We all watched it and wished we hadn’t spent such a large chunk of our Saturday afternoon not having a real good time.
But, as the saying goes, [gestures at existence as an Ole Miss fan].
I, for one, don’t have the energy reserves to wade into what Ole Miss fans witnessed, but, as required by Internet Law™, all bloggers must offer a #taek. My official statement reads as follows:
They were up 35-14 with two minutes before halftime and switched off. It’s hard to switch back on, especially when they know half-assing it is probably good enough to win, which they did. Also, Bodhi paddled to New Zealand.
However, let us offer our respect to Tulsa in general with the late, great Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time.”
This week’s version of the dog and pony show will be somewhat abbreviated, as yours truly is making preparations to travel to Oxford this weekend. As an aside (LOL ABBREVIATED), we love when it’s time to travel and there are inexplicably 9.2 million things to do before leaving.
Anyway, hopefully this weekend brings us an Ole Miss team that is starting to turn a corner in terms of consistent execution, which leads to a smashing of Kentucky. INSHALLAH.
What We Know
When it’s going well, friends, it’s really going well
Ole Miss’ first-half drive chart (6 possessions):
- 6 plays, 75 yards, touchdown
- 3 plays, -1 yard, punt
- 12 plays, 75 yards, touchdown
- 4 plays, 64 yards, touchdown
- 12 plays, 93 yards, touchdown
- 2 plays, 46 yards, touchdown
Looks a lot like the third quarter against Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Even with the fart noise drive on the second possession, that’s 35 points and 352 total yards. Also, the two 12-play drives took 3:52 and 3:58, respectively, which is pretty nasty.
On the other side of the ball, after a, AHEM, suspect first three quarters, here’s how the defense played in the fourth quarter (Tulsa’s possessions):
- 3 plays, 4 yards, punt
- 6 plays, 27 yards, punt
- 3 plays, -5 yards, punt
I know it was Tulsa’s backup quarterback, but I guarantee you the Ole Miss defense knew nothing about him and spent the game trying to stay as simple as possible against a quarterback with so many unknowns. No matter who you’re playing, if you allow 26 total yards on 12 plays in the fourth quarter, things are probably going okay for you.
While the defense had been outstanding up until last Saturday, the offense keeps falling into these cycles where they’re either rolling or sputtering and backfiring like John Candy’s car in Uncle Buck*. I would very much enjoy a rolling performance for four quarters.
*Gray, is this your most dated reference yet? Maybe! But I saw the last hour of ‘Uncle Buck’ for the first time in a long time last week, and it’s still good (minus a few problematic ‘80s things)! Related, bring this car to the Fast and Furious franchise, you cowards.
When it’s not going well, friends, it’s really not going well
Ole Miss’ second-half drive chart (6 possessions):
- 7 plays, 27 yards, punt
- 7 plays, 45 yards, fumble
- 6 plays, 19 yards, punt
- 4 plays, 5 yards, punt
- 4 plays, 22 yards, punt
- 8 plays, 27 yards, end of game
All kinds of NOT GREAT, BOB.
I am a believer that the Ole Miss offense doesn’t need its A+ game to beat Kentucky, but it cannot have an extended string of garbage possessions where they don’t score. As Kiffin said after the game, and a statement his players repeated, when you get a chance to knock a team out, you better do it.
The Rebels did it against Georgia Tech in the third quarter but didn’t do it against Tulsa, which led to the Golden Hurricane hanging around for four quarters. If Ole Miss gets a similar opportunity on Saturday, we’ll learn a lot about who they are and can be, based on whether they [extreme Mortal Kombat Voice] FINISH HIM.
What We Kinda Know
Return of The Sack?
I’m sorry, I’m trying to delete that. But while we’re here:
MORE DATED REFERENCES, AND I DON’T CARE.
Although Ole Miss recorded no sacks against Tulsa, the defense did clock in with 10 quarterback hurries. If you recall from last week’s exercise, Tulsa’s offense ranked 77th in percentage of plays that end in sacks. The Ole Miss defense was ranked 4th in plays that end in sacks.
The defense had multiple opportunities but never cashed in because the college football scriptwriters decided it was a day for Ole Miss fans’ ANGST, with a side of mobile-quarterback-torching-us PTSD.
I bring this up because the Kentucky offense sits at 127th out of 131 teams in sack percentage allowed. As a reminder, the Wildcats have faced Miami (OH), Florida, Youngstown State, and Northern Illinois (Florida recorded 3 sacks).
Despite last week’s zero-sack performance, the Ole Miss defense is still 19th in sack percentage. Whether this mismatch comes to fruition for Ole Miss, we shall see, but the opportunity to inflict damage is there.
The Kentucky bully ball #narrative
Mostly thanks to its win over Florida, there is a narrative that Kentucky is a team that is going to play great defense and grind away with a steady rushing attack. That sounds great and all, but the Wildcats beat Florida with 272 yards of total offense, a pick six, and another interception that gave them a first and goal at the Florida six-yard line.
On the year, as a team, they’re averaging 0.31 yards before contact, meaning they gain 0.31 yards before someone hits them. Granted, this includes the aforementioned sack problem because college stats are dumb. For comparison, Ole Miss as a team averages 2.3 yards before contact.
Kentucky starting running back Chris Rodriguez has been suspended but conveniently returns this week. In his absence, Kavosiey Smoke has achieved 2.02 yards before contact, with the next guy sitting at 0.38.
For Ole Miss, here’s their top rushers’ yards before contact:
- Jaxson Dart - 3.21
- Zach Evans - 2.62
- Quinshon Judkins - 2.19
Maybe Rodriguez brings a little more life into the Kentucky running game, but it’s his first live action of 2022, and I think the Ole Miss defense makes it a priority to not let a mediocre Kentucky run game get going.
Please remind me I wrote this when he goes for like 180 yards on 25 carries.
What We Don’t Know
As we’ve been saying, the first real test of 2022 is at hand. If Ole Miss plays with the stretches of quality play they’ve demonstrated at times, it’s GREAT TEAMS COVER TIME, FRIENDS. But, we don’t know if they can do that against better competition.
It feels like the first four games were a massive exercise in what we kinda know, and after Saturday, we’ll have more information about what we actually know about this team.