The Ole Miss offense may be more potent than it’s ever been…and other thoughts

The Sunday after a season-opening win is a beautiful day indeed. At 1-0, Ole Miss is undefeated and anything feels possible. I hope you’ve enjoyed soaking in that feeling as much as I have.

A few takeaways from Ole Miss’s 47-27 victory over Texas Tech:

  1. The Ole Miss offense is more potent than ever thanks to Scottie Phillips. To quote a comment I saw on Twitter, Phillips can “juke and scoot.” Or as Matt Luke says it, “He has short, quick bursts, but he also has the breakaway speed that he can finish it when he breaks the line.” This was just the first game of the season. If he stays healthy, Phillips could get even better as he gets more familiar with his offensive line and the offense. With his kind of play-making ability in the backfield, the Rebels should be really hard to stop.
  2. Despite what I said above, the Rebels were easy to stop in the 2nd quarter, with two drives ending in field goals and two punts. One of the drives was stopped because of penalties. Of note, Phillips had just one touch in the 2nd quarter (a 15-yard run), with the other two or three carries going to Isaiah Woullard, who went almost nowhere. As great as Ta’amu is, and he is really good, he seems to have problems if his first or second read isn’t open. In fairness, that’s a problem for a lot of quarterbacks, but if Ta’amu wants to take his game to the next level, it’s something he needs to work on.
  3. Ta’amu’s strength is his long ball. He puts it right on the money.

Ta’amu has the sweetest, most accurate touch out there on the homerun passes. It makes me wonder why he doesn’t try it one or two more times a game. With the NFL talent he has on the other end of his passes, it seems like a few more shots down the field are in order. That said, Ta’amu threw ZERO interceptions on Saturday, so I probably shouldn’t complain about his risk taking.

4. I’m scared to buy in to the defense yet. For one, Texas Tech gained a lot of yards with a true freshman, back-up quarterback, and I’m worried the Red Raiders just aren’t very good. BUT, there were flashes that at least give me hope. Late in the game I saw a good push from the defensive line, and the defensive backs were offering tight coverage that included some great pass breakups. Seemed like an improvement, but I’m not going to get over excited until I see more proof. To be continued.

5. I’m really glad Southern Illinois is next. I want to see everybody get better AND stay healthy over the next two weeks. The Salukis should give the Rebels a chance to do both.

6. One thing that has to happen against the Salukis is that Ole Miss simply must develop a backup running back. Woullard rushed for 2 yards on 4 carries. Freshman Tylan Knight had one carry for -1 yards. If anything, God forbid, were to happen Phillips, Ole Miss would be in trouble. As good as Ta’amu is, he still needs a dependable running back. I know Swinney will be back in a couple more weeks, but it would still be good to have another guy, especially considering Swinney’s history of battling injuries.

7. Back to Ta’amu. I love the way he distributes the football.

Lodge: 6 receptions, 96 yds
Brown: 7 receptions, 93 yds, TD
Metcalf: 4 receptions, 81 yds, TD
Sanders: 4 receptions, 60 yds

Defensive backs take note. Overload your coverage on any one of these guys and the next one will burn you. I love it!

8. The kicking game was solid. Luke Logan was money, kicking four field goals, one from 39 yards.

9. During the summer, Ole Miss promoted its offense with a poster that I absolutely loved. It said, “In your endzone in 99 seconds,” touting the nation’s fastest scoring offense. Ta’amu’s TD pass to DK Metcalf on the second play of the game showed that it really can happen at anytime from anywhere on the field. Slow, methodical drives aren’t this team’s bag, and I am okay with that. Ole Miss can hit you for six from anywhere on the field and that adds an extra layer of excitement to every single snap because there’s a real chance lightning could strike each and every time. To me, that’s fun football.

10. I am really glad Football is back. This is my favorite time of year!

11. Shea Patterson made a bad business decision, and that was so apparent on Saturday. Jim Harbaugh and seemingly all the national talking sports heads bought the Patterson hype, but having watched him, we knew better. Similarly, Patterson bought the hype that Harbaugh is a great coach. Those two were made for each other, and yes, I did enjoy watching Notre Dame – Michigan more than I ever have before. Go figure.

Watching Ta’amu and Patterson play on the same day reinforced what I already thought, Harbaugh should have taken Ta’amu to IHOP. Boy am I glad he didn’t.

Go Scottie, Go!

Scottie Phillips rushed for 204 yards as Ole Miss beat Texas Tech 47-27 behind a high-powered offense and a defense that showed toughness when it counted.

How can you not be super-impressed with Scottie Phillips?

He’s the first Ole Miss running back to gain more than 200 yards in a game since Brandon Bolden.

And what’s really awesome is that this offense is only going to get better.

Ole Miss is 1-0, and gets a home game against Southern Illinois to straighten out the kinks before taking on Alabama.

There weren’t a ton.

Jordan Ta’amu is still awesome. The Throwin’ Samoan was 22 of 32 for 336 yards and two touchdowns with exactly zero interceptions. He threw some absolute dimes.

NWO was awesome, too.

Lodge, Metcalf and Brown made some beautiful catches, and Braylon Sanders added himself to NWO’s legend with a jaw-dropping tight-rope of a catch.

I really loved what I saw from this offense.

Yes, it disappeared in the 2nd quarter, and yes, it was disappointing in the red zone, but there is so much potential with this unit. Records will fall this season, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

The defense was porous (Texas Tech gained 486 yards), as we all pretty much expected, but it tightened up when it counted. Admittedly, the defense also benefited from an injury to Tech’s starting quarterback early in the 1st quarter. But the defensive line had a good rush going for much of the 2nd half, and the defensive backs were on Tech’s receivers like glue. I see potential with these guys.

Ole Miss is 1-0!

Let’s bask in the glow of Scottie Phillips a little longer…

Not Longo’s 1st Rodeo

Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo coached Sam Houston State’s offense against Texas Tech two years ago, and let’s just say that gaining yards and scoring points were not a problem for Longo’s unit. Sam Houston State gained more than 600 yards and scored 45 points before eventually losing to Tech. LINK

Sizing up Ole Miss vs Texas Tech

While Texas Tech and Ole Miss look like a pretty even match-up, both teams enter the game with soft spots. Which of those spots is the softest will probably be the determining factor in the game.

Let’s start with Tech’s.

While the Red Raiders are known for an “Air Raid” offense, Kliff Kingsbury’s team enters this season without an experienced quarterback and trying to replace four wide receivers that are now in the NFL.

Three quarterbacks have been competing for the starting job, and Kingsbury says he won’t name the starter until that guy actually takes the field against Ole Miss on Saturday.

Inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver should create an opportunity for the Ole Miss defense, but it could also spell its demise. More on that later.

Thanks to a prolific offense, the Rebels probably won’t need a complete shutout thanks to an offense that averaged nearly 33 points per game last year, but the defense will need to make some stops.

Which brings us to the Ole Miss soft spot…defense.

While optimism for this unit has been pumping out of Oxford throughout August, one of the inescapable facts that has been sad but true about the Ole Miss defense the last two seasons is its tendency to make an otherwise average or below average offense look really good. The easiest path to Offensive Player of the Week in the SEC has been to play offense for a team that faced Ole Miss that week. Those are just facts.

You can bet that Kingsbury is going to want his new QB to hand the ball off early and often until Ole Miss proves it can stop it. Until I see it happen with my own eyeballs, I’m worried.

If the Rebels have improved defensively, they should be able to slow an Air Raid offense filled with a bunch of newbies at quarterback and wide receiver. If Ole Miss hasn’t improved…expect either the quarterback of the running back to be named the Big 12’s Player of the Week early next week.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss will face a Texas Tech defense that returns 10 starters from a year ago, and in a strange turn of events, has gotten most of the preseason pub out in Lubbock. That means new Ole Miss running back Scottie Phillips will get his first collegiate carries against linebackers that actually know how to fill gaps, which could be troublesome for the Rebel offense if it struggles to find rhythm early.

On the flip side, Texas Tech did give up 443 yards per game last season, including 161 yards rushing and 282 yards receiving. Those aren’t exactly defensive juggernaut numbers. Jordan Ta’amu and NWO should be able to experience success.

It should come as no surprise to anyone when I write that this game will likely come down to the Ole Miss defense. Will it be improved from a year ago? If not, Ta’amu and NWO may not be enough to save it.

Our School. Our Story. Our Season.

The dawn of another Ole Miss Football season is upon us.

For more than a century, people from far and wide have gathered heart and soul around a proud program that’s given us legends like Charlie Conerly, Johnny Vaught, Archie Manning and his son, Eli, Patrick Willis, Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell, to name only a few of the great Rebels to have made their way through that vaunted Grove, between the throngs gathered around that Walk of Champions and into the cathedral we call Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

And now a new group of legends is waiting in the wings. Perhaps one of the best wide receiver trios to ever grace the same playing field, complete with large quantities of bravado along with the size and skill to back it up. Their names are Brown, Metcalf, an Ole Miss legacy in his own right, and Lodge, but we call them NWO, which stands for Nasty Wide Outs, and if you’ve ever seen them play you know the name fits. They’re nasty alright. Nasty good.

Behind a bruising offensive line stacked with experience will be a quarterback who took the unlikeliest of paths from Hawaii to a small junior college out west before finally being offered the chance to back up the then-heralded Shea Patterson. They were polar opposites. Patterson was the pedigreed 5-star and Jordan Ta’amu the unheard of juco player there to back him up. The roles were clearly defined. It seemed unlikely that Ta’amu would ever see the field unless Patterson just needed a breather.

Fortunately, no one told Ta’amu that.

When Patterson went down against LSU, Ta’amu was as ready as a surfer waiting for that perfect wave. And now half a season, and an Egg Bowl victory later, the privilege of captaining the Ole Miss offense belongs to him. Patterson is an afterthought. This is Ta’amu’s team now, and the Hawaiian is primed to leave his mark as one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear the red and blue. With NWO as his targets, anything is possible. Now that’s a good story.

This could be the best offense Ole Miss fans have ever seen. In fact, it has the potential to be the best offense a lot of other fans have ever seen, too.

This team might win more than its share of games, too. When you have an offense that’s good enough to cause problems for anybody on the schedule it’s okay to be optimistic.

Sure there are questions.

The Ole Miss defense is full of them. Questions that can only be answered after the whistle blows. But there is hope. Especially this side of September.

This could be a special season.

And not one time while I was writing these thoughts did I mention the words NCAA or bowl ban. Do you know why?

Because we don’t give a damn. We’re Rebels after all. This is our school. It’s our season. It’s our chance to cheer and hope and angst and fret. These are our boys. All of them. No matter where they’re from – Hawaii, Starkville, New York or California. They’re all Rebels now, and in that red and blue they’re bonded to us forever.

Just like their head coach. One of the grittiest centers to ever play for the Rebels, like Manning and Metcalf, Matt Luke is another living legacy out there trying to do great things for his school, taking a proud family history and crowning it with a turn as the head coach at the school he’s loved since he was a little boy.

So,  yeah, NCAA. You can kiss our derrieres. This is our story. It’s our year and it’s our time. Our time to enjoy Ole Miss Football with our fathers, sons, moms, wives and daughters, not to mention friends from long ago and the guy wearing an Ole Miss cap that just happens to be sitting next to us at the bar. Our time to watch a new chapter of the great storybook that is Ole Miss Football unfold.

Are we ready?

Hell yeah we are.

We’re Ole Miss by damn.

Rebel Report (Aug 24)

We’re basically just one week away (8 days to be precise) from watching Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech. That means we’re just a couple days removed from game week and doing the things that football fans, myself included, love to do…talking about actual games. Oh football, how I have missed thee.

THE COLLEGE CORNER STORE HAS A GREAT SELECTION OF OLE MISS HATS

MATT LUKE LOSES HIS VOICE
An inside look at Ole Miss practice.

LOOK OUT FOR TA’AMU
An SEC NETWORK analyst says Jordan Ta’amu might be a high draft pick if he has the kind of season most of us are expecting. You’ll also like what he thinks about wins.

THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2017
Before the 2018 season gets into gear, take a moment to reflect on the highlights of 2017. There’s some fun stuff in here from Red Cup Rebellion.

THANKS, FLOYD ALLEN
College sports have had more than their share of scandal recently, but Floyd Allen is a symbol of what’s still good about the sport.

REFUND PLEASE
Con artist Lamar Adams gave over $100,000 to the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation so he could have the fancy seats at football games. Now a receiver appointed by the Federal Court wants Ole Miss to give the stolen money back.

BENITO’S BACK
Benito Jones is healthy and ready to stop the run. For the Landshark D to be the Landshark D again, Ole Miss needs a big season from this guy.

THURSDAY’S REBEL REPORT
Chad Kelly getting first team snaps | AJ Brown’s Herbies | NWO video preview and more…

 

Rebel Report (Aug 23)

We’re counting down the final days until the season-opener, and yes, the 60-degree temperature in Nashville on Thursday morning only made my football fever stronger…

Get a new Ole Miss Polo in time for gameday

LOOK OUT CASE KEENUM
Chad Kelly is coming for you. Kelly’s ascent in Denver has been the best thing to happen to an otherwise boring August.

RUBIO DIGS IT
United States Senator Mike Rubio liked the video of Ole Miss receiver Floyd Allen getting surprised with a scholarship.

TONY MEETS MIKE, OTHERS
This is the first pic I’ve seen of Tony the Landshark with other mascots from around the SEC.

BROWN’S A BALLER
A.J. Brown made Kirk Herbstreit’s list. Actually, he’s on there twice.

OFFENSIVE PRAISE
The Ole Miss offense likes what it’s seeing from the much-questioned Ole Miss defense in practice. Let’s hope that translates to gameday.

ALL-SEC REBS
Ole Miss is well-represented on the coaches preseason ALL-SEC team.

NWO PREVIEW
These guys are so fun to watch.