The Ole Miss Rebels opened their season with a big non-conference game against Texas Tech, and they played very well, coming away with a decisive 47-27 win over the Red Raiders.

So how did they look? Here are five things I liked and three things I didn’t like in the Rebels week 1 performance.

What I liked

1. Scottie Phillips is ridiculous

Coming into 2018, the primary question on offense was whether Ole Miss could run the ball after losing Jordan Wilkins to the NFL. Well, put that question to bed, because Scottie Phillips looked outstanding. He finished with 204 yards on 16 carries, becoming the first 200-yard rusher for the Rebels since 2010. He showed impressive vision, patience, power and burst, with the ability to decisively make one cut, hit the hole and explode into the second level. It’s not fair to expect him to average 12.8 yards per carry all year, but he certainly provides some balance to an already explosive passing attack. Speaking of the passing attack…

2. WRs meet enormous expectations

The receiving corps has been heralded as the best in the country, and they absolutely lived up to the billing against a very overmatched Texas Tech secondary. A.J. Brown finished with 7 receptions for 93 yards and a TD. DaMarkus Lodge (below) finished with 6 for 96. D.K. Metcalf had 4 for 81 and a TD. The unit showed depth, with talented sophomore Braylon Sanders hauling in 4 for 60 yards. This group is big and physical, and these receivers can get separation and win one-on-one matchups downfield, resulting in big plays and scores. To boot, they’re all good blockers. Collectively, they don’t carry the typical diva mindset where they just want their touches — they’re team-first guys and they played a big role in this win.

Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

3. Jordan Ta’amu steady and accurate

Ta’amu was cool, calm and collected against Texas Tech, finishing 22 of 32 for 336 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions. He did a nice job going through his progressions, staying patient in the pocket, and delivering crisp and accurate balls. He particularly looked good on downfield throws. It’s easy to just toss up jump balls to the big WRs but his consistent placement over the outside shoulder was especially impressive. The only complaint was that at times he was maybe a bit too conservative and held onto the ball too long, but that’s just nitpicking.

4. Gary who?

Another question coming into 2018 was who would replace kicker Gary Wunderlich, who finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in field goals and FG percentage. Essentially, they lost the best kicker in school history (sorry, Jonathan Nichols). Saturday, former walk-on Luke Logan was 4 for 4 on FGs and 5 of 5 with extra points. He could be in store for a big season.

5. The defense could’ve been worse

The defense wasn’t great – giving up 486 yards of offense and failing to generate any turnovers – but it could’ve been worse. It was encouraging that the defensive players seemed to play faster and more physically than last year. They had a swagger and they played with more confidence. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the core of the Landshark Defense is the mindset, and there were flashes of that against Texas Tech.

What I didn’t like

1. Inconsistent pass rush

The interior of the defensive line looked pretty good with Benito Jones, Josiah Coatney and Ross Donelly, but the defense as a whole just couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush. The DEs looked slow off the ball, didn’t use their hands well, weren’t rushing half a man, didn’t show variance in rush moves, etc. They tried to use various stunts and blitzes to make up for the lack of pressure generated by the front four to frustrating results. The Rebels must improve here if they want to even have a chance against Alabama in 2 weeks.

2. Linebacker play is a very real problem

The big concern on defense heading into 2018 was at linebacker. They were brutal last year, and they were now without leading tackler DeMarquis Gates. Well, the concerns are legitimate. This is a seriously problematic unit, both against the run and the pass. They didn’t get good run fits, they couldn’t stack and shed blockers, they didn’t take good pursuit angles. They desperately need someone to step up here.

3. Besides Scottie Phillips, yikes

Phillips was a joy to watch. At times, it looked like we were watching highlights of Deuce McAllister, with No. 22 exploding through the hole for a huge gain. Phillips should do wonders for the offense this year if week 1 was any indication. But besides Phillips? Not much there. Isaiah Woullard finished with 2 yards on 4 carries. Tylan Knight had 1 carry for minus-1 yard. Take away Phillips and the Rebels rushed 12 times for 6 yards. That’s completely awful. And guess what? Texas Tech’s front seven isn’t quite Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State or LSU. Maybe when Eric Swinney comes back from mononucleosis they’ll be in better shape, but the depth at RB looks rough right now.


A pretty solid performance. The Rebels started hot and didn’t let off the gas. Ta’amu looked good, the receivers looked good, the offensive line looked good and Phillips looked amazing. Special teams were solid and the defense, while not great, could’ve been a lot worse. It was a promising start, and coach Matt Luke did a good job preparing his team for this game.

Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Some concerns moving forward, besides what we mentioned above, are converting in the red zone and finding reliable depth for the defense. Far too often the Rebels got to the red zone and settled for 3 points instead of 7. You can’t do that consistently against SEC teams and expect to win. As for depth on defense — this offense and special teams proved they’re big-play units waiting to happen. They can score in a flash. But that means the defense is going to be on the field for a long, long time over the course of a game, and this is where depth, or lack thereof, can be exposed.