There was a point in this game where it looked very much like Ole Miss was teetering on the verge of yet another second-half collapse. The Rebels, who came out of the locker room at halftime with a 24-7 lead, gave up a 13-play, 99-yard drive midway through the third quarter that cut their lead to just six points. With the offense sputtering and the defense winded, things were sketchy.
But unlike the losses to Florida State and Alabama, the Ole Miss offense responded when it needed to. Chad Kelly led a sub-two-minute blitzkrieg that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram and the game was never again in doubt. Final score: 48-28.
There are certainly reasons to be concerned about the Rebels’ showing against Memphis on Saturday night. The offensive line was hit or miss, the defense struggled to maintain containment on third downs and there was yet another botched goal line opportunity. By and large though, Ole Miss should walk away feeling pretty good about its performance, which pushed them above .500 for the first time this season.
Eugene Brazley was easily the MVP. Yes, you read that right.
Brazley was an afterthought coming into the season, but the losses of Jordan Wilkins and Eric Swinney have pushed him up to the No. 2 spot on the running back depth chart. Still, his contributions had been minimal coming into Saturday night: 12 carries for 57 yards through four games.
He absolutely exploded against Memphis, burning the Tigers for 124 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. I’ll do the math for you—that’s 9.5 yards per attempt. He also served as a key outlet receiver for Kelly, grabbing three passes for 25 yards.
Akeem Judd had a nice night himself, going for 108 yards on 15 carries. Two 100-yard rushers in the same game? Yep.
Ole Miss won the turnover battle, which was key.
Kelly reverted to some bad decision making, the most glaring mistake coming on a back-foot heave into the end zone that ended a promising fourth-quarter drive with an interception. That, however, was the only Ole Miss turnover of the night.
Memphis, on the other hand, coughed it up three times. The first was a terribly under-thrown ball by Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson that was housed for a pick-six by Zedrick Woods. The second was a second-quarter sack-fumble that was scooped up by D.J. Jones and converted into a touchdown. Jones came up big again in the fourth quarter when the big fella laid out for an interception forced by pressure from Marquis Haynes.
The Rebels scored 14 points off turnovers, which helped keep this thing from getting too tight at the end.
Damore’ea Stringfellow beasted.
The Ole Miss receiver vs. the Memphis DBs was the biggest mismatch of the game, and it was most apparent with Stringfellow. On a night in which Kelly wasn’t his sharpest, String was a key outlet, high-pointing a couple of clutch toss-up throws en route to 94 yards on six grabs.
He also absolutely flattened a Memphis DB on the sideline in the first quarter, but for the sake of children everywhere, it hasn’t surfaced on the internet yet.