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Ole Miss' run game was much better against Georgia. Here’s why.

An improved offensive line paved the way for a much more balanced attack, and it may be sustainable.

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Saturday’s 45-14 beatdown of No. 12 Georgia was a showcase of the Rebels' offensive ceiling, and while most of the damage manifested itself in the passing game, a balanced attack was vital to their success. The offensive line made major strides, demonstrating stability and breathing life into what had been an inconsistent running game before this week. Contrary to what many had feared (including myself), Hugh Freeze didn’t have to revert to a one-dimensional air raid after all.

While Ole Miss certainly benefited from facing a less formidable opponent up front, it’s not crazy to believe that their success running the ball can be sustained throughout the season. A line that is beginning to find its long-term rotation should continue to build cohesion and provide even more opportunities for a capable backfield.

Let's take a look at what led to the improvement on the ground. But first, a few metric definitions:

Opportunity rate is the percentage of carries that gain at least five yards (i.e., the percentage of carries in which the line does its job).

Line yards is a way of giving proper credit to the offensive line for a run (click here for a more detailed explanation).

Stuff rate is the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Passing downs are defined as second down with at least 8 yards to go or third/fourth down with at least 5 yards to go. Standard downs cover all other situations on offense.

*I’m using stats from just the first three quarters of the game, since that’s when Chad Kelly was still in, and Georgia was only mostly dead at that point.

The offensive line improved dramatically in a week.

It was a known fact that the line would experience a drop in quality in the opposing defensive front going from Bama to Georgia, but it’s still encouraging to see them fully take advantage of it. Pretty much every offensive line metric that exists shows them finding some stability, but here are the most relevant numbers.



Opportunity rate

Line yards/carry

Stuff rate











If the raw yards per carry numbers weren’t enough evidence, the other metrics show that the offensive line gave the running backs plenty more chances against Georgia to get to the second level. Even when considering only 25 runs through three quarters, the offensive line did its job fully 11 times, compared to just seven against Alabama in 32 tries. While the opportunity rate lines up exactly with Ole Miss’s 2015 average, the stuff rate in this game was a major improvement, as 22 percent of runs were stopped at or before the line of scrimmage last year. Judging by the snap distribution between Greg Little and Rod Taylor, it looks like Matt Luke is still easing Little into the starting left tackle position, which is perfectly understandable when considering his youth.

The pass effectively set up the run.

Play type

Success rate (# of plays)

Runs to start the drive

33% (6)

Runs preceded by a run

43% (7)

Runs preceded by a pass

58% (12)

Rather than force the offense into a balanced attack simply through even distribution of runs and passes, Freeze and friends™ were a little more selective in deciding when to run the ball. Although 60 percent of their run plays occurred on first down, the play selection wasn’t as vanilla as that figure may suggest. The coaching staff did a nice job of taking advantage of a defense struggling to get set, as eight out of 12 of these runs after passes also occurred after a first down. While the main criticism of running the ball against Alabama was that it got predictable in a hurry, that certainly can’t be said here.

Rushing success rate

Opportunity rate

Standard downs LY/carry

Passing downs LY/carry






Week 4, 2016





At this point, especially given how thin the Rebels currently are at running back, most fans would be fine with the running game resembling last year’s production, which improved from miserably inefficient at the start to pleasantly competent by the end. Without at least a functional rushing threat, the creativity behind Hugh Freeze’s spread offense is all for naught, and defenses will catch on by not even bothering to load the box. While the loss to Alabama likely won’t be the last time we talk about Ole Miss’ troubles running the ball, it’s encouraging to see a multifaceted attack similar to what we saw in 2015.