For the second straight week, Ole Miss spent the better part of three quarters struggling to create separation from an inferior opponent before having an inner “Salud, Mi Familia” moment and hitting the Dom nitrous button to pull away over the final 15 minutes.
What’s that? Why, yes, the Fast and Furious references will continue until they are pried from my cold, dead hands.
In the last two games, Ole Miss outscored Tulane and Georgia Tech by a combined 44-16 margin in the last quarter. The game last Saturday featured a fourth-quarter stretch where Ole Miss scored 17 points in 4:05 to end the formalities.
While Rebels love fourth-quarter points (we’re hearing it more and more), it would’ve been more reassuring if things had been under control in the third quarter. However, the good news is both times, when they needed to, Ole Miss found another gear their opponents didn’t have.
Being involved in one-possession games in the fourth quarter is not a recipe for sustained success (3-3 last year), so if Ole Miss could go ahead and create separation against teams from which it should separate earlier, that would be great.
It’s entirely possible Ole Miss is not good enough to do that, but they should consider it. Obviously, that concern is not in play this week (#BamaRespectWeek), and if Ole Miss is to do something they have only done twice in program history, there will be no separation, but there will be weapons-grade anxiety and stress.
What We Know
Jaxson Dart summoning the spirit of Matt Corral: Part II
Last week, I cited Corral’s 2021 performance against Tennessee in Knoxville (426 total yards, which included 30 carries for 195 yards), as Dart’s performance against Tulane had similar vibes in that he drove the offense.
On Saturday, he did it again, with 387 total yards and three touchdowns (251 passing, one TD/136 rushing, two TDs). Like Corral’s game against the Vols, Dart’s receiving options were limited, and Kiffin called on him to use his legs.
Even if you take away his explosive 68-yard sprint to get a better sense of his standard runs, he averaged 5.4 yards/carry on 13 attempts. While that’s not Matt Jones averaging 36 yards/carry on the way to COVER TOWN, USA, it’s pretty good.
Hopefully, he gets receiving options back this week in the form of Tre Harris, Caden Preiskorn, and Zakhari Franklin, however limited they may be. It seems unlikely things will go well if only four players catch passes this week, with one of those being a running back who caught a desperation shovel pass.
Get you a quarterback who can run for 136 and pull off a $900 designer t-shirt
Sorry to all the broke boi teams out there.
We are once again talking about receiver issues
Before I get to the wailing and gnashing of teeth, Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade had outstanding performances. Ole Miss is fortunate to have such great complimentary wide receivers.
In a game in which Ole Miss needed a collective effort from complimentary receivers, no one else showed up. At this point, any meaningful production from the names not mentioned here should be treated as a bonus, and they can’t be counted on to contribute consistently.
It’s unclear whether that’s coaching, poor talent evaluations, lack of development, or other issues, but we know receiver production bottoms out after the top 3-4 options.
What We Kinda Know
Offensive line not an unmitigated disaster?
After a performance against Tulane that had me ready to be whisked away, Old Testament style, in a fiery chariot from above, this group rebounded about as well as you could’ve asked. Behold! Numbers for your consumption:
- vs Tulane: 4
- vs Georgia Tech: 1
Sack percentage allowed*
- vs Tulane: 12.5 percent
- vs Georgia Tech: 5 percent
*number of pass plays that end in sacks
- vs Tulane: 2.5
- vs Georgia Tech: 8.1 (!!!)
- vs Tulane: 9.8
- vs Georgia Tech: 13.2
- vs Tulane: 5.8
- vs Georgia Tech: 9.8 (!!!)
- vs Tulane: .476
- vs Georgia Tech: .857 (an outrageous number)
*helps measure offensive explosiveness
Obviously, the Georgia Tech defense lacks what Tulane has, but the offensive line did what they should against a defense without overall talent. Now, the question remains was this the work of an offensive line getting itself in gear or one that just had less to deal with.
This weekend will likely provide enough information that we move this group into the What We Know category, either on a positive note or a chariot of fire request.
Defense: Trending toward not bad!
A week after holding Tulane to 3.7 yards/carry (not counting sack yardage) and 4.2 yards/play, Pete Golding’s group did the following to Georgia Tech:
- 5.3 yards/play (2 below Georgia Tech’s season average prior to Saturday)
- 7.3 yards/pass (2 below season average)
- 3.6 yards/carry (2.5 below season average)
- 2 sacks (Georgia Tech gave up 1 in the first 2 games)
As Lane Kiffin noted this week, the one not great stat was the Yellowjackets were 13 of 25 on third/fourth down plays, which kept the defense on the field far longer than they should’ve been. Those numbers were a decline from the 11 of 27 they allowed against Tulane.
Again, like the offensive line, we’ll find out whether this was related to competition or it tells more of the story of who they are.
Offense seems to know where the gas pedal is in the second half
As referenced above, the Ole Miss offense scored 20 points in the second half (13 in the fourth quarter) against Tulane and 38 (24 in the fourth quarter) against Georgia Tech. You may recall from the complaint department last year how Ole Miss struggled to score in the second half of games.
So let’s look at the second-half point totals from last year’s FBS non-conference* slate:
- Troy: 7 (0 in fourth quarter)
- Georgia Tech: 21 (0 in fourth quarter)
- Tulsa: 0
*Very aware this problem continued in conference play, but we’re not there yet!
Thank you, brain, for erasing almost every memory I have of the Tulsa game, while keeping important information like the pin number of the debit card the Guardians used in Man on Fire, a movie that came out in 2004. For the record, it’s 4747.
Back to regular programming:
We’re only three games into the season, but perhaps the 2023 offense is reversing a trend that was not a great deal of fun in 2022.
What We Don’t Know
Harris, Preiskorn, and Franklin
A law firm you can trust!
As of this writing on Wednesday evening, the availability of Tre Harris, Caden Preiskorn, and Zakhari Franklin for Saturday is unknown. The next two days will be big for the “I heard” and “someone told me” industries, but, at the very least, all indications are they have a chance to play.
How much they play or if they can get through warmups remains to be seen. Even if Preiskorn and Franklin do play, there’s also the tiny fact their first live action with the offense will be against Alabama in Bryant-Denny. Not ideal!
Jalen Milroe against not Texas’ defense
The Longhorns had the size and speed on the front end of their defense to limit Alabama’s run game and force Milroe to pass more than Alabama wanted. The result was five sacks and two crushing interceptions, as well as a 14 for 27 showing from Milroe.
Ole Miss likely does not possess that ability up front, unless it turns out Alabama’s offensive line is bad. Given the Tide offense ran for 203 yards (4.8 yards/carry) against South Florida, without being able to throw, that group is probably fine.
My concern is a Jalen Milroe, with a solid to good running game (that he’s a part of), also getting deep shots against solo coverage, which he can hit. We shall see how it plays out, but I would not count on a Jalen Milroe from the Texas game.
Response to an environment that will be mildly excited
The real test will come when the ol’ proverbial shit hits the fan for the first time in the game. And then when it happens again two or three more times.
How does this team respond? Collapse? Some pushback? THROWING HAYMAKERS WITH NO REGARD FOR WHAT HAPPENS?
Who is making Alabama’s defensive calls (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)?
To paraphrase Jay-Z speaking to Rick Rubin, “You crazy for this one, Lane.”
Lane Kiffin says the Alabama-USF film looks like Tide corners coach Travaris Robinson -- not DC Kevin Steele -- was calling plays.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) September 19, 2023
Nick Saban says it's Steele. Kiffin says he saw what he saw and everyone knows everyone.
This game is going to be wild.https://t.co/MEd4bciiTI pic.twitter.com/ORIFGVGcHF