After Reflection

It certainly wasn't all peaches and cream and there are several issues to "fix," but the 35-13 win over Boise had some very impressive performances and the areas lacking can be corrected.

The immediate reaction after the 35-13 win over Boise State in Atlanta Thursday night to open the 2014 football season for Ole Miss had some well-deserved harshness to it.

Even though it turned out to be a lopsided win, which only the foolhardy would scoff at against a program the caliber of the Broncos, there were some areas that were, simply put and to be kind, expected to be better.

The offensive line, with new Center Ben Still, new Right Tackle Fahn Cooper and Left Guard Aaron Morris playing in his first action for nearly 18 months was, frankly, atrocious in the first half.

There was little cohesiveness, there was not much "push" and the false starts, which we lost count of, were, for whatever reason, mind-boggling.

The end result - coupled with three ill-advised interceptions thrown by QB Bo Wallace - was discombobulation.

The offense was completely out of sync, which prompted a poignant halftime comment to his players by Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner at halftime. "You can't play any worse and you are still ahead (7-3)."

Bo did have 148 yards passing and the lone score, a 30-yarder to Cody Core, was beautifully set up and executed, but the run game only netted 20 yards on 11 tries, there were 10 penalties for 48 yards and the Rebs did not take advantage of the field position gained by the defense forcing turnovers.

Realistically, it could have very easily been 21-3 at intermission but for some critically poor offensive execution.

In the second half, when an adjustment was made to go to a silent snap count, the penalties virtually ceased, Wallace had had his quota of bad decisions and the ship was eventually righted.

Ole Miss running back Mark Dodson and tight end Evan Engram celebrate one of four fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Even though the Rebel offense never generated the type of running game hoped for, Boise was committing a lot of players to the run, which created one-on-one matchups for the wideouts the Rebs eventually exploited.

Wallace ended up completing 25-36 passes (69.4%) for 387 yards and 4 touchdowns. Take away a couple of brain lapses in the first half and folks would be declaring his effort "stellar" at the very least.

Laquon Treadwell ended up with 7 catches for 105 yards and a score, Cody Core stole the "first time starter award" with 4 snags good for 110 yards and a pair of TDs including a 76-yard catch and run, and TE Evan Engram caught 4 balls for 41 yards.

The offensive showing, thanks to an explosive fourth quarter, was moved from dismal to acceptable, but there has to be a keen eye toward correcting and improving moving forward.

The bright side, according to the coaches, is that the mistakes are of the correctable variety, but the OL has to get their act in order in a hurry as the weeks tick off.

The Rebel defense gave up 399 yards, but nearly 100 of that came with the game out of touch and Boise in desperation mode.

The Rebel defense set, and maintained, the tone of the game from the start, bending at times, but not breaking, against an offense that spreads defenders out and has an NFL caliber running back, Jay Ajayi, who had 86 yards on the ground and 93 receiving, including the lone TD late in the game.

After film study, the defensive coaches said there were three "busts" - an acceptable number - all night.

There were some missed tackles on Ajayi in the backfield, but credit his effort rather than focusing on the tackling. Overall, the tackling was very good.

The pressure by the front resulted in three sacks for 36 yards in losses, but the main benefit was it contributed to four interceptions by the Rebels, three by the secondary and one by DE C.J. Johnson on a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Ole Miss DC Dave Wommack.

DC Dave Wommack was able to use a lot of players and 22 ended up on the tackle chart with CB Mike Hilton leading the way with 9 and CB Senquez Golson and FS Cody Prewitt adding 8 each.

Golson, Prewitt, Johnson and Husky Tony Conner had the interceptions, with Golson's coming at a crucial time early in the game in the end zone with Boise threatening from deep in Rebel territory.

MLB D.T. Shackelford, DE John Youngblood and DE Marquis Haynes had the sacks and Youngblood also had the pressure that resulted in Golson's end zone pick.

"I couldn't be happier with the defense at this stage of the season," said Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze postgame. "We can improve on some things, but this was a really, really good start."

The specialists were all very good.

Punter Will Gleeson, in his first start, emerged as a weapon with superb directional punting that gave no real opportunity for a return and with a 70-yarder that flipped the field. He averaged 47.2 yards on four kicks and only one was returned, for -2 yards.

With a new two-deep punt return look, both Anthony Alford and freshman Markell Pack handled fielding punts effectively and comfortably, a little bit of a question mark coming into the game. (On his lone return, called back by a penalty, Pack showed some much-needed "flash" with a good move and good acceleration.)

PK Andrew Fletcher, also in his debut, was perfect on five PAT attempts.

Grading is certainly subjective and open to disagreement, but from this view, the offense got an F in the first half and a B+ in the second half for an overall grade of C-.

The defense gets an A-, a very high grade but one that shows room for improvement. No complaints here.

The special teams get an A. They did their jobs and did them without exception.

Moving forward, expect the OL to improve by leaps and bounds before next Saturday, at the very least in the area of snap discipline.

Vandy runs a lot of the same looks as Boise on their defensive front. A week of familiarity should work in the favor of the Rebel forward wall.

The really good side of this narrative? That there is room for some criticism in a 35-13 victory over a quality opponent.

That has to tell you something positive about this Rebel team.

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