clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What we know, kinda know, and don’t know: Road trip szn

Evaluating things before our sons head to New Orleans this weekend.

NCAA Football: Mercer at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

While there were several goals for Ole Miss in last Saturday’s game against Mercer, the main one was to ensure the visitors did not have a real good time in Oxford.

That box was checked with about five minutes left in the first quarter when Ole Miss took a 28-7 lead and looked like a team ready to name its score. Granted, it was Mercer, but thrashing teams you should thrash is always a positive.

Now Ole Miss’ attention turns to the first road trip of 2023, as they head to New Orleans to face Tulane. More specifically, defending Cotton Bowl champions Tulane.

The game will mark Ole Miss’ first visit to Yulman Stadium, and the first time the Rebels have played Tulane in New Orleans since 2012. Ole Miss won* 39-0, but you may recall it was the game in which Dr. Bo injured his throwing shoulder, which was an injury that continued to bother him.

*Accord to the Indianapolis mall cops, Ole Miss didn’t win this game but vacated it. So erase whatever memories you have of the win.

Let us hope for a similar scoreboard result (CASH THOSE OLE MISS -6 TICKETS), and a scenario free of significant injuries. Now, we turn our attention what we saw and processed over the weekend.

What We Know

Throwing up an ol’ 73 on the scoreboard

Saturday was the first time in the Lane Kiffin era that his team cracked the 70-point barrier. It was also the first time the football program scored 70 or more since a 76-41* win in 2018 over Southern Illinois.

*Southern Illinois also had 629 yards of offense. EYE DISCIPLINE ISSUES.

In 2015, Ole Miss scored 76 against UT Martin and 73 versus Fresno State in consecutive weeks. Is averaging 74.5 points a game after two weeks good?

That got me curious about point barriers Ole Miss teams broke, starting with David Cutcliffe’s teams. Let’s go to the big board!

David Cutliffe (73 games)

  • 40 points - 15* times
  • 50 points - 4*
  • 60 points - 0
  • 70 points - 0

*One of these was the infamous 7 overtime game against Arkansas of which we will not speak, other than to note it was 17-17 at the end of regulation.

Ed Orgeron (35 games)

  • Lol

Houston Nutt (50 games; FIFTY; FIFTY)

  • 40 points - 12
  • 50 points - 3
  • 60 points - 0
  • 70 points - 0

Hugh Freeze (64 games)

  • 40 points - 18
  • 50 points - 7
  • 60 points - 2
  • 70 points - 2

Matt Luke (36 games)

  • 40 points - 9
  • 50 points - 3
  • 60 points - 1
  • 70 points - 1

Lane Kiffin (37 games)

  • 40 points - 14
  • 50 points - 8
  • 60 points - 2
  • 70 points - 1

Kiffin checks in with 37.8 percent of games (about 4.5 per season) where his team scores 40 or more. Freeze is closest to him at 28 percent, with everyone else falling in behind him.

The point being, we are in the midst of watching the highest scoring Ole Miss team in most of our lifetimes. As always, RUN IT UP.

Tre Harris is on pace for 48 touchdown receptions in the regular season

Let’s be real though, 48 in a season is a dramatic tail off from his initial pace. With 11:45 to go in the first quarter, Harris had three touchdown catches, which put him schedule for roughly 2.1 bazillion touchdowns.

Now 48 doesn’t seem so great, does it? Smh.

We’ll see what Harris does as the competition gets exponentially more difficult, but he looked the part of a number one receiver, both with his size and results.

Jaxson Dart starting QB

Earlier this week, Kiffin told the assembled media masses Dart was the starting quarterback against Tulane. While he probably meant Dart was the starter until he has reason not to start him, you never know what he’s cooking up.

Again, [gestures at the YEAH BUT MERCER points], but Dart looked decisive and confident as he sliced them apart. In 35 minutes and 15 seconds of game time, he had 334 yards passing and four touchdowns .

Of note, he averaged 14.5 yards per attempt, which is the explosive play model it would be fun to have all season.

What We Kinda Know

Defense righting the ship on the fly

On Mercer’s first play from scrimmage and the first time a Pete Golding defense took the field, the result was a 75-yard touchdown run from the quarterback.

[brief aside]


The flexibility of #WAOM never ceases to amaze.

[back to regular programming]

The good news is the defense spent the next 36 carries giving up 18 yards, and in the final 67 plays, they gave up 160 total yards. Throw in holding Mercer to 4 of 16 on 3rd/4th down, and they stopped any additional nonsense.

As previously noted, it’s Mercer, but they were able to instantly correct a mistake and dominate. We’ll learn more this weekend, but they showed the possibility of fixing leaks immediately.

Explosive passing game back?

As we discussed coming into the season, one of Ole Miss’ issues last year was the lack of a consistent explosive and vertical passing attack. If you watched the Mercer game, you heard the announcers say offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. wants at least 12 explosive plays a game.

He defines explosive plays as a run of 12 or more yards and a reception of 16 or more yards. Well, on Saturday, 9 players caught a pass of 18 or more yards. Even better, 7 players caught a pass of 20 or more yards.

Compare that to last year’s game against FCS Central Arkansas where 5 players caught a pass of 16 or more yards, and 3 players caught a pass of 20 or more yards. Obviously, it’s very early, but the aggressiveness in the passing game was on display.

Cedric Johnson dabbling in coverage

A couple of weeks ago, I did a non-Olympic-caliber dive into Pete Golding’s Cover 7 defense, which primarily focused on coverages. Even though I rarely value my time, I didn’t have the will or the actual time to go into other looks.

One look we saw on Saturday was Cedric Johnson, who is arguably Ole Miss’ best pass rusher, lining up as an outside linebacker in 3-4. There are three defensive linemen between the offensive tackles, Isaac Ukwu is a defensive end playing the other outside linebacker over the tight end, two interior linebackers in the middle of the formation, and Johnson to their right.

I noticed this on several possessions so it wasn’t a one-off experiment. We’ll find out if it remains a thing we see all season, but there are indications Johnson will be asked to do more than rush the passer.

Tight end situation

With Caden Prieskorn out until potentially the Alabama game and Hudson Wolfe* out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, things here are now a little thin and unclear. Kyirin Heath got the start on Saturday and seems likely to do the same against Tulane.

Michael Trigg, who did not play in the first half against Mercer, almost certainly has to play more snaps even if he has not fulfilled his repentance for dumb things. There’s also the possibility he has done so and could take the majority of snaps over Heath.

Obviously, it’s something to monitor this Saturday.

*Hard to express how much this sucks for him, not just as a player but as a person. Experiences the fallout from a back injury that could end his playing career, but he perseveres and works his way back to be able to play again. That has to be mentally devastating. Let us hope we see him again as soon as possible.

Kiffin without his call sheet?

I’ve said in this space repeatedly that Kiffin calls the plays and Charlie Weis Jr. is his right-hand man. Kiffin called plays for USC, the Raiders, Tennessee, Alabama, and FAU, so he didn’t get to Ole Miss and turn everything over to Jeff Lebby* and then Weis Jr.

*One reason, among several (!), that Lebby left.

If you watch Kiffin on the sideline when Ole Miss has the ball, he always has his call sheet at the ready, usually covering his mouth as he’s speaking into the headset. On Saturday, that wasn’t the case for a chunk of the second half.

In fact, he didn’t even have his call sheet with him. Here he is in the third quarter, after talking with Golding, looking up at the coordinator’s booth and joking with Golding and Weis Jr. about running the ball instead of passing.

Unrelated, Kiffin could be an elite Pictionary player.

This could be a situation where he got to halftime and did the blackjack dealer goodbye hand signals, saying my work is done, and turned things over to Weis or a committee. But it was a departure from his sideline routine.

What We Don’t Know

What does everything look like against better competition?

Obviously, Ole Miss has more talent than Tulane, and if they play like they should, they’ll win (GREAT TEAMS COVER THOUGH). But will a win be relatively easy or will it involve anxiety and unnecessary back and armpit sweat for us fans?

Of note, if they turn in a butt performance, Tulane will have every opportunity to win because the Green Wave can play.

Is Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt related to Spencer Pratt?

The Tulane Pratt is from Boca Raton, Florida (DID HE LIVE NEAR LANE KIFFIN?), while the MTV reality show Pratt (The Hills is/was excellent television) was born in Los Angeles and grew up there.

It seems unlikely, but if Michael Pratt is super into crystals and giving his closest friends insane ultimatums and deranged speeches about loyalty, we may need a more detailed investigation.