Rapid Reaction: Ole Miss gets the win over Kent State despite defensive struggles
After suffering a 62-7 loss at the hands of No. 1 Alabama last week, Ole Miss needed to create some momentum for itself as they head into the meat of their schedule. With Kent State at home, the Rebels had the perfect opportunity to do that on Saturday.
It was a tale of two halves however, Ole Miss struggled in the first, and headed into halftime tied 7-7.
Ole Miss’ first drive of the game was their best of the first half. Scottie Phillips took a screen pass 38 yards to the house for his first receiving touchdown as a Rebel.
Ole Miss then struggled to move the chains for the rest of the first half, and numerous penalties halted several drives. The Golden Flashes then scored early in the second quarter with a double-pass trick play to tie the game at seven apiece.
The Rebels had a chance to get a lead and momentum at the end of the second quarter, but their field goal attempt was blocked, and they headed into the locker room with just seven points.
For reference, when Ole Miss hosted Southern Illinois in Week 2, they scored 38 first-half points on their way to a 76-41 victory.
Jordan Ta’amu completed just 9-of-14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Ole Miss offense mustered just eight first downs compared to Kent State’s 15.
It was typically feast or famine for the Rebels defense in the first half, as Ole Miss recorded six sacks, but Auburn-transfer QB Woody Barrett kept his offense moving, completing 17-of-30 passes for 165 yards.
Overall, Kent State out-gained Ole Miss 264 yards to 226 and ran 23 more plays than the Rebels in the first half.
The second half was delayed due to weather, and the extra time did served Ole Miss well. The Rebels came out strong in the third quarter, putting up back-to-back scoring drives.
After a 42-yard pass from Ta’amu to A.J. Brown that took Ole Miss down to the 2-yard line, Phillips finished the drive with his legs, recording his second score of the day. The next drive, D.K. Metcalf made an incredible one-handed grab for a touchdown that really gave Ole Miss some momentum.
In the fourth quarter, Ta’amu ran in a 4-yard score to push the lead to 31-17 before the game was again delayed for almost two hours due to lightning.
Ole Miss ended up getting the win over the Golden Flashes 38-17, but overall it wasn’t one of their more impressive wins.
Ta’amu had a strong second half, and finished with 442 yards through the air and two touchdowns.
There is no question that Ole Miss’ offense has playmakers, and we should see the unit develop more consistency as we advance further into the season. Ta’amu’s shoulder is definitely a concern however, and you saw him struggle to throw a tight spiral at some points in the second half.
Penalties also were a concern, as a flag took away a touchdown in the second half and halted Ole Miss’ drives several times.
Ole Miss’ secondary continued to struggle as well on Saturday. They collectively dropped at least three would-be interceptions that would have put the game away a lot more quickly, and Barrett had no problem at any point finding open receivers.
The Rebels head to Baton Rouge next week to take on a tough LSU team, we’ll see if they can correct their issues on defense before taking on Joe Burrow and Nick Brossette.