How do you wash off the stink of a putrid loss in Baton Rouge? By bathing in yards and points.
Here are Ole Miss’ first nine drives against Louisiana-Monroe:
Ole Miss racked up over 700 yards of offense before its first punt, which came 40 minutes into its 70-21 win. The Rebels finished the game with a school record 826 yards.
- Jordan Ta’amu averaged 15.6 yards per pass attempt and scored five touchdowns before halftime.
- Ta’amu and star freshman Matt Corral combined to go 31-of-34 for 517 yards.
- A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge each had over 115 yards and a touchdown.
- Scottie Phillips averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored twice on the ground and once through the air.
This was as dominant an offensive performance as you could possibly have.
The caveat, of course, is that ULM has a horrible defense even by Sun Belt standards. The Warhawks came into the game ranked 121st in defensive S&P+, having given up 46 points and 487 yards to Georgia State last week.
For Rebels fans looking for evidence that the offense has worked out the issues that crippled it against Alabama and LSU, they won’t find it in Saturday’s blowout. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo has had no problem against bad defenses: before today, Ole Miss averaged 40.4 points per game and 8.0 yards per play against 11 opponents ranked outside the top 60 in defensive S&P+. Against six opponents ranked inside the top 20, however, those numbers plummet to 17.3 points per game and 5.2 yards per play.
Still, the offensive explosion against ULM was a soothing balm. Lather these plays on and rub them in.
I just felt like runnin'— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) October 6, 2018
- Forrest Gump
- Jordan Ta'amu pic.twitter.com/oFjKRathYk
Future Dallas Cowboys wide receiver D.K. Metcalf is a magician pic.twitter.com/9jGJq63GCw— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) October 6, 2018
And hey, the defense wasn’t awful!
Holding a 2-3 Sun Belt team to 21 points shouldn’t be noteworthy, but we saw this defense struggle against Southern-Illinois and Kent State. The Warhawks moved the ball at times— they had over 250 yards in the first half—but the Rebels held them on two fourth-down attempts and forced a couple of turnovers. ULM’s second and third touchdowns didn’t come until Ole Miss was ahead by 56 points.
The bad news is that an already crippled secondary lost safety C.J. Miller to an injury in the second quarter. C.J. Moore and Montrell Custis are already out for the season, meaning the Rebels are now down to their fourth string safety: Armani Linton, who was playing running back this time last week. Linton actually looked pretty damn good...
Armani Linton only entered the game because of an injury to CJ Miller, but right now Linton has four tackles, a sack and 1 1/2 tackles for loss. #OleMiss— Parrish Alford (@parrishalford) October 6, 2018
... but the secondary depth is in dire straights heading into the back half of the season. There’s been no update on the severity of Miller’s injury.
We finally got a good look at star QB recruit Matt Corral.
Heading into this game, a handful of snaps against SIU had been our only opportunity to evaluate the Rebels’ quarterback of the future. With Ole Miss heading into a stretch of six conference games to close the season, Saturday presented one of the last chances for the coaches to get game reps for Corral.
The early returns were promising. After entering at the beginning of the third quarter, Corral went a perfect 10-for-10 for 143 yards and two touchdowns, adding 78 yards and a score on the ground. He showed off his deep ball with a gorgeous 30-yard toss to Metcalf on his first drive, then flossed his athleticism with a 61-yard touchdown run on his second. He also linked up with fellow true freshman Elijah Moore for a 24-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
The NCAA’s new rule allows players to enter up to four games before burning a redshirt, so the Rebel coaches can still squeeze some playing time out of Corral if given the opportunity down the stretch.
Ole Miss beating up on a non-con opponent is nothing new and Saturday’s beatdown probably doesn’t signal some dramatic turnaround. But with the meat of a brutal SEC schedule looming, let’s just appreciate the moment.