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Ole Miss-Kentucky: Box score rundown

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This was the offense’s most efficient game in a long time.

Mississippi v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As low as expectations had fallen heading into this cross-division battle of meh, there remained an opportunity for Ole Miss to disappoint fans even more. Fortunately, we don’t have to live in that world just yet, as the Rebels put together a nerve-racking, 14-play drive to seal the victory Saturday night.

Tossing records aside, they were always a better team than Kentucky, but had struggled converting what strengths they had into actual wins through eight games. It took every second available to them, but Ole Miss proved their worth in Lexington after giving the game away to Arkansas the week prior.

In his second FBS start, Jordan Ta’amu was brilliant in sharing the wealth through the air, and the running backs were just enough of a threat to make Kentucky’s defense respect them. As deeply as this team’s identity is rooted in offensive firepower, they needed the defense to hunker down for a stretch in the second half to stay alive. The Landsharks were still unreliable for most of the game, but forced four consecutive three-and-outs at one point.

Ultimately, this game means little to nothing long-term, but wins are rare these days and should be cherished/overanalyzed to the point of exhaustion.

Five Factors

Ole Miss Kentucky
Ole Miss Kentucky
Efficiency (Success Rate) 55% 51%
Big Plays 9 11
Average Starting Field Position Own 28 Own 24
Finishing Drives (Points per Scoring Opportunity) 5.3 5.7
Turnovers 0 0
The Five Factors were developed by Bill Connelly. Big plays are defined here as runs of 12+ yards or passes of 16+ yards

Ole Miss relied more on steady ball movement than explosiveness to score against Kentucky, which isn’t their usual recipe for points. Their success rate of 55 percent is the offense’s most efficient outing against a Power Five team so far this season, making it hard to believe they only put up 37.

Part of the relatively low scoring came from the defense struggling to get off the field - the Wildcats had three different drives that lasted six minutes. The other cause was rooted in a lack of big plays. Phil Longo’s group had gotten used to picking up six from well beyond the red zone. This time, their only score of more than 20 yards out came on D.K. Metcalf’s 58-yard reception in the third quarter.

Fewer chances to break the top off the defense meant having to put together long, mistake-free possessions and sometimes settling for a field goal.

The Big Picture

Team Drives Plays Yards Scoring Opportunities Yards per Play
Team Drives Plays Yards Scoring Opportunities Yards per Play
Ole Miss 11 67 473 7 7.1
Kentucky 10 70 455 6 6.5

It’s pretty apparent from Kentucky’s efficiency graph exactly when Wesley McGriff’s squad came through, allowing just 1.3 yards per play over a 10-play stretch in the third. Considering the Wildcats ran the ball on six of these plays, there’s no logical explanation for what made the defense suddenly play well here, but it’s all Ta’amu and friends needed to climb out of a 10-point deficit.

Efficiency by Quarter

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Overall
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Overall
Ole Miss 38% 58% 63% 57% 55%
Kentucky 50% 57% 36% 60% 51%
National Average 40%

A common complaint surrounding Ole Miss’ offense over the last two years is that they’ve failed to sustain early game success through four quarters. In the final 15 minutes against Arkansas, they put up just 4.2 yards per play and a success rate of less than 17 percent.

Saturday night, though, they gained yards pretty consistently after suffering a three-and-out to start the game. On the season, the majority of the Rebels’ touchdown drives have required just six plays or less, typically reliant on a big play or two to gain the majority of the yards needed. Before that methodical, 14-play drive to decide the game, they hadn’t had a touchdown drive take more than 11 plays.

Sure, they did what they were supposed to do against a bad defense, but the fact that they finished the job, no matter the opponent, says something.

Efficiency by Play Type

Team Passing Rushing Standard Downs Passing Downs
Team Passing Rushing Standard Downs Passing Downs
Ole Miss 59% 48% 62% 35%
Kentucky 48% 54% 56% 33%
National Average 40% 41% 46% 31%

In last week’s loss, it was surprising to see Ole Miss not lean more heavily down the stretch on a run game that was gashing Arkansas, especially given the lead they were trying to maintain. This time, the pass was the more reliable option, and the fact that they were down for much of the game provided enough reason to let Ta’amu keep dealing through the air.

Whether an offense decides to run or pass on a given play is never as simple as just doing the thing you’re better at, but it’s nice to see the distribution of plays match the circumstances.

Explosive Plays

Team Running Passing Resulting Yards Yards per Successful Play Yards per Explosive Play
Team Running Passing Resulting Yards Yards per Successful Play Yards per Explosive Play
Ole Miss 3 6 223 12.4 24.8
Kentucky 6 5 251 11.3 22.8

Against the Razorbacks, 420 of the Rebels 566 total yards came on explosive plays, while less than half of their yardage relied on such plays against Kentucky. That’s not all that surprising, given the Wildcats’ defense is actually decent at not getting beat for big gains, ranking 42nd in IsoPPP. It’s impressive that the offense can still do damage when their biggest asset is taken away from them.

Ole Miss Passing

Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Completion % TD Int
Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Completion % TD Int
Ta'amu Total 31 43 359 8.3 72% 4 0
Standard 24 30 315 10.5 80% 3 0
Passing 7 13 44 3.4 54% 1 0

After showing out on passing downs last week, Ta’amu came down to earth a little bit in this regard, but it didn’t matter. He and the rest of the offense maintained leverage by staying in standard downs as much as possible, so he didn’t have climb out of a ton of third-and-long holes this time.

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
Lodge 9 5 46 56% 44% 9.2 5.1
Brown 8 7 65 88% 75% 9.3 8.1
Jefferson 6 5 82 83% 67% 16.4 13.7
Knox 6 5 73 83% 83% 14.6 12.2
Metcalf 6 5 83 83% 50% 16.6 13.8
Wilkins 4 3 27 75% 75% 9.0 6.8
Pennamon 1 1 6 100% 100% 6.0 6.0

All in all, it was a super balanced outing from this receiving group. Five different players had five or more receptions against Kentucky, and no one gained more receiving yards than D.K. Metcalf’s 83. Considering both Brown and Lodge performed beneath their season averages of more than 18 yards per catch, you have to be happy with how the game turned out.

Kentucky Passing

Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Completion % TD Int
Name Down Completions Attempts Yards Yds/Attempt Completion % TD Int
Johnson Total 19 28 182 6.5 68% 1 0
Standard 13 18 111 6.2 72% 1 0
Passing 6 10 71 7.1 60% 0 0
Bowden Total 1 1 32 32.0 100% 0 0
Passing 1 1 32 32.0 100% 0 0

Even with all the Rebel defense’s weaknesses, Kentucky was more consistent passing than they probably should have been. Still, it could have gone worse, and they gained 20+ yards through the air only four times. C.J. Conrad’s 46-yard touchdown catch in the third came a bit later than we’re used to as Rebel fans.

Kentucky 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
Conrad 6 5 75 83% 67% 15.0 12.5
Johnson 5 4 49 80% 40% 12.3 9.8
Epps 3 2 31 67% 67% 15.5 10.3
Richardson 3 2 30 67% 67% 15.0 10.0
Bowden 2 2 22 100% 50% 11.0 11.0
King 2 2 8 100% 50% 4.0 4.0
Ali 1 1 14 100% 100% 14.0 14.0
Bone 1 0 0 0% 0% 0.0 0.0
Hart 1 1 2 100% 0% 2.0 2.0
Walker 1 1 5 100% 100% 5.0 5.0

Ole Miss’ backs got to the second level fairly often, doing so on 48 percent of their runs (season average is 39). They just didn’t do a ton with those opportunities, outside of a 20-yard from Pennamon in the third. Wilkins will be due for a big burst or two against UL Lafayette.

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 23 114 5.0 48% 22% 2.9
Wilkins 8 44 5.5 63% 13% 2.1
Pennamon 7 42 6.0 43% 14% 4.8
Ta'amu 7 31 4.4 43% 29% 2.2
Swinney 1 -3 -3.0 0% 100% 0.0

The run defense is still very bad, but hey - the longest gain given up on the ground was for just 22 yards.

Kentucky 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 41 241 5.9 46% 7% 3.7
Snell, Jr. 28 176 6.3 46% 7% 4.4
Johnson 7 44 6.3 57% 0% 2.9
King 4 18 4.5 50% 0% 1.0
Bowden 2 3 1.5 0% 50% 0.0

Ole Miss Defense

Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
DeMarquis Gates 14 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
C.J. Hampton 6 0 0 0 0 0
C.J. Moore 6 0 0 0 0 0
Josiah Coatney 5 2.5 2 0 0 2.5
Jaylon Jones 4 0 0 0 0 0
John-Patrick Sherling 3 0 0 0 0 0
Myles Hartsfield 3 0 0 1 0 1
Tayler Polk 3 0 0 0 0 0
Breeland Speaks 2 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Cam Ordway 2 0 0 0 0 0
Javien Hamilton 2 0 0 0 0 0
Ken Webster 2 0 0 0 0 0
Markel Winters 2 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Marquis Haynes 2 1 1 0 0 1
Mohamed Sanogo 2 0 0 0 0 0
Willie Hibbler 2 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Moore 1 0 0 0 0 0
Armani Linton 1 0 0 0 0 0
Benito Jones 1 0 0 0 0 0
Donta Evans 1 0 0 0 0 0
Garrald McDowell 1 1 1 0 0 1
Herbert Moore 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrion Street 1 0 0 0 0 0

Kentucky Defense

Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Name Tackles TFL Sacks PD FF Havoc
Mike Edwards 11 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Jones 8 3 1 0 0 3
Courtney Love 6 1 1 0 0 1
Darius West 5 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Derrick Baity 5 0 0 0 0 0
Lonnie Johnson 5 1 0 1 0 2
Chris Westry 4 0.5 0 0 0 0.5
Josh Allen 4 0 0 0 0 0
Kendall Randolph 4 0 0 0 0 0
Denzil Ware 3 1 1 0 0 1
Jordan Griffin 3 0 0 1 0 1
Adrian Middleton 1 0 0 0 0 0
Davonte Robinson 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jamar Watson 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kash Daniel 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kordell Looney 1 0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Carter 1 0 0 0 0 0