 53-48. No lead is safe, especially in Tiger Stadium.
As mentioned above, the Rebels were down to one ball carrier with the unavailability of Evans and the coaching decision to exclude quarterback Jaxson Dart from running duties. The quarterback draws and read options that have been so instrumental in this offense were scratched. And as great as Quinshon Judkins is at his RB position, he was tasked with the full load against the Tigers and was the only back that LSU had to key on in the Rebs’ running game.
In the second quarter, Ole Miss produced 87 yards, 61 yards in the third, and in the crucial final quarter, only 56.
LSU was the team finishing the game with 500 yards, evenly split with 252 passing and 248 rushing. Three unanswered touchdowns, including two 80-yard drives in the fourth quarter, gave the Tigers a 45-20 victory.
An eighth-straight win would’ve been an ecstatic moment in history, but the odds are still very much in the Rebels’ favor to win the West. But it will take four full-60-minute efforts.
With that said, let’s look at the good, some bad, and a little bit of ugly from Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.
This is the play that looked like a tone-setter for the offense. Jaxson Dart came out slinging, obviously a bit of a shock to the LSU Tiger defense. The Rebs line up in a double-wide and layer the left side with a go route, a deep out route, and the back on the flare. Here’s an excellent throw and great footwork after the catch by Watkins.
Here’s the play that puts the Rebels at point-blank range for their first score. Once again, the Rebels are double-wide with Mingo at the bottom. He and the slot receiver cross paths as they come off the ball, and Mingo takes it deep down the hash mark.
With LSU in Man coverage, the linebacker comes late but gets picked up by Judkins. Dart implements his fall-away-jumper passing technique that’s probably good for a touchdown if the LSU defender wasn’t draped all over Mingo. As is, it’s an excellent reception.
Here we are beginning the second possession at the 25. The Rebels motion to double-wide and hit 2nd-receiver Malik Heath on a seam pattern with an excellent inside-shoulder throw between three defenders.
Here on their third possession of the game, the Rebels once again line up in their double-wide set. LSU is in a 3-man-front but will rush a nickel back from their right side.
You’ll see some confusion by the left tackle as he disengages with the right defensive end to pick up the nickel. Judkins, however, is already in place to handle him, and the defender who’s set free indeed rushes the throw.
Fortunately, the Rebs have a wide-open receiver on the curl route and Dart stands in there and delivers a strike. The play gains 27 and sets Ole Miss up once again in the Red Zone, ahead 14-3.
Now, the game is midway through the third quarter with the Rebels down 24-20 in their own territory. The three LSU D-linemen are stonewalled efficiently, but the right defensive end out-maneuvers the left tackle for a “hurry” on Dart.
Yet once again, the QB stands in there and makes an excellent throw on the crossing route to Heath.
This is the pivotal play of the game. After an excellent drive, the Rebels appear set to retake the lead. Let’s look at what happened.
What occurs is up to conjecture; is it a schematic breakdown, a breakdown in execution, or a play-call too risky for the situation?
The LSU linebacker is shooting the A-gap behind the left guard who’s blocking down to his right. Whether this is a called blitz or an old-school reaction to the guard blocking down is undetermined.
Because the left tackle stays with his block on the DE and doesn’t step inside to protect the gap, the linebacker has a clean shot at first, the running back in the event he gets the handoff, and secondly at the quarterback who has kept the ball.
The linebacker sees the football’s disconnection on the handoff read and bee-lines it for the QB. Like any handoff read, if the QB gets juked by an unblocked handoff key, it’s over. In most instances, the handoff key and the back collide when the back doesn’t receive the ball, creating a natural block of the linebacker. This doesn’t happen.
If there was no RPO involved, then the Rebs unwittingly opened a huge hole for the would-be attacker simply by not gap protecting. H-Backs aligned outside the tackle aren’t instructed to protect the A-gap — it’d be the tackle’s job. The H-back would then be assigned the defensive end.
The linebacker comes through untouched and causes an off-balanced, off-target throw that would turn into a dagger 80-yard touchdown drive by the Tigers.
If the play was designed as an RPO-read of the linebacker, a read and throw, well, there are much better plays available in the Ole Miss playbook, particularly when driving for a second-half go-ahead score.
If it was simply a whiff by the tackle or a missed assignment by the guard, then it’s just unfortunate.
As for the quarterback, when he misreads this handoff key (if such is the case), he can’t just whirl and throw. Eat the ball.
Whichever the breakdown, Lane ain’t saying.
Ole Miss and A&M kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Kyle Field. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
David is the consummate true-freshman quarterback, first pioneering the position only a year after college freshmen were given varsity eligibility by the NCAA in 1972. In 1973, the left-handed all-state gunslinger from Sulphur, Louisiana started for the Texas A&M Aggies and earned the All-Southwest Conference Freshman of the Year award as selected by the league’s coaches. David is the first college quarterback ever awarded Freshman of the Year in the NCAA. He was only 17, and still holds the NCAA record as the youngest starting quarterback in college football history. He wore No. 8 at A&M in honor of one of his football heroes, Archie Manning.
In becoming the winningest quarterback ever at A&M, David was converted from a dual-threat QB to a triple option trailblazer. The two-time team captain led three record-breaking offenses that changed the direction of football at A&M forever, establishing once and for all the winning tradition that the Aggies had so-long desired.
As a high school head coach in Houston in the late ‘80s, David stationed his quarterback in the shotgun formation, having him reading defenses and throwing hot routes at a time when such offensive schemes were frowned upon by traditional fans and coaches. One of his quarterbacks tossed 57 passes in a single game, which stood as the all-time Greater Houston Area record for many years.
As you can tell from his bona fides, David is extremely qualified as our expert on all things Quarterback at Ole Miss. Enjoy his exclusive analysis only here at The Rebel Walk!