Multiple players for the Ole Miss football squad had a record-setting day this past Saturday in a lopsided win against the Mercer Bears. The Rebels took care of business entering the contest as the 22nd overall team in the country ultimately winning 73-7.
There are no favors given when you play in the SEC West, often regarded by most college football fans as the toughest division in the toughest conference in all of college football, so when you can schedule a dress rehearsal type of game in the opener, it’s usually a good idea.
That’s essentially what the Mercer Bears were for the Rebels this past weekend, getting rolled to a tune of 73-7. It seemed for a brief moment the Bears may put up a fight after tying the game at seven a piece when quarterback Carter Peevy took a run 75 yards to the house on their first play. However, the Rebels would end up running away with the game from there and ultimately score 66 unanswered points.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the big win this past weekend for Ole Miss:
Jaxson Dart is QB1
If it wasn’t decided already heading into this game, it most certainly is decided now. Jaxson Dart played one of the best games of his career and looked every bit the part of a starting quarterback in the SEC going 18-for-23 for 334 yards and four touchdowns.
Kiffin backed up that sentiment when asked on Monday if Dart would be starting going forward. Kiffin responded that he “Played well and had a really good camp and spring, so, he’s the starting quarterback.” While it was just an opening-week FCS opponent, Dart will get to show what he can do against a tough Tulane team in week two.
Reb’s reload at receiver
After losing their two best targets in the pass game from last year in Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath, who together accounted for 1,832 of their total 3,117 yards in the air, there were some big question marks at the wideout position for Ole Miss football.
This Saturday, those questions seemed to be answered. Last year’s number three option at wide receiver, Jordan Watkins, looks primed to step into a much larger role this year after posting six catches for 111 yards. The surprise of the day came from transfer Tre Harris, who set a record with four touchdowns. Harris also added 133 receiving yards of his own.
We didn’t even get to see top-ranked transfers in wide receiver Zakhari Franklin and tight end Caden Prieskorn who were out this past weekend with injuries. Once both players return to the lineup, expect this offense to be even more deadly through the air.
New DC Golding has Reb’s defense on track
Last year’s defense wasn’t necessarily abysmal for Ole Miss football, but it wasn’t exactly a top-tier SEC-caliber defense. They gave up just over 25 points per game and ranked 57th out of 131 total teams for scoring defense. While not quite at the bottom of the barrel, head coach Lane Kiffin knew that to compete with the top dogs in the SEC the defense would have to improve.
Kiffin brought in Alabama’s defensive coordinator Pete Golding in the offseason to revamp the Rebel’s defense, and they were right on schedule on Saturday afternoon, despite one hiccup.
Mercer scored on their very first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown run by the quarterback up the middle, and following the play, Golding made a promise, that the Bears wouldn’t score again. He kept his promise not allowing another score and only giving up 235 total yards to the Bears.
It’s hard to judge this performance against a heavily outmatched opponent, but Golding will get the chance to show that his defense is ready to compete with the big dogs next week against a strong offensive team in Tulane, who averaged 36 points per game last season.