Sept 8, 2012; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels fans cheer their team on during the game against the UTEP Miners at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
After Saturday’s 28-10 win over UTEP, I texted a friend and fellow Rebel of mine, “Did you miss Jeff Scott as much as I did?” The Junior, who sat out the opener against Central Arkansas, exploded for 111 yards on just 12 carries, lifting an offense that saw anemic play from the backs in Week 1. That is not to take anything away from the rest of the offense as the Rebels looked in synch against an underrated Miner defense.
Quarterback: Bo Wallace was an under-the-radar prospect who was viewed as a sleeper when he committed to the Rebels in January. Well, wake up, because Wallace has begun establishing himself as a playmaker. After accumulating 346 yards of offense, including three scores, he did not disappoint in Week 2. He was 15-22 for 174 yards and three touchdowns through the air and ran the ball 11 times for 56 yards and another touchdown. The stats are not as impressive as the opener, but with Scott back, he was not required to do as much. Another plus is the fact that he did not commit a turnover after throwing an interception and fumbling at the goal line last week. A playmaking signal-caller who limits turnovers is an invaluable asset in this league.
Running Backs: After rushing for just 99 yards, the Ole Miss backs rushed for 270 yards against UTEP, good for an 8.7 YPC average. Aside from a one-yard-loss by Randall Mackey, the Rebels did not have a running back stopped in the backfield. The misdirection used by Hugh Freeze worked perfectly and received immense praise from UTEP head coach Mike Price as being tougher to stop than Oklahoma. Mackey rushed for 66, Korvic Neat (technically a receiver) rushed once for 39 yards, freshmen I’tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton eah rushed for 26 yards, and Nic Parker added two yards. Walton and H.R. Greer added two receiving touchdowns, a 51-yard jaunt for Walton and a 3-yard score for Greer. The running game was a picturesque scene for a team that needs to establish a balanced attack to compete in this league. The Rebels would have received an A here if it were not for fumbles by Mackey and Neat.
Tight Ends/Receivers: Unlike last week, the tight ends were virtually nonexistent in the passing game. Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen combined for zero catches and were targeted just once. Their contributions were seen on the ground though as both held their blocks well on the outside. Donte Moncrief added another long touchdown catch and totaled 72 yards on three catches in the game. Ja-Mes Logan rebounded to lead the team in receptions with five. UTEP got beat deep a couple of times, but contained the short passes very well all game long. The Rebels got 138 of their 208 yards passing on just three plays, leaving the other 15 completions good for just 70 yards. A looming question remains, where is Vincent Sanders?
Offensive Line: Week 2 saw a much improved game out of the offensive line. Pierce Burton continued to play well at the right guard spot and Aaron Morris received praise from the coaches for his performance at left guard. Wallace appeared to have a lot more time in the pocket and was sacked just once. Evan Swindall played well at center as he remains the veteran leader of the unit. With Texas coming to visit this weekend, the line will have to continue to improve week-to-week.
The Rebels gained 27 less yards and score 21 less points than a week ago, but looked more in synch this week than they did against UCA. Rhythm is so important for a spread offense and as time goes on, that should only get better. An offense that appeared to lack firepower in the offseason has looked comfortable so far this season. They may not be Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin, but Wallace-Scott-Moncrief is a trio that should bring a lot of “Wows” to the Vaught this fall.