Rapid Reaction: Ole Miss starts fast, finishes fast in rout of Georgia
No. 23 Ole Miss stumbled inside of the red zone on its first offensive possession, but that was about the only issue the Rebels had in a 45-14 drubbing of No. 12 Georgia on Saturday.
Chad Kelly and the Rebels’ gained over 500 yards of offense against the Bulldogs, while the team’s defense had a shutout going until late in the third quarter.
Georgia looked outclassed from the very beginning and suffered its worst defeat since its 49-10 loss to Florida in 2008. Ole Miss, which needed a strong game after last week’s loss to Alabama, came through with a statement win.
What it means
Ole Miss turned in a complete performance against Georgia and showed just how dangerous it can be when executing in all phases of the game. Hugh Freeze and his staff did a great job righting the ship after a deflating loss to Alabama and has the Rebels back on track.
For Georgia, the loss is certainly a gut punch. After struggling in recent weeks, the Bulldogs looked outclassed on the road and were exposed in several areas. Kirby Smart needs to get his team to shake off this one and prepare for an important division matchup with Tennessee next weekend.
What I liked
Ole Miss: Twice the Rebels started quickly against ranked teams, only to blow big leads and lose. Kelly ensured there would not be another repeat of that Saturday.
Kelly proved why he’s the best quarterback in the SEC during the first half. Kelly completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On an impressive 55-yard scoring throw, Kelly stretched his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 17 games, breaking Eli Manning’s school record.
He added a 41-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He finished with 282 passing yards and accounted for 3 TDs.
Defensively, the Rebels’ pass rush created consistent pressure throughout the afternoon. On nearly every drive, Eason threw the ball off his back foot with a defender in his face. A free blitzer smacked into Eason as he threw the ball into double coverage, resulting in a pick six for Ole Miss. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, they sacked Eason again, forcing and recovering a fumble.
Georgia: There wasn’t much to like on Georgia’s end Saturday. Eason had his worst day as a Bulldog, and his lowest moment came early in the first quarter when he made an ill-advised throw for a pick six. His response from that moment was crucial for his development, and the freshman handled it well. He looked sharp on several of his passes but had no help from his receivers. There is a lot of room to improve, but Eason bounced back from his early mistake in a positive way. Trenton Thompson continues to make plays on the defensive line. The sophomore tackle is growing into one of the premier defensive linemen in the SEC.
What I didn’t like
Ole Miss: Ole Miss was firing on all cylinders. The Rebels took care of the football, their biggest problem this season, and executed in nearly every aspect of the game.
Georgia: Drops have been an issue for Bulldogs’ receivers, but Saturday’s game may have been the most blatantly impacted by Georgia’s inability to hang onto the ball. On one of the team’s most promising first-half drives, the receivers had three costly drops, including two potential touchdowns. Isaiah McKenzie dropped two balls. Georgia’s secondary also had one of their worst games in recent memory. Looking overmatched throughout the afternoon, the Bulldogs defensive backs were consistently caught off guard against Ole Miss’ bigger, faster receivers. The kicking game continues to be atrocious, and Georgia again missed a short field goal.
Who’s the man: Chad Kelly
The senior quarterback had a fantastic game against the Bulldogs. Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns on 23 pass attempts and had a 41-yard rushing touchdown. It was a terrific bounce-back performance for the conference’s best quarterback.
What’s next: Ole Miss will look to keep the good times rolling at home against Memphis next weekend at 7 p.m. ET. Georgia returns back to Athens to face Tennessee in a crucial SEC East division matchup at 3:30 p.m. ET.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.