It was a long day filled with missed opportunities for the Ole Miss defense. Despite holding LSU to fewer passing yards and rushing yards than the Rebels, they allowed the Tigers to convert seven 3rd-downs and a fourth-and-goal rushing touchdown to Spencer Ware. There were some opportunities that the Rebels capitalized on, including a forced fumbled by Mike Hilton at the tail-end of a 30-yard completion as well as a pair of interceptions by Senquez Golson.
The offense played well enough to win this football game, scoring 35 points in Baton Rouge is never something to sneeze at. While the defense had a few good individual performances, the toll of 41 points will rarely yield a victory in this league.
Defensive Line: It is hard to have your best performance when your elite rusher off the edge is out for most of the game. CJ Johnson went down early, giving way to more playing time for Channing Ward and Cameron Whigham. Ward had the best game of his young career, registering four tackles, a performance that garnered praise from Hugh Freeze. Seniors Jason Jones and Uriah Grant played well in their last Magnolia Bowl in Rebel uniforms. Jones had 6 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, while Grant had the lone sack for the visiting team. It’s hard to give a complete grade when the best player in the unit is missing, but the group couldn’t get it all together at once and a lot of assignments were blown.
Linebackers: Mike Marry and Denzel Nkemdiche had thei usual quality production with Marry leading the team with 10 tackles and Nkemdiche right behind him with 9. Marry also recovered the fumble after Hilton’s strip. Both Marry and Nkemdiche registered 0.5 TFL in the game. With Marry’s senior season on the horizon and another year of maturing for Nkemdiche, this combo looks lethal going forward. Ralph Williams had a good breakup in the endzone in his limited playing time. The games out of Keith Lewis and Joel Kight were not ideal, but the linebacking core definitely helped in limiting the Tiger rushing attack to just 145 yards on the ground.
Secondary: Although he has improved in the last few weeks, giving up 282 passing yards to Zach Mettenberger is unacceptable. Trae Elston tied Marry for the lead in tackles with 10, and continued his string of hard hits. Louis Covington got the start at corner and had the best game of his career, despite getting beat on a couple of occasions. Golson recorded two interceptions on the day and looked more comfortable catching the football than he did last season catching a baseball, which is a promising sight going forward. Hilton had the forced fumble and has been making play after play this half of the season, winning more playing time. The disappointment from the group came from usual stars Charles Sawyer and Cody Prewitt. Both players blew assignments with Sawyer having trouble with the ball in the air, allotting a couple of deep passes. Prewitt was quiet all night and never really seemed comfortable or in position. Typical games out of those two would have been critical for the defense and would have garnered a better grade.
There was promise, there were turnovers, and there were career games by multiple players, but there was not a win. A win over LSU in Baton Rouge would have sent shock waves throughout the SEC that maybe Freeze and the Rebels aren’t just a cute story, they’re a threat to the livelihoods of the gators, tigers, and pachyderm. Despite that bowl-eligible win deflating into a loss, the Rebels made a name for themselves. Sunday morning, “#hottytoddy”, “Bo Wallace”, “Rebs”, and “Ole Miss” were trending nationwide on Twitter. That could speak volumes for a team that despite three consecutive losses, does appear to be trending upward.
*I do not give grades to the special teams units nor do I typically dedicate articles to them, but if I did, it would be crass and unjust, so I will refrain.
Topics: Cameron Whigham, Charles Sawyer, Cj Johnson, Cody Prewitt, Denzel Nkemdiche, Hugh Freeze, Jason Jones, Louis Covington, Lsu Football, Mike Marry, Ole Miss Football, Ralph Williams, Senquez Golson, Spencer Ware, Trae Elston, Uriah Grant, Zach Mettenberger