Grading the Rebels: What worked, what didn't in Week 1 loss to Memphis
The opening game of the 2019 Ole Miss regular season didn’t go the way head coach Matt Luke would have liked. The third-year coach, flanked by two new coordinators on both sides of the ball, were beaten in every facet of the game by the Memphis Tigers in a disheartening 15-10 loss.
The scoreboard might have shown this as a 5-point win for the Tigers, but it was never that close. Memphis led 13-0 at halftime, a lead they would never relinquish.
The only offense the Rebels could muster all day thanks to running back Scottie Phillips. The senior rushed for 62 yards and had the lone touchdown on the day.
With Memphis leading 13-10 with 6:32 to go in the game, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was sacked in the end zone, along with the hopes of a comeback for the Rebels.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed. We really struggled offensively in the first half,” Luke said.
Here are our grades for the Rebels’ Week 1 loss to Memphis:
Statistically, Ole Miss was one of the worst defenses in the country last season under Wesley McGriff. Against Memphis on Saturday, Ole Miss was infinitely better by only allowing one touchdown and keeping the Rebels in the game all day.
Three Rebels — defensive lineman Josiah Coatney, linebacker Lakia Henry and defensive back Keidron Smith — led the team in tackles with 7 . At one point in the first quarter, Ole Miss already had played 21 players on defense. The adaptation of the 3-4 defense was a seamless transition and one the defensive players have adjusted to very well under new defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre.
It was a good sign that the Rebels defense forced six Memphis punts. The Rebels were able to get pressure on Tigers quarterback Brady White all day and did a much better job in containing quarterbacks than last season.
The bottom line is the defense played well enough to give the Rebels a chance to win.
The Ole Miss offense made its debut under Rich Rodriguez — but it was a train wreck. The offensive line was manhandled much of the day, freshman quarterback Matt Corral missed several receivers and the running backs mustered only 80 rushing yards on the day.
It was a nightmare.
Heading into the season, everyone felt like the Rebels would continue with its offensive prowess from last season, but the loss of all of the production from the 2018 season was more than anyone thought.
Corral struggled all day, only completing 9 of 19 passes for 93 yards. Those numbers are not good enough to be successful in the SEC — or even in the nonconference part of the schedule, for that matter. As for the wide receiving core, Elijah Moore led a group with a lot of preseason hype. Freshmen Jerrion Ealy and Jonathan Mingo proved they need more time to adjust to the college game.
The good news, it’s the first game of the season and there will be time to make changes and grow up. But it will have to be better in Week 2 because Ole Miss opens SEC play against Arkansas.
Special Teams: C
Ole Miss had the opportunity to chip into the 7-0 Memphis lead, but Luke Logan missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. Logan would later make one from 35 yards out. Also, kicker Casey Griffith had a kickoffs go out of bounds, which just can’t happen at this level.
One of the bright spots was punter Mac Brown, who averaged 46.8 yards per punt and had a solid game.
- “I should have done a better job with some better calls on the last drive to get us out of there and give us a chance to go win the game. Overall, though, I thought we played stout and tough, especially the defensive front.” — Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre.
- “We have a lot of work to do, starting with me. Memphis did some movement and things up front that got us a little in the first half. We could never get in a rhythm, and when you are a tempo team and can’t get in a rhythm, that is not a good formula for success.” — Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.
- “Those young guys, we’ve got to go back and watch the film and we have to grow up in a hurry. We’ve got SEC play starting next week, and we’re going to move forward and get that bad taste out of our mouth.” — Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke.