The Ole Miss Rebels hit the road for the first time this season to take on the Cal Bears. After playing very lackadaisical on defense and undisciplined at times on offense during the first two games, the Rebels hoped to get on track this week. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, luck would not be on their side and they suffered their first loss of the season. Here is the recap of Ole Miss vs. Cal.
Offensively, this could very well have been the worst game Ole Miss has played since TCU routed them in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl after the 2014 season. The Rebel offense turned the ball over three times, all of which were interceptions. Ole Miss committed 16 penalties for 113 yards. While not all of the penalties were on the offense, the vast majority of them were.
Shea Patterson threw for 363 yards and two touchdown but also accounted for all three of the Ole Miss turnovers. He was constantly being pressured and was sacked five times. Due to penalties and extremely poor pass protection, Patterson could not establish any rhythm which is essential for an air raid passing attack.
The two leading recievers for Ole Miss, DK Metcalf and Demarkus Lodge, combined for seven catches, 225 yards, and one toucdown a piece. Van Jefferson also caught 10 passes for 94 yards.
Ole Miss continued to struggle running the football. Because sacks count against rushing yards in college football, the stats were a bit skewed, but still unimpressive. The Rebels rushed 29 times for 53 yards. Jordan Wilkins and D’Vaughn Pennamon combined for 16 attempts and 61 yards averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
Wide receiver AJ Brown and center Sean Rawlings were lost early in the game due to injury. The loss of Rawlings seemed to seriously hurt the Rebel offense as snaps and communication were huge problems after his exit.
After putting up two embarassing performances defensively, the Rebels finally put up a respectable effort against a good opponent. Anyone who watched the first two games would tell you that tackling was an issue. That wasn’t a glaring problem for the Rebels against Cal. The defense did give up 399 yards of offense but it is important to note that because of turnovers and penalties, the Rebel offense was constantly putting the defense in tough situations. The defense gave up 20 points as one of Cal’s touchdowns was scored on an interception return. The Rebels played good third down defense (Cal was 8/22 on third down). Ole Miss also forced two turnovers.
While the play of the defense improved, there is still a lot to work on. There was a bust in coverage on Cal’s first drive in the second half which gave up a touchdown. Late in the game Cal did begin to wear down the Rebel defense with their run game. Ole Miss still needs to develop more depth and better discipline on that side of the ball.
DeMarquis Gates led the Rebel defense with 14 tackles while Zedrick Woods and Detric Bing-Dukes both had seven tackles. CJ Moore recorded two interceptions along with nine tackles. The defense as a whole had eight tackles for loss.
Ole Miss had a rough night with place kicking. Gary Wunderlich made one field goal from 21 yards out but that was the highlight of the night for him. Wunderlich injured his left leg on a missed extra point attempt and did not play the rest of the game. Redshirt freshman, Luke Logan, was called upon to handle the place kicking duties. He had one attempt from 48 yards and the kick didn’t come close to scoring.
Punting was the bright spot for the special teams. Will Gleeson punted six times and averaged 43 yards per punt.
Jaylon Jones returned four kickoffs but only averaged 18 yards per return. Javien Hamilton had one nice return for 32 yards.
The Rebels did not return a punt during the game.
Saturday night (and early Sunday morning for most Ole Miss fans) was hard to watch. The Rebel offense, which is usually potent, simply couldn’t accomplish much of anything after the first two quarters. This lead to the Rebels being outscored 20-0 in the second half. Patterson threw three interceptions including one late in the fourth quarter when the Rebels were only down by four points. The offensive line and backs did an awful job in pass protection which resulted in five sacks and disrupted the progression of several other plays. The Rebel defense, ironically, fought hard until the very end and turned in a performance which left coaches a lot to build on going into a bye week. After this bye week, the Rebels will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on September 30th.