With Vanderbilt coming, it's time for Ole Miss to fine tune
Ole Miss is 3-0 so far. Vanderbilt is 1-2.
Ole Miss just knocked off No. 2 Alabama. Vanderbilt notched its first win over Austin Peay.
Ole Miss is now No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the highest ranked team in the SEC. Vanderbilt is the rare team that hasn’t even appeared in the “also receiving votes” category.
These two polar opposite teams are set to clash next Saturday. Unless you’re Derek Mason, you know that Vanderbilt doesn’t really stand a chance against Ole Miss. Actually, I think Derek Mason knows that too. His game plan is hoping that Vanderbilt’s momentum from beating Austin Peay will carry them through to upset city.
Really, Mason? Austin Peay? That’s what a team from the SEC is about to rely on?
Questions aside, Ole Miss should spend some time actually preparing against Vanderbilt. The Rebels don’t want to be one of those teams who comes high-falutin’ into a matchup against a weaker opponent, only to be embarrassed because they hadn’t bothered to take it seriously. But because the Rebels are in such a good place right now, they can be choosey about what they want to spend time refining.
Here are some points we’d all like to see more of from Ole Miss:
1. Strong defense all four quarters: Hugh Freeze spoke about how his defense was “gassed” during the second half of the football game, which took away from his ability to play tempo because he wanted to give his defense time to rest. Indeed, it’s hard to stay fresh for an entire football game when the defense is working against the Alabama offense for more than nine minutes in each quarter of the first half, and then more than nine minutes again in the fourth quarter. Against Vanderbilt, one imagines the defense may not need to stay on the field for long before handing it back over to the offense, so Freeze should use it as an opportunity to figure out how best to conserve the energy of his defense.
2. Turnovers: More than the five that the Rebels accumulated against Alabama? That’s not enough? To be fair, the two fumbles were more Bama’s mistake than anything Ole Miss did. But the fact still remains that we’re in the SEC, and in the SEC you can never get enough turnovers. As Ole Miss can attest to, turnovers win games. Ole Miss has tough SEC games left on its schedule, so its defense better get its turnover creation practice in now.
3. A run game: The Rebels were electric in the air against the Crimson Tide, but almost silent on the ground with a total of 92 rushing yards in the game. Running against the Alabama defense is no joke. Now is the time to bring back the balance on the offense, give Jordan Wilkins and Jaylon Walton more carries, and make the run game better before facing another worthy defense in Florida. At the very least, it’s helpful to have a functional run game that can grab first downs when running down the clock in the second half.
4. What Ole Miss does under pressure: Of course, I’m only being half serious here. The chance that Chad Kelly will make the same mistake he did against Alabama that set up the miracle play is slim. But as fans of football, we live for those moments and we wouldn’t mind at all if the Rebels gave another one to us.
VANDERBILT COMMODORES CLOSER LOOK
Top Week 3 player, offense: Johnny McCrary, So., QB — After some bad performances to start the season, McCrary was finally hot last Saturday against Austin Peay. He went 28 of 33 for a whopping 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran it five times for 41 yards.
Top Week 3 player, defense: Ryan White, So., S — White made 3 solo tackles last Saturday and also notched 2 tackles for a loss. Overall, he was just one of many Vanderbilt defenders who were able to make tackles in the backfield or sack the opponent’s quarterback.
Top Week 3 player, special teams: Tommy Openshaw, So., K — The Vanderbilt kicker was 2 of 3 on Saturday, only missing one field goal from 50 yards out. However, more noticeable than that was his one punt of the game, which went for 66 yards. Openshaw will see much more punting action next week, which his when his ability for long punts will pay off.