Ole Miss Football: Grading Rebels in slog over Southeastern Louisiana
Ole Miss looked for the opportunity to play multiple younger players. But by the end of Saturday’s game, the Rebels were just happy to survive.
Ole Miss (2-1) outlasted the Southeastern Louisiana Lions 40-29. The Lions (1-1), an FCS member, began the season by defeating Jacksonville State 35-14.
The Lions proved they will be a tough out in the Southland Conference under head coach Frank Scelfo, as they exploited the Ole Miss defense all day through the air behind quarterback Chason Virgil.
It was a big day for Ole Miss freshman Jerrion Ealy. The former 5-star running back from Jackson Prep ran for 95 yards on nine carries and was elusive all day. He also returned a kickoff 94 yards in the first half for a score.
More on that kickoff return later.
Ealy eclipsed former Rebel Dexter McCluster to break the school record for single-game all-purpose yards by a freshman with 273.
The Ole Miss running game was rolling all day, as Scottie Phillips had another 100-yard game, rushing for 103 yards on 26 carries. It was his 6th 100-yard rushing performance of his career.
One of the bright spots was third-team running back Snoop Conner. The freshman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, mowed down the Lions defense late in the 4th quarter to cap a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended with Luke Logan’s field goal. That made it a two-score game.
It wasn’t the best day for Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who was hurried quite a bit. The redshirt freshman finished 21 for 30 for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately he fumbled 3 times in costly situations; Southeastern Louisiana recovered two of them and converted them into 10 points.
He cannot be that careless with the football.
The good news for Ole Miss, Corral is a redshirt freshman and will continue to grow. Ball security is one of the most important areas of concern.
One of the burning questions surrounding the defense would be who was going to replace injured middle linebacker MoMo Sanogo. As it stands, the Rebels gave up a whopping 309 yards through the air and must shore up the secondary. Lions QB Chason Virgil lit up the Rebel defensive backfield all day and threw 2 touchdowns. To Ole Miss’ credit, they intercepted the Lions 3 times and forced a fumble.
In the rushing department, Ole Miss leaned heavily on the defensive line, led by Charles Wiley and Ryder Anderson, who grabbed a sack apiece. Free safety Jalen Julius and linebacker Willie Hibbler had 7 tackles each to lead the Rebel defense, which held the Lions to only 66 yards on the ground.
SELA was 4-for-4 in scoring in the red zone against the Rebels defense, a stat that will bother defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. You want a bend-but-don’t-break mentality; this will not be ideal for MacIntyre and the defensive staff.
Special Teams: B
Anytime you return a kickoff for a score, it’s a good day on special teams. For the Rebels, star freshman Jerrion Ealy did just that early in the 2nd quarter.
Mac Brown would have another stellar day punting, averaging 46 yards a kick with a long of 57. Placekicker Luke Logan finished 2-3 in field goals and missed an extra point. Simply put, he must improve.
“I’m happy to get the win. We’ve got a bunch of young guys in that locker room, and I think they learned a very valuable lesson. Nothing in life is ever easy,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
“Fly to the ball, tackle, and, play with some emotion. We certainly weren’t at our best, but give them (Southeastern Louisiana) a lot of credit. They did a heck of a job.” Luke on his team’s missed tackles
“The offensive line did a very good job, getting on their blocks and staying on their track. When they do that, it’s up to me to make the right decision,” Ole Miss freshman RB Jerrion Ealy