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A new Ole Miss defense shined brighter than its new offense in the 2019 Grove Bowl

Cue up the Jaws theme because this defense has some teeth.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

The Grove Bowl ended on an interception returned from end zone to end zone with the defense holding on for a 29-25 victory.

What a way to cap off an ending to a spring game: the offense had a chance to tie the game at 27 with a two-point conversion, but it was foiled by Kam White who grabbed the Grant Restmeyer pass and took it 100 yards for two points on the other end.

The Ole Miss defense was given 27 points to start the spring game, and the offense tasked with scoring enough points during the four 12-minute quarters

Spring games are meant to inject a little excitement into football programs, and this year’s edition just didn’t seem of great interest to most Rebel fans. Ole Miss baseball was playing top 25 Florida at the same time as the Grove Bowl, and the football team was coming off a 5-7 season and an NCAA instituted bowl ban.

But in the off-season, head coach Matt Luke hired two former power five head coaches in Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre to lead the offense and defense respectively. The Grove Bowl was the first real display on what the defense and offense will look like.

Of course, it was “vanilla” or “bland” or whatever other basic description of offense and defense can be thrown out there, but it was real, live, American college football in a scrimmage type setting.

And it was an opportunity to see guys like rising sophomore quarterback Matt Corral guide the offense down the field. Corral tallied 22 of 37 passing for 240 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in the game leading all of the five QBs who entered the game. Freshman Grant Tisdale in his first action in red and blue went three for five passing for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Another freshman QB of note is Jackson, Miss. native Kinkead Dent who went 4-12 passing for 36 yards but showed some quickness in his running game rushing six times for 50 yards.

One trend for the Rich Rod offense to note is the more mobile QB from this spring game. Quarterbacks combined for 23 of the 59 total rushes for the team, which may signal a greater chance for QB’s being given the green light to take off down field this season.

The battle to replace wide receivers AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and Demarkus Lodge had two interesting players rise to the top Saturday - rising sophomore Tylan Knight and rising junior Elijah Moore. Knight led all receivers with five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown while Moore snatched eight passes for 79 yards.

Both Knight and Moore are under 5’10” tall and would be dwarfed by last year’s monster trio of Brown, Metcalf and Lodge. The duo saw a lot of targets in swing pass and screen situations leading to chunks of yards after the catch.

The defense on Saturday was led by Mohamed Sanogo or “Momo” as he’s known by the Rebel faithful. Sanogo notched a sack and eight tackles in the spring game while JUCO newcomer Sam Williams was second in tackles with six.

Defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre is working to install a 3-4 defensive front look, and players seemed more in position Saturday than they had most of the 2018 season. This in part led to three interceptions and four sacks for the defense during the scrimmage.

The newly minted Ole Miss offense and defense will get its first true test on the road against the Memphis Tigers, August 31, at the Liberty Bowl.