For the first time during offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's tenure, the Tigers had failed to score at least 20 points in four consecutive games. They also hadn't surpassed the 400-yard mark in total offense since September's matchup against Clemson, a five-game stretch.
The Tigers shook off the funk, though, behind solid performances from quarterback Clint Moseley, tailback Michael Dyer and a reworked offensive line playing together with the same starting five for a third consecutive contest.
"We finally saw what Clint can do when we give him some time," said junior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who caught two touchdowns vs. the Rebels including a highlight reel, one-handed grab for a four-yard score late in the fourth quarter. "That was our focus all week, giving the quarterback time," the tight end added.
Philip Lutzenkirchen made three catches vs. Ole Miss with two going for touchdowns.
With the more time to throw the football, redshirt sophomore Moseley was a model of quarterback efficiency. He threw more touchdown passes than incompletions as he connected on 12-15 passes for 160 yards.
Immediately after the game Moseley had high praise for the offensive line's effort in obtaining the victory. Malzahn noted the quarterback was right on target in his assessment.
"The offensive line really did a great job--Coach (Jeff) Grimes did a super job with the offensive line, and he really challenged them," Malzahn pointed out. "We were able to run the football and give Clint time to throw it, too, especially on some double moves and some deep ones. It wasn't like a lot of our quick throws. I'm so very proud of that bunch."
Malzahn said he thinks the offensive line is starting to gel now that the lineup has stayed the same since the Florida game. The offensive coordinator noted that the Tigers require their offensive linemen to do more than many other college teams do with their tackles, guards and center, especially in working together, so it is important to get all five starters on the same page on how they are attacking a defense.
The offensive coordinator noted that Chad Slade, who began the season as a tackle, is becoming comfortable in his role as the starting left guard, replacing senior Jared Cooper, who suffered a serious ankle injury in the second quarter of the Arkansas game.
"We lost Cooper for the season, and that was big loss for us," said true freshman Reese Dismukes, the team's starting center. "Chad's stepping in there and we're starting to get in the groove."
"We protected Clint well and let the passing game unfold," added the Spanish Fort native. "That got their defense to back off and let us run the ball."
Reese Dismukes has started all nine games at center for the 6-3 Tigers, who are 4-2 in SEC play this season.
Slade said that he is feeling more comfortable playing with the same group and is getting a better handle on what his teammates on the line are doing. "I think everybody else is getting comfortable with me so I think we're getting better as an offensive line unit," the redshirt freshman said. "Lately, we've been in a slump. I think we got so much better as a group vs. Ole Miss."
"The communication was great on our line, and we knew what to do," he added. "We knew how to communicate with each other and get to the right positions and get to the right spots."
That knowledge helped the line pave the way for Dyer to run for a season-high 177 yards, a point-of-pride for the linemen who struggled the previous week at LSU.
"We know that if they ran for that, we know that we did our jobs so that's why we feel great about it," Slade said. "Hopefully, we can make it where he will have more creases like he did."
Going through their bye-week is giving the Tigers time to mend and get healthier. It will also give the offensive line a chance to further progress before facing Georgia a week from Saturday after the Bulldogs take on New Mexico State Saturday.
The Tigers will return to the practice field on Wednesday night after being off from Sunday through Tuesday. "We know it's just another chance to get better," Slade said of the off-week workouts that will also include sessions on Thursday and Friday. "Even though it's going to be a week off, we have to basically do our thing still."