Every week, I grade the performances of the different units of our offense and defense. This week, as you can imagine, will not yield a good report card for the Ole Miss defense. I am not just talking about bad grades, I am talking about Houston Nutt regime grades. Too soon? Well, the defense gave up 676 yards of offense in the 66-31 defeat. It is hard to win football games when your defense is allowing the opponent to score like a Paul Westhead offense.
Defensive Line: CJ Johnson played well laterally on Saturday, recording eight tackles. The problem was, Texas keyed in on him on the rush, preventing him from delivering any real pressure on the quarterback. Quarterback David Ash had a relaxing night, as he never had any real threat to him in the backfield. Channing Ward was the only lineman who recorded a tackle for loss, assisting Cody Prewitt on a three yard loss. A team that was second in the NCAA in sacks with nine, did not even sniff a sack on the night. On the plus side, maybe Robert Nkemdiche saw how much he could contribute to this unit as a freshman next year.
Linebackers: The tale of the tape of the linebackers was the inability to bring down Malcolm Brown and giving up a lot of open space to the receivers over the middle. It seemed as much of Dave Wommack’s fault as it was the players. Serderius Bryant, Denzel Nkemdiche, and Joel Kight appeared frantic trying to cover ground on the outside and were typically not in position on passing plays. Mike Marry was second on the team with eight tackles, but fell victim to Brown’s brute force on a few occasions. This unit would receive a worse grade if it were not for an outmatched defensive game plan by Wommack and the supreme talent of Brown.
Secondary: Ash was 19-23 for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Some of the blame has to fall on the front six for not putting pressure on the quarterback, but the coverage was nonexistent. Marquise Goodwin caught two passes for 102 yards and a touchdown and blew by the secondary on a 69 yard score. Mike Davis caught five balls for 124 yards and a touchdown to lead the Longhorns. Jaxon Shipley was held in relative check, only catching three passes for 35 yards. Charles Sawyer led the Rebels with 12 tackles, partly because he was tackling the receiver who blew past the corners. Sawyer is a good tackler, but a little uncomfortable on run sets. Hugh Freeze announced at his press conference that Sawyer will switch to cornerback, something that will greatly improve the unit. Cliff Coleman had a good game in his first start as he recorded eight tackles and two breakups. It is plain and simple, the secondary will need to improve, as Ole Miss is currently 100th in the FBS in passing defense.
Ole Miss did not record a sack, a fumble, or an interception. The defense allowed 350 rushing yards, 326 passing yards, 66 points, and a 7-12 3rd down conversion rate. Mack Brown is a class act, and that stings. With under a minute to go, Texas was inside the 10 and elected to take a knee on 4th down, showing mercy to the depleted home team. I am aware that I have promised to paint Ole Miss in a fair, optimistic light, but my pride and temperament would not allow me to do so. There is no reason to hang your heads Rebel fans as there is a stream of light stemming out of this darkness: Tulane. Ole Miss goes from playing the #26 offense in the country to playing the team who is last in the NCAA in total offense.
Topics: Channing Ward, Charles Sawyer, Cj Johnson, Cliff Coleman, Dave Wommack, David Ash, Denzel Nkemdiche, Jaxon Shipley, Joel Kight, Malcolm Brown, Marquise Goodwin, Ole Miss Football, Robert Nkemcihe, Serderius Bryant, Texas Football