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Ole Miss’ big-play offense was too much for Texas Tech

The Rebels showed that their high-powered attack is going to be a problem for anyone on their schedule.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas Tech Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It took all of two plays for Ole Miss’ offense to run away from Texas Tech.

On the second play from scrimmage, D.K. Metcalf tore past an overmatched cornerback, leaving him flailing on the ground. A perfectly placed floater from Jordan Ta’amu fell into Metcalf’s outstretched hands and he raced down the left sideline for a 58-yard score.

Things never got much better for Tech’s defense.

Though not its most efficient performance, the Ole Miss offense showed why it could be one of the country’s most explosive during a 47-27 route in Houston. The Rebels averaged an absurd 9.1 yards per play and scored all five of their touchdowns from at least 34 yards out. Those big touchdown plays included...

  • Metcalf’s 58-yard strike on the opening drive
  • A 94-yard kickoff return by cornerback Jaylon Jones
  • A 39-yard run by new starting running back Scottie Phillips on fourth-and-two
  • A 65-yard run by Phillips right up the gut
  • A 34-yard dime from Ta’amu to All-Everything wideout A.J. Brown

Ta’amu missed a couple throws and was at times slow to progress through his reads, but it’s hard to nitpick a 336-yard, two-touchdown performance. He was absolutely surgical with the deep ball, averaging over 15 yards per completion and landing five completions of 20 yards or longer (over 60 percent of his total air yards came on those five plays). His three NFL-bound wideouts feasted on an overmatched Tech secondary (which includes two preseason All-Big 12 safeties, mind you): Brown had seven grabs for 93 yards, Metcalf hauled in four catches for 81 yards and DaMarkus Lodge tallied 96 yards on six grabs, including an absurd tight-rope job on a 31-yard completion that converted an important third down late in the second quarter.

Perhaps most terrifying for SEC defensive coordinators, the Rebels’ big plays weren’t limited to the air. There were questions about whether Phillips, who’d never taken a snap at the DI level, could take advantage of holes created by an experienced Rebels O-line. He quickly answered those on his first-quarter touchdown romp, when, on fourth-and-one, he cut back to the outside, neatly sidestepped a safety and cruised down the sideline.

Phillips ended his first game as Rebel with 204 yards on just 16 carries. It should be noted, however, that when he wasn’t gashing Tech on long plays, Ole Miss’ ground attack was largely stagnant: take away runs of 65, 44 and 39 yards by Phillips and Rebel running backs averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Regardless, the mere threat of Phillips breaking one long makes game planning for the Ta’amu-led passing attack nearly impossible.

“Want to see us be a little bit more efficient in the run game,” head coach Matt Luke told Ole Miss Spirit after the game. “Good to see us break those long ones, but I think we can be a little bit more efficient and then add that to our receiving corps. I think that would be a recipe for success for us.”

Unable to establish a consistent ground attack, the Ole Miss offense struggled to stay on track when it wasn’t ripping off chunk plays. That was especially true deep in enemy territory, where Ole Miss settled for field goals on all four of its trips inside the 25.

“We’ve got to eliminate negative plays in the red zone,” said offensive coordinator Phil Longo. “That’s what we talked about at half time was finishing. Let’s finish on third down. Let’s finish in the red zone. Those are the things we needed to do to be successful.”

Once the Rebels start playing SEC defenses, the offense will have to find a way to be more efficient. Nevertheless, Saturday’s ass kicking was a brilliant display of Ole Miss’ shock and awe attack. This isn’t an offense that any defensive coordinator wants to face this season.