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Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State: Box score rundown

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The Rebels may have caught a few breaks in Starkville, but none of that matters now.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s not necessarily a shocker that another Egg Bowl deviated from fans’ expectations, that doesn’t make processing what happened Thursday night any easier.

A gut-wrenching injury to Nick Fitzgerald in the first quarter turned the game upside-down and, understandably, was the leading story line for many. Mississippi State’s offensive ceiling was considerably lowered once true freshman Keytaon Thompson stepped onto the field.

Ole Miss, with its own emergency backup quarterback, needed to make up for what was sure to be an overall inefficient night by going for broke on offense, and they delivered. Five huge plays, coupled with a plus-three turnover margin, contributed to a Rebel victory.

Bill C.’s numbers gave Matt Luke’s team a win expectancy of 46 percent, so the upset wasn’t entirely rooted in dumb luck. Ole Miss still had to take advantage of the situation to pull this one off.

Five Factors

Ole Miss Mississippi State
Ole Miss Mississippi State
Efficiency (Success Rate) 26% 43%
Big Plays 9 11
Average Starting Field Position 37.3 33.3
Finishing Drives (Points per Scoring Opportunity) 6.2 3.4
Turnovers 2 5
A play is successful if you gain 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down. Big plays are defined as runs of 12+ yards or passes of 20+ yards. A scoring opportunity is a trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.

It was known heading into the game that Ole Miss wasn’t going to be super efficient against Todd Grantham’s defense, but the degree to which they relied on sudden bursts in between stretches of stagnation was absurd.

The measure for big plays in the table above doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. The Bulldogs stayed on the field longer, so it’s not surprising that they gained chunks of yards more often than the Rebels. But the few times Ole Miss did find success moving the ball, they capitalized as much as they could, scoring on gains of 22, 77, 63, and 46 yards.

That kind of explosiveness wouldn’t have been enough on its own to pull off the upset, as State also coughed up the ball five times, with four of those turnovers happening in Rebel territory.

Big Picture

Team Drives Plays Yards Scoring Opportunities Yards per Play
Team Drives Plays Yards Scoring Opportunities Yards per Play
Ole Miss 16 54 355 5 6.6
Mississippi State 16 94 501 8 5.3

(Embed isn’t working for some reason, so here’s a link to the graph.)

Ole Miss’ all-or-nothing approach on offense is further highlighted by how the majority of their drives ended. The 12 possessions that didn’t result in a touchdown gained an average of 6.8 yards (excluding the final drive to kneel). Meanwhile, the Bulldogs put together seven scoreless drives that went for 25 yards or more. In other words, yardage is meaningless if you can’t finish.

Efficiency by Quarter

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Overall
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Overall
Ole Miss 50% 13% 18% 10% 26%
Mississippi State 44% 39% 35% 50% 43%

After Jordan Ta’amu and the offense found some room early in the game, the prospect of building methodical drives went out the window starting in the second quarter. At the same time, Wesley McGriff’s did a solid job of keeping State’s offense off the field through three quarters, albeit against a true freshman quarterback.

Eventually, though, the Bulldogs did find a rhythm once they started taking care of the football, as 32 of their 94 overall plays were in the final quarter. Given Ole Miss’ inability to burn clock coupled with the defense’s inevitable collapse, it’s not all that surprising that Thompson had as many chances as he did to lead a comeback.

Efficiency by Play and Down

Team Passing Rushing Standard Downs Passing Downs
Team Passing Rushing Standard Downs Passing Downs
Ole Miss 23% 29% 34% 14%
Mississippi State 37% 46% 46% 35%
Passing downs include 2nd and 8+ yards to go or 3rd/4th with 5+ yards. Everything else falls under standard.

When it came to what Mississippi State excelled at against Ole Miss, there were few surprises. They were going to run the ball well, regardless of who was under center, and they were going to underperform when backed into obvious passing situations.

While the Rebel offense wasn’t exactly efficient in any way in the Egg Bowl, this game was part of a season-long trend of finding more success on the ground than through the air.

Explosive Plays

Team Running Passing Resulting Yards Percent of Total Yards Yards per Successful Play Yards per Explosive Play
Team Running Passing Resulting Yards Percent of Total Yards Yards per Successful Play Yards per Explosive Play
Ole Miss 5 4 327 92% 25.4 36.3
Mississippi State 5 6 254 51% 11.3 23.1

It can’t be said enough how badly the Rebels needed those downfield looks — and bursts from Jordan Wilkins on the ground — to work out. There have been a few occasions in 2017 in which the majority of their total yardage fell under how we define big plays, but it never came close to 92 percent before the Egg Bowl. That mark of 25 yards per successful play is the team’s season high by a long shot.

Ole Miss Passing

Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Success Rate TD Int
Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Success Rate TD Int
Ta'amu Total 10 26 210 8.1 23% 2 1
Standard 5 12 144 12.0 33% 2 0
Passing 5 14 66 4.7 14% 0 1

Take away Ta’amu’s three biggest completions, and he averaged just a half-yard per dropback (including sacks). Again, a lot of that had to do with their screw-it-go-deep strategy, as State’s defense wasn’t going to allow any easy pickups. Those big passes still happened, and it required a bit of patience to set up one-on-one situations.

Ole Miss Receiving

Name Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Success Rate Yards per Catch Yards per Target
Name Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Success Rate Yards per Catch Yards per Target
Brown 7 6 167 86% 57% 27.8 23.9
Lodge 6 1 8 17% 17% 8.0 1.3
Metcalf 4 2 67 50% 25% 33.5 16.8
Knox 2 1 5 50% 0% 5.0 2.5
Nixon 1 0 0 0% 0% 0.0 0.0

Mississippi State Passing

Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Success Rate TD Int
Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Success Rate TD Int
Thompson Total 13 30 173 5.8 40% 1 1
Standard 6 17 87 5.1 35% 0 1
Passing 7 13 86 6.6 46% 1 0
Fitzgerald Total 1 5 12 2.4 20% 0 1
Standard 0 2 0 0.0 0% 0 0
Passing 1 3 12 4.0 33% 0 1

Mississippi State Receiving

Name Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Success Rate Yards per Catch Yards per Target
Name Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Success Rate Yards per Catch Yards per Target
Thomas 12 8 98 67% 67% 12.3 8.2
Couch 6 2 37 33% 17% 18.5 6.2
Jackson 5 2 45 40% 40% 22.5 9.0
Todd 3 0 0 0% 0% 0.0 0.0
Williams 3 1 20 33% 33% 20.0 6.7
Johnson 1 1 7 100% 100% 7.0 7.0

Ole Miss Running

Name Runs Yards Yards per Carry Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate Highlight Yards per Opportunity
Name Runs Yards Yards per Carry Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate Highlight Yards per Opportunity
Total 28 145 5.2 32% 32% 8.5
Wilkins 14 110 7.9 43% 14% 9.9
Ta'amu 7 29 4.1 29% 57% 8.5
Swinney 5 9 1.8 20% 20% 0.0
Opportunity rate is the percentage of carries that gain 5+ yards. Stuff rate is how often you’re stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Hlt. yds per Opp. measures what you’re able to do once at the second level and beyond.

Mississippi State Running

Name Runs Yards Yards per Carry Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate Highlight Yards per Opportunity
Name Runs Yards Yards per Carry Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate Highlight Yards per Opportunity
Total 59 316 5.4 44% 15% 4.1
Thompson 23 143 6.2 39% 13% 7.1
Williams 20 75 3.8 40% 25% 1.8
Hill 13 82 6.3 54% 8% 4.0
Fitzgerald 3 16 5.3 67% 0% 0.8

Ole Miss Defense

Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
DeMarquis Gates 13 0 0 0 0 0
Breeland Speaks 12 1.5 1 0 0 1.5
Austrian Robinson 8 1.5 1 1 0 2.5
Josiah Coatney 8 0.5 0 0 1 1.5
Ken Webster 8 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Tayler Polk 7 0 0 0 1 1
Benito Jones 6 2.5 0 0 0 2.5
C.J. Hampton 6 0 0 0 1 1
Ross Donelly 6 0 0 0 0 0
Zedrick Woods 5 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Moore 4 0 0 0 0 0
C.J. Moore 4 0 0 2 0 2
Myles Hartsfield 4 0 0 1 0 1
Jaylon Jones 3 0 0 0 0 0
Ryder Anderson 3 1 1 0 0 1
Javien Hamilton 2 0 0 0 0 0
Marquis Haynes 2 1 0 0 0 1
Mohamed Sanogo 2 0 0 0 0 0
Montrell Custis 2 0 0 0 0 0
Willie Hibbler 2 0 0 0 0 0
Armani Linton 1 0 0 0 0 0
DaMarkus Lodge 1 0 0 0 0 0
Herbert Moore 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jack Propst 1 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
John-Patrick Sherling 1 0 0 0 0 0
Will Gleeson 1 0 0 0 0 0

Mississippi State Defense

Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Johnathan Abram 8 0 0 0 0 0
Erroll Thompson 5 1.5 1.5 0 1 2.5
Fletcher Adams 5 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Mark McLaurin 5 1 0 1 0 2
Braxton Hoyett 4 1 0 0 0 1
Gerri Green 4 1.5 0.5 0 0 1.5
J.T. Gray 4 0 0 1 0 1
Montez Sweat 4 1 0.5 0 0 1
Jeffery Simmons 2 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Leo Lewis 2 0.5 0.5 0 0 0.5
Tolando Cleveland 2 0 0 2 0 2
Brandon Bryant 1 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Rayford 1 0 0 0 0 0
Elgton Jenkins 1 0 0 0 0 0
Grant Harris 1 1 1 0 0 1
Jamal Couch 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jamal Peters 1 0 0 1 0 1
Lashard Durr 1 0 0 0 0 0
Marquiss Spencer 1 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Willie Gay Jr. 1 0 0 0 0 0