Ole Miss held on to beat Southeastern Louisiana 40-29 on Saturday. A win is a win.
The Rebels entered the week with a growing confidence on offense, a rejuvenated defensive swagger, and a Sharktooth turnover necklace. If the momentum had stalled against the Southland Conference opponents, there would be call for concern.
Though it wasn’t pretty, it’s not quite time to sound the alarms just yet.
Ole Miss received the opening kickoff and Matt Corral led his offense to the first points of the game. He found five different targets and went 72-yards in four minutes. Of the receivers not named Elijah Moore, freshman Jonathan Mingo and versatile sophomore Tylan Knight both got their first touches of the season. All systems were go, so it seemed.
Both sides traded turnovers, and Southeastern kicked a field goal.
That’s when the Jerrion Ealy show began.
On the proceeding kickoff, Ealy turned on the jets and went 94 yards to the house.
JERRION. EALY. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY. pic.twitter.com/wHURhk18bt— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 14, 2019
Two offensive possessions later, he broke a first down carry for 52 yards. Ealy would finish what he started and accelerated the next touch through the Lions’ second level for the 30-yard touchdown.
Ealy finished with 273 all-purpose yards and our little boy grew up right before our eyes.
In between the pair of Ealy touchdowns, Southeastern scored one of its own and exposed an issue for Mike MacIntyre’s defense— the perimeter pass protection. Quarterback Chason Virgil distributed the ball to the sidelines with ease and connected with seven different receivers in the first half for 167 yards.
In some instances, the Lion receivers made a play. In most, the Ole Miss secondary was just plain beat on their feet.
Before the half, Scottie Phillips had to remind his young apprentice whose backfield it really is and ran the ball eight consecutive times to the Southeastern five-yard-line. Ole Miss scored on a Jason Pellerin crossing route, and the Rebels went to the half with a lot of questions, but a 27-17 lead.
The second half began with a three-and-out for Southeastern and a Phillips-led, 69-yard scoring drive. Nice.
However, that would be all for positives in the 2nd half.
Jaylon Jones got burned in coverage on a deep touchdown pass, the Rebels fumbled inside their own 10-yard-line, and the Lions scored again. Woof.
With less than a touchdown lead over a far inferior opponent, the offense needed to answer. After Corral hit Moore, Pellerin and Dontario Drummond en route to the red zone, Rich Rodriguez called three straight runs up the middle for no gain. The Rebels settled for a field goal. Not ideal.
Fortunately, Southeastern couldn’t handle the moment and Ole Miss iced the game with a field goal after yet another 69-yard drive.
All in all, the Rebels are 2-1.
Rodriguez’s play calling was questionable throughout, the defense couldn’t hang with Southland Conference receivers and the energy was absent.
But, the Rebels are 2-1, and one win closer to a bowl game.