COLUMN: Methodical

The 14th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels had little difficulty in dismantling the visiting Fresno Bulldogs, 73-21, at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday. In fact, it was methodical.

Fresno State will probably point to "winning" the second quarter of their match with Ole Miss 14-7, but the reality of the situation was that the game was already over, decided when the Rebels jumped to a 28-0 lead at the end of the first stanza.

The "closeness" of the second quarter was because the Ole Miss coaches allowed it to be, substituting liberally after gaining the big margin early.

Rebel dominance was established early with starting QB Chad Kelly throwing for three TDs and running for another for good measure.

In that lone frame, Kelly was 13-16 for 227 yards and the aforementioned three scores. That, my friends, is a monster quarter of play. If you don't believe it, multiply those numbers out by four quarters. See?

Kelly used all his weapons, but he obviously made it a point to get the ball to Laquon Treadwell early and often so the preseason All-American could continue to "knock the rust off" that was evident last week. Quon responded with four catches for 66 yards, but it was Cody Core with one TD and Quincy Adeboyejo with a pair of scores who lit Fresno up.

Meanwhile, the Rebel defense did their usual "thing," shutting Fresno down, allowing just 48 yards in the first period.

In the second quarter, the coaches began the subbing and the quality of play went down a tap, which gave Fresno false hope, but Kelly was inserted back in the game and 35-14 was the intermission score.

Kelly had thrown for 305 yards on 18-22 passing for four touchdowns in the half and he only played one series in the second quarter.

From that point on, it was an exercise in experimentation and further trying to fine-tune some things. Mission acomplished.

The Rebs cruised from that point on to the wide final margin.

The only real blemishes were a pick six thrown by Ryan Buchanan and a fumbled punt by Carlos Davis that set Fresno up deep in Reb territory, but a C.J. Johnson interception and long return erased the Davis snafu.

So what did we learn?

. . . for now, at the very least, and probably for quite a long time, Chad Kelly is the number one quarterback and, for now, it's probably not very close. While yours truly still has faith in Buchanan and Devante Kincade, Kelly is just better. The proof is in the pudding.

. . . Treadwell is back, which we never had any doubt he would be, but it was good to see after a shaky game last week.

. . . Kelly is comfortable running tempo. When they wanted to against the Bulldogs, the Rebels went as fast as they have in the Hugh Freeze Era and they looked good doing it.

. . . the run game has improved, despite not having Laremy Tunsil and much of Aaron Morris and Rod Taylor. Will it hold up next week against Alabama when it gets "real?" Nobody knows for sure, but regardless, it's obvious the run game has improved. How much is TBD.

. . . the defense is stout, as anticipated, and versatile, as anticipated. Is it as deep as anticipated? That is debatable at this point. The backups seem to bend a little more than we were led to believe they would, but in their defense, how motivated could they be in the two one-sided games we have witnessed?

. . . how about FS Trae Elston taking over for All-American Cody Prewitt and already having two pick sixes? Fabulous.

. . . it appears the Rebel coaches are going to try to figure out a way to get All-American DT Robert Nkemdiche a way to score in every game. Of course, that is hyperbole, but he is 2-for-2 thus far. Hmmmm.

. . . how about C.J. Johnson's return after a one-game suspension? He put an asterisk on it with the long pick/return action.

. . . why do we always seem to forget Husky Tony Conner in these recaps? Just dumb, suppose, because he makes plays every game and gives up very little.

. . . we praised Carlos Davis and his punt return prowess in the opener to no end. It's only fair we wag our finger at him a bit for the fumbled punt. He got a little too aggressive and little to cute. He will need to rein that in from this point on to gain back his opening game status.

. . . Fresno was a definite step up in competition from UT-Martin and the Rebs handled them just about as easily, meaning they improved between games one and two, a big goal of every coach and coaching staff.

. . . the Rebels will head into Tuscaloosa with a lot of confidence, a head of steam and, hopefully, the knowledge that they are taking a major step up in competition with the Tide.

. . . hopefully, Laremy Tunsil will be available and Rod Taylor will be a week healthier and Robert Conyers, knee tweak against Fresno, will be ready to go.

. . . so far, so good.


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