In what may have been essentially a bowl play-in game, the Rebels fell just short against the Aggies 24-17. While there were plenty of bright spots in this game for Ole Miss, there were also just too many mistakes and missteps that prevented them from getting back to .500 on the season. With that, let’s look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the loss last Saturday.
Good: I’m not even going to list yardages, statistics, or anything of the sort. The Rebel defense played lights out last Saturday. They did exactly what they had to do to win the game by forcing turnovers and keeping Kellen Mond and the passing game in check. For most of the game, they were getting off the field on third down and constantly flipping the momentum of the game. Sadly, they spent essentially the last 20 minutes of the game on the field because of a sputtering offense. Best defensive performance of the season in my opinion. A+ for this unit.
Good: Sadly, we did not get to see him in the second half due to concussion protocol, but Jerrion Ealy is continuing to show why he was a five-star recruit. Every game, he seems to show exactly how explosive his speed is while also exhibiting the brute strength he runs the ball with. Credit to Snoop Conner as well for stepping up and running the ball well after both Ealy and Scottie Phillips went down. The backfield truly is loaded and the future is bright in the run game.
Bad: Simply, the Ole Miss offense could not consistently get anything going besides a couple of drives early on. In fact, the opening drive of the second half was the only exceptional drive of the game with the first score coming from Ealy breaking off a 69-yard touchdown run. The game ended with 405 total yards gained by the Rebels, but that stat does not tell the story. This offense consistently could not move the ball early in the drive and failed to convert on third down consistently, ending the game at a 25% conversion rate. Matt Corral was 3-10 passing with an interception before the final drive of the game where A&M was just playing prevent defense. John Rhys Plumlee had the costly fumble and never got his run game going with the Aggies stacking the box and attacking him on the zone read. Overall, I still think Plumlee is the guy and his passing would appear much better if it wasn’t for the low percentage throws that Rich Rodriguez calls for him and Corral. Overall, bad night on offense when the defense did exactly what was needed to win.
Ugly: This is not going to be a Rich Rod bash section because no one can deny that the run game is at a better state than it has been in years at this program. However, I’m beginning to doubt how effectively he can use his quarterbacks throwing the football. Corral definitely has major arm talent and I believe that Plumlee is average at this point in his career as a passer. Yet, when the offense consists of either five-yard out routes or forty-yard fly routes, it becomes extremely predictable and a defense will just load the box on first and second down and jump into deep zones on third downs just as the Aggies did last Saturday. The run game is working fine, but the passing game needs to find more variety and innovation.
Ugly: This is not about performance at all. The amount of injuries suffered Saturday was just very upsetting to see as an Ole Miss fan. With such a young and fun group to watch, injuries are just unfair luck to wipe out potential progress and it came in bunches after last weekend. Ealy is trying to recover from a concussion, Plumlee is undergoing a minor procedure on his knee, Phillips aggravated his knee, and the offense line is extremely banged up with Ben Brown (ankle), Eli Johnson (turf toe), Bryce Matthews (back), and Michael Howard (shoulder) nursing injuries. Thankfully, the bye week comes at the perfect time and Coach Matt Luke believes all of these mentioned should be back for Auburn. Get better soon Rebs, and let’s get after Auburn.