Dr. Bo Wallace is now halfway through the Southeastern Conference slate without turning the ball over once. Tennessee is easily the best pass defense that Ole Miss has played up to this point, and it showed as Wallace completed fewer than 50% of his passes for the first time all season. But what's important is that the "Bad Bo" that put Ole Miss in really tricky situations against a lot of SEC teams last year simply has yet to show up this year. A healthy shoulder, another year of experience, an elite left tackle, and a handful of pretty skilled receivers will do that for a quarterback, but ultimately he's the guy through which the offense runs, so he's the one we're bound to heap our praise (and blame) on. He's led this team by playing confident, smart football, and his team has largely followed.
Now folks, this is football, and turnovers aren't a particularly uncommon facet of the game; he's bound to throw a pick or fumble someday, and I'd wager that he does so this Saturday night in Baton Rouge. But I think Bo Wallace has really played some excellent ball this year and has limited his mistakes enough to keep his team out of hot water. Because of that, if I'm picking a halfway-through-SEC-play MVP, it's got to go to Dr. Bo.
"That Didn't Sit Well"
We knew coming into this game that Tennessee had a good enough defense to keep this one competitive, but I didn't at all expect them to control the line of scrimmage as well as they did, particularly in the first half. Their defensive front was very disruptive to the Ole Miss offensive line, Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson was all over the damn place and making Bo Wallace's night a living hell for a while, and their secondary did a good job of getting to the football. They were just all around solid, and it made watching the game that much more frustrating.
Considering how well the Vols D played, it does make one wonder how the Rebs will handle the next few weeks of the schedule. LSU and Auburn have pretty stingy defenses of their own, and if the Rebel offense can't get things moving more quickly than they did yesterday, then there's definitely a cause for concern in those contests.
"Going Back for Seconds"
This Rebel defense is tremendous at causing opposing offenses to make mistakes. The Rebels picked off Vols quarterback Justin Worley thrice last night, with all three coming him either being forced out of the pocket or under pressure from a rushing end in the pocket. Robert Nkemdiche and Issac Gross were exceptional at getting a push up the middle and forcing Tennessee to stretch their plays to the far sides of the field. It's truly remarkable how big of a difference a disruptive defensive tackle can make in the college game, and Ole Miss has more than one of them.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Landshark secondary is pretty badass in its own right.
Evan Engram's Touchdown Catch
There aren't many tight ends in college football who can make the type of play that Evan Engram did on his touchdown catch. He was running a fade route out of a typical tight end formation (i.e., not out of the slot), beat the outside linebacker and had no safety covering the far side. He was open, but Bo put a little too much under it to make it as easy a grab as it should have been. Engram turned his hips, jumped, extended both of his arms, caught the pass and tumbled, almost cartwheeling, right into the endzone. It was exactly what you hope to see out of long, quick tight ends.
Marquis Haynes could be an All-American one day
So rarely do lightly recruited yet highly remarked upon Ole Miss football recruits pan out like we're led to believe they will. Evan Engram certainly has, just as has Marquis Haynes, who showed last night exactly what Dave Wommack has praised him for. He's quick off of the edge and plays smart, aggressive football from his defensive end spot. Granted, Tennessee's offensive line isn't good, but the athleticism and skill Haynes possesses made an incredible impact.
This guy is still making me laugh:
"I see you lookin' at me, camera. I ain't too pleased by that."