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Inside the numbers: Running backs and defense carried the Rebels

Just what everyone expected from a Lane Kiffin team

Troy v Ole Miss Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Ole Miss rolled up an impressive rushing total while stifling the Troy Trojans en route to a 28-10 win on Saturday in its season opener.

For the 60,533 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the headline to this post is pretty damn obvious if you watched the game and didn’t pass out from heat exhaustion. I missed part of the third quarter waiting in a line for sno-cones that started somewhere just shy of Batesville, so I woke up Sunday morning looking to dive into all the stats from the 18-point win.

Here’s what the stat book has for us:

  • 266 rushing yards: I don’t care who you’re playing, this is pretty great in game one. More impressive is that the halftime total was 201 yards, which would have put the Rebels on track for more than 400 yards rushing in a game. I haven’t seen that kind of rushing production since Ole Miss played like Presbyterian maybe?
  • 130 rushing yards: On 20 attempts, Zach Evans made a statement in his Ole Miss debut - he is the go-to RB1 for the Rebels. Evans logged the longest play of the game with a 46 yard romp that was nearly a much longer touchdown run. I have a feeling this will be the start of a 1,000 yard season for the TCU transfer.
  • 6.2 yards per carry: For freshman Quinshon Judkins, fans clearly have found the future of this Ole Miss team in the 3-star rated (lol what?) running back. Coach Lane Kiffin said in his post game Judkins “ran angry”, so whoever pissed him off pre-game please repeat forever. Against Troy, he posted 14 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown.
  • 1 Troy helmet: Popped off the head of its quarterback by hometown hero JJ Pegues - the big man shot into the Trojan backfield and made a massive hit that reminded me somewhat of the Jadeveon Clowney Outback Bowl hit vs. Michigan. It was violent, happened in a blink and honestly got the crowd back on its feet and into the game.
  • 31 tackles: Between the top three tacklers of the game, Tysheem Johnson, Troy Brown and Khari Coleman were all over the field to tally 31 tackles. Also, this trio were all transfers - thank you Portal King. Coleman is by far the defensive MVP of the game, however, with two sacks and five tackles for loss.
  • 87 passing yards: In the third quarter, the coaching staff changed gears and QB Jaxson Dart posted more than half of his passing yards for the game in one quarter. Going 9 of 13 with a touchdown and a pick, Dart had the bulk of the responsibility to move the ball and unfortunately, one really bad throw ended what would have been another passing touchdown. He stared down his receiver and the safety saw the ball coming the whole way - shit happens it’ll get fixed.
  • Four fumbles: The Rebels had some issues with ball security and fortunately recovered two of the four fumbles in the game. This was not something fans saw the last two seasons, so it was a little unsettling though too early to call it a trend just yet.

The really good news for Ole Miss is it has another couple weeks before its road trip to Georgia Tech to sharpen the offensive passing game. A game against Central Arkansas sandwiched between two weeks of practice should expectedly provide some confidence building as well.

But this defense, while its still very early, looks to be right back where it left off in 2021.