Monday night's loss to FSU may well be described as a roller-coaster affair, if that roller coaster brought Ole Miss fans elatedly to the top of K2 then brutally cast them into the basement of Hades. Much is to blame for this unhappy about-face, and a lot of it has to do with the Rebs' defense suffering major injuries in the first half.
Much of it also has to do with the Landsharks' interior — which was stellar for long stretches in the opening quarters — becoming totally gassed in the second half.
In the first two quarters against FSU (minus the final three minutes of the second), Ole Miss' defense allowed 146 yards, just 10 of which came in the ground game. The defensive interior was especially impressive, so that the Sharks tallied three tackles for loss and three sacks. Further, the Rebels bent but didn’t break on a number of important occasions, allowing just two field goals before FSU’s late touchdown closed out the second quarter. Chinks were there, but they were seemingly manageable.
With the offense cooking, the defense had ample time to rest, regroup and prepare in the first half. How sweet it was to watch Deondre Francois stutter aimlessly around the backfield with Marquis Haynes, Benito Jones and Breeland Speaks aiming squarely at his jaw, unblocked and hungry.
Then, with 3:04 left in the second quarter, the wheels fell off the bus entirely.
Florida State finished the night with 580 total yards of offense. Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois combined for 150 of the Noles’ 161 rushing yards, virtually all of which were racked up in the final 30 minutes of play. To say nothing of Francois’s 283 yards passing in the second half, which opened up considerably against an inexperienced back five for the Landsharks, who needed to stay honest on any and all play action passes.
What’s more, Chad Kelly and the offense — sputtering, falling, turning the ball over — just couldn’t keep Ole Miss’ defense off the field. 30 and 40 second offensive sets generally don’t afford much time to catch one’s breath. Here’s a rundown of the Rebels’ third quarter “drives” on offense, which were so quickly done — and which put so much junk in the Landsharks’ legs — they never had a hope in the fourth:
- Drive No. 1: two plays, 0 yards, 9 seconds (INT).
- Drive No. 2: two plays, -4 yards, 42 seconds (fumble).
- Drive No. 3: three plays, 3 yards, 41 seconds (fumble).
- Drive No. 4: three plays, -6 yards, 78 seconds (punt).
- Drive No. 5: four plays, 75 yards, 47 seconds for a touchdown (you’re scoring too fast, Chad!)
- Drive No. 6: three plays, -1 yard, 60 seconds (punt).
- Drive No. 7: eight plays, 11 yards, 152 seconds (INT).
For FSU, on the other hand, only the Seminoles’ second drive of the quarter lasted shorter than a minute, and that’s because they only had to travel 32 yards on three plays to score a touchdown. In the 18 minutes spanning the final three of the second quarter to the end of the third, FSU scored 30 unanswered points on an Ole Miss defense decimated by key injuries and totally exhausted from anemic offensive play.