COLUMN: Rebs Roll

It was supposed to be more difficult, this non-conference match with ULL, but it wasn't. The Ole Miss Rebels jumped to a 28-0 lead about midway through the second quarter and marched to a convincing 56-15 victory to raise their seasonal mark to 3-0 with an open week ahead.

Stan would be proud. .. .

On a day dedicated to Ole Miss broadcast icon Stan Sandroni, the Rebels did exactly what he would have wanted - come out and steamroll an inferior opponent, emptying the benches, just like last week against Vanderbilt, midway through the third quarter.

Despite warnings all week from the Rebel coaches, the lopsided victory over the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was anticipated and expected, and why not?

ULL was coming off a stunning loss to Louisiana Tech, the Rebels had just mauled Vandy and it was the first home game of the 2014 season. All that spelled trouble with a capital 'T' for the Ragin' Cajuns.

For the second week in a row, Rebel QB Bo Wallace picked an opposing defense apart. For the second week in a row, he spread the ball around and let his playmakers, which Ole Miss seems to have an abundance of, make plays.

"Bo completed his first 14 passes. That set the tone for the game. Since the first half of the Boise game, his completion percentage is very good and he has only thrown one interception, the one today that wasn't his fault," said Coach Hugh Freeze postagme.

WR Vincent Sanders was the early beneficiary with two TD catches. Usually when you look at the stats at the end of a game, Sanders had 5-6 catches for a quiet 65-75 yards. In this one, there was nothing quiet about his performance with a pair of TDs, including one on a short catch and a determined run in which he shed two would-be tacklers to cross the goal.

WR Cody Core also kept his theatrics going, especially with his TD catch in the third quarter. Core leaped high in the air to tip Wallace's aerial and then hauled it in as he fell to the ground in the end zone. Spectacular.

TB Jaylen Walton added a dazzling 71-yard run, RB I'tavius Mathers scampered for a 57-yard TD and CB Senquez Golson returned his second interception of the day for a long score to round out the eyecatching plays.

While the run game between the tackles still left a little to be desired, there was, like the first two games, no shortage of big plays.

Offensively, what does this tell us through three games? The Rebels have playmakers all over the field, guys capable of making big plays from anywhere on the field with Wallace pulling an accurate, stronger trigger.

"Our system is designed to get the ball to a lot of people," said Freeze. "If defenses are going to continue to roll coverage to Laquon (Treadwell), it's going to open up things for the others and we have kids who can make plays."

The offensive line did a good job of protecting him and when that happens, defenses are at Wallace's mercy.

"I liked our protection in the passing game, but I would like to see us more consistent on first down when we run the ball. We have still having too many second-and-long situations," he noted.

On defense, the Rebels were not as suffocating as they have been in the first two games, but they were effective, especially in the Red Zone early in the game when they forced a fumble.

By the time ULL got around to mustering a TD drive, the Rebels had emptied the bench and was sending in players at a rapid fire pace. What little success they did have was a testament to how effective the spread, read option, tempo offense that Ole Miss also employs can be. At times, there is no stopping it.

"They have a good offense, a good team. We just took the wind out of their sails early. Their offense is difficult to defend, but we did a prety good job overall, especially when you consider how many players we used after a couple of series in the third quarter."

Golson was magnificent in his coverage, but one play that showed the chemistry this secondary has involved All-American Cody Prewitt and CB Mike Hilton. Prewitt had coverage over the middle and tipped a pass to Hilton for the interception as if it was an assist in basketball.

"Senquez, and the other secondary guys, were in the right position all night. Coach Jason Jones has done a real good job with them," Freeze added. "Senquez has really matured. He is all in this year because of his maturity and the way he has worked this season. It does our team good when someone buys in and then has success. They all see that buying in, being all in, pays dividends. I'm happy for Senquez."

For the third week in a row, the kicking game was sound and did their jobs with little fanfare or fail, what you want from special teams.

So the Rebels roll on, 3-0 and taking care of business with an open week to prepare for an improved Memphis and always potent Alabama, both at home.

There are still some things to work on. There are still some kinks to be ironed out. There is still some wrench tightening to do before the Rebs get into the meat of their schedule.

"We have to clean up some things and get our kids to understand that if we are going to make the next step, from good to contending in the SEC, we have to do the little things right," Freeze noted. "I said a long time ago, we are better than we were in year one and year two. I still believe that, but I also said everyone in the SEC will be better too.

"We have to keep working and keep getting better. The little mistakes we have made so far have not hurt us, but when we start playing SEC teams, those little things will hurt us."

But having said that, so far, so good.

Stan the Man would be proud.

Freeze was deeply affected by the loss of Sandroni.

"The one thing I can say about Stan is that he won most of his days. He made the most of his opportunities and that is the message I gave to our team about him and about what lies ahead for us," he closed. "We loved Stan and are deeply hurt by this loss. Our prayers go out to his family."

Stan the Man would be doubly proud. . . .


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