Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack didn't go as far as to say his side of the ball played the best game he had ever coached, but he couldn't remember a better one.
"I've been coaching over three decades," Wommack smiled, "so I have seen a lot of the good and the bad, but this effort was somewhere on the list of the best I have coached in."
Any defensive coach would be hard-pressed to have a better one.
The Tigers were averaging 35-odd points a game and Wommack was expecting a fight. His unit allowed no such outburst, even though the Rebel offense put the defense under duress a couple of times.
"We dominated them in the first half and continued that the whole game," noted Dave. "To be honest, our performance surprised me a little because Memphis has a really good package with a lot of different looks, but we executed extremely well."
The Tigers were held to just 104 yards of total offense and a scant 13 first downs.
42 of those yards came on one play, a coverage mistake by Senquez Golson who allowed a Tiger receiver to get behind him.
So break this down. . . of the other 63 plays, Memphis had 60 yards, less than a yard a play.
The defensive stat sheet shows 12 plays for minus 74 yards, 4 QB sacks, 1 fumble recovery and one interception.
"I haven't had many games like that, especially when you consider Memphis is a potent offense," he continued. "The defensive line did a great job of controlling everything up front, the linebackers were fitting the run and we executed.
"It's rarely about coaching. It's usually about execution and tonight our defense executed."
Wommack said two things helped the performance.
"We put in a few new things that Memphis was not ready for and we worked really hard all during the open week on our run fits. It showed tonight," he stated. "We had run a lot of defensive packages in the first three games and it is impossible for an opponent to prepare for everything."
As is the case with any dominant defensive effort, it all started up front.
"They totally dominated all night. Coach (Chris) Kiffin did a great job of fixing a few things we had done poorly in the first three games versus the run and, again, the guys executed," Dave noted. "I was expecting us to play better in run defense, but I wanted to see it, and I did."
Wommack said it didn't matter that the Rebel offense took a while to get untracked.
"We've got a job to do, no matter what the situation. I think we learned a valuable lesson tonight that things don't always go your way and you just have to keep playing. We did that on defense until the offense could get untracked," Dave explained.
After Golson gave up the big play and Memphis had first-and-goal at the Rebel 7, the next three plays were indicative of the night.
MLB D.T. Shackelford tracked down a screen pass for a 12-yard loss, Bird Bryant sniffed out a run for a 2-yard loss and Husky Tony Conner sniffed out another screen for a 2-yard loss. Memphis settled for their lone points of the game.
The offense was a different story.
Even though they ended up with a respectable 426 yards, it was a sloppy effort, filled with turnovers and penalties and too many (7) negative plays.
"The very first thing I did when the game was over was go give Dave Wommack a big hug and said thank you," said Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner. "We just weren't sharp tonight. For whatever reason, we were behind the chains a lot, we threw two interceptions and we fumbled once.
"On our first five third-downs, they were for 12 yards or more. You just cannot be successful doing that."
Dan said there were good moments, starting with effort.
"Our guys kept battling. I was frustrated, for sure, but they never let the miscues get them down. They kept their heads up, found a way to score 24 points and they got the win," said Werner. "Very few people wanted to listen to me when I said all week long that Memphis has a good defense.
"They are physical, they have a good scheme and they know how to fit the runs. Their blitzes were a pain all week to try to figure out. They had given up some points in their previous games, but they were mostly big plays to UCLA. Nobody has stuffed it down their throats. I did not expect to go out there tonight and score 50 points."
But he id expect to have more success than he did and for his guys not to shoot themselves in the foot as much.
"We had been in a rhythm for 2 1/2 games, but tonight we just did not get in that rhythm. We were able to get some things done, but they disrupted us more than I anticipated and we made foolish turnovers and penalties to kill several drives," he explained.
The Rebs were able to shake Laquon Treadwell free for two TDs and five receptions good for 123 yards.
"We got him loose a few times, and on one long bomb, but Memphis still had someone over the top on him most of the night. They manned him a little, but not much. He was just able to find some openings tonight and capitalize," Dan stated.
On Bo's interceptions and 22-37 passing night good for 248 yards, Werner said it was a culmination of things going wrong.
"Bo made one bad decision that ended in a pick. The other one was because of poor protection. He had some bad throws as well and we ran some bad routes too," he assessed. "We just didn't play well offensively."
Werner said the run game showed sparks, despite some negative plays.
"We had 178 yards rushing. Without the negative plays, we would have been a little over 200 yards. That's a better effort and I was glad to see it because we have struggled in that area some and needed to show improvement," he added.
Werner's bottom line is that the Rebs have to get back to playing cleaner, like the previous 2 1/2 games, moving forward.
"We were sloppy tonight and that won't get it done from this point forward. We will get back in a rhythm because I don't think tonight is indicative of the kind of offense we are," he closed.
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