Grading the Rebels: Ole Miss runs past New Mexico State
Ole Miss entered Saturday’s game against New Mexico State with the goal of scoring a lot of points. That came with good reason, as the Aggies have given up a ton this season. The Rebels (4-6, 2-4 SEC) exorcised a few demons by beating the winless Aggies 41-3 in Oxford.
New Mexico State (0-9) came into the season with mainly lopsided defeats, with the closest coming to New Mexico, 55-52. It is one of the worst teams, statistically, in the country.
In rushing defense alone, the Aggies are 129th out of 130 teams. It was a great day for Ole Miss to pad its numbers.
By the final whistle, Ole Miss was able to play a number of players and get ready for the LSU Tigers and their purple-and-gold fanbase invading Oxford next week.
Anytime you score 41 points, it’s a good day. Ole Miss was led by quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who finished 11-of-17 for 124 yards. He was even better on the ground, running for 177 yards on 12 carries and 2 touchdowns.
The Aggies had no answer for the Rebels’ offensive attack, with Ole Miss accounting for 606 yards, 447 on the ground.
The SEC’s leading rushing team saw its quarterback lead the way on the ground again. Snoop Conner finished with 109 yards on 13 carries and 2 touchdowns, and fellow freshman Jerrion Ealy rushed for 71 yards and a score.
A sore spot all season has been the receiving corps. Saturday, it wasn’t much better. Elijah Moore led the way again with 3 catches for 37 yards. Freshman Jaden Jackson was the only other receiver to record more than 1 catch, finishing with 2.
To be fair, when you rush for as many yards as Ole Miss did, the passing game is not important. For the final two games of the season against LSU and Mississippi State, the Rebels will have to find production somewhere.
Plumlee threw the ball better, and Ole Miss actually utilized the middle of the field when Octavious Cooley hauled in a 21-yard catch in the first half. It was one of the few times all season that the Rebels have thrown the ball down the middle of the field.
Ole Miss held the Aggies to 3 points and NMSU’s leading rusher, Jason Huntley, to only 45 yards. The Aggies were able to muster only 66 yards on the ground and 127 through the air. The Rebels have improved in every aspect of the game on the defensive side. They are 35th in the country in rushing defense, a far cry from the team that finished last season at 113th.
Keidron Smith, Jacquez Jones and Lakia Henry had 7 tackles each to lead the Rebels.
Special teams: A
Anytime you don’t have to punt even once, you can call it a big win. Luke Logan connected on field goals of 36 and 28 yards. Logan also was perfect on 4 PATs, with Isaac Way kicking the final PAT.
The Rebels will welcome the top-ranked LSU Tigers, fresh off one of its biggest wins in program history under head coach Ed Orgeron. While the Tigers will have their eyes on a national championship, Ole Miss will be looking to get to the postseason any way it can. It will be the teams’ fourth meeting with Orgeron as the Tigers’ head coach, with LSU leading 4-0. The former Ole Miss head coach is 34-9 in his tenure at LSU and has four wins over top-10 teams this season.
Ole Miss’ chances against the Tigers are slim. Its best chance will be in the Egg Bowl to close out the regular season in Starkville. There is an opportunity for a bowl game should the Rebels finish 5-7, due to the team’s high APR and its success in the classroom.
“Fun to be in the winning locker room. A lot of young guys were able to get a few snaps. Did a good job in the second half of getting off the field on third down.” — Head coach Matt Luke
“We didn’t punt in the first half, so everything was going well with John Rhys Plumlee at quarterback. Matt (Corral) has been a great teammate this season, and I was happy to see him get in the game in the second half.” — Luke
“Today was different because of how much we ran the ball, but we have two starting quarterbacks and we will need Matt going forward.” — Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez