The Ole Miss Rebels took the field for the second time this season facing FCS opponent, UT Martin, out of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Rebels came in at 1-0 after defeating the South Alabama Jaguars in week one. UT Martin also notched a win in their season opener against Clarion. Here is a recap of the action that took place between the two, Saturday morning.
This was another up and down performance for the Ole Miss offense. The Rebel offense got out to an extremely slow start after seeing the defense give up a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Shea Patterson and company went three and out on their first possession which was followed by an interception on their second drive of the game. On the third drive, however, Patterson hit wide receiver AJ Brown on a 58 yard strike which scored. The second quarter would prove to be much of the same. Ole Miss put up a field goal and one more touchdown before the end of the half.
At halftime, the Rebels only led UT Martin 17-16. Keep in mind Ole Miss beat the Skyhawks 76-3 when they played in 2015. The first half was sloppy and was completely lacking in energy and execution on the part of the Rebels. When halftime was over, it seemed a completely different team hit the field. Ole Miss possessed the ball three times in the third quarter and reached the end zone all three times and took a 38-16 lead into the fourth quarter. The Rebels sealed the 45-23 win in the fourth.
Patterson had another stellar day throwing the ball around. Last week we saw Brown break the single game receiving record. This week Patterson broke the single game passing record after 32 of 43 for 489 yards and five touchdowns. The leading receiver for Ole Miss were Brown (eight catches for 156 yards) and Demarkus Lodge (six catches for 133 yards). Brown hauled in two catches for touchdowns while Lodge, Jordan Wilkins, and DK Metcalf all had a receiving touchdown individually.
The running game was absent yet again for the Rebels. Ole Miss ran the ball a mere 18 times for 54 yards and averaged three yards per carry. While the Rebels have definitely had their issues in the run game, rushing the ball 18 times makes it impossible to develop any sort of consistency on the ground. The leading rusher for Ole Miss was Wilkins (nine carries for 36 yards and a touchdown).
The Rebels came into this week hoping to improve on what was a sloppy game against South Alabama. Unfortunately, this would not be the case. If anything, Ole Miss looked worse against an opponent that was even weaker than South Alabama.
The Rebels gave up a touchdown on the first drive of the game. It was a seven play drive for the Skyhawks which consisted of six run plays. After an interception, UT Martin got the ball back in Ole Miss territory and scored a field goal and put the Skyhawks up 9-0 (the PAT after the first touchdwon was missed). UT Martin scored another touchdown before the half on a drive that included a 59 yard run.
The Rebels seemed to shore things up somewhat in the second half . Ole Miss gave up 219 yards on the ground and UT Martin average five yards per carry. Those are embarrassing statistics for a defense that lead the nation in scoring defense just three years ago. While there weren’t very many plays being made defensively, the key contributors for the Rebels were Demarquis Gates (nine tackles), Marquis Haynes (seven tackles), Victor Evans (seven tackles and 2.5 TFL’s), and AJ Moore (seven tackles and two TFL’s). Javien Hamilton, a JUCO transfer from Jones County Junior College, logged an interception which was the first turnover of the season for the Ole Miss defense.
This was a below average day for Ole Miss special teams. There weren’t any big plays in the return game and Gary Wunderlich continued to struggle with place kicking
Wunderlich went one out of two in field goal attempts. He hit a 21 yarder in shortly before halftime and missed from 37 yards out at the beginning of the second quarter. He did hit all of his PAT attempts after missing one against South Alabama.
Ole Miss punted twice. The starting punter, Will Gleeson, punted once for 44 yards. Mac Brown also saw his first action of the season and punted once which resulted in a nice 54 yard kick.
In the return game, Brown returned two punts for a total of one yard. At kick return, Jaylon Jones logged two returns and averaged a decent 27 yards per return. Runningback DK Buford also had a 16 yard kick return. While there were no huge returns, there were also no big hits or turnovers in the return game that would have swung momentum in the favor of the opponent which is always a plus.
While Ole Miss seemed to come out with a different attitude in the second half, Saturday was not a good day for the Rebels. The Ole Miss defense continued to give up huge numbers in the run game, only this time it was against an FCS opponent. It should make Ole Miss fans scared to think of what it might be like when they face the rushing attacks of teams like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, or Mississippi State. Tackling simply has to be better. The Rebel offense has been explosive in the passing game but still completely lacks a legitimate rushing attack. The coaches desperately need to call more designed running plays if they want to win games in the SEC. Ole Miss will travel to Berkeley, California this weekend to take on the Cal Bears. This will be the first real test for interim head coach Matt Luke.