Postgame thoughts

OXFORD, MS - The Ole Miss Rebels (2-3 overall,0-2 SEC) came to life in the second half by finding some offense and playing sound defensive football to pick up their second win of the season against an outmatched Citadel (2-3).

OXFORD, MS - The Ole Miss Rebels (2-3 overall,0-2 SEC) came to life in the second half by finding some offense and playing sound defensive football to pick up their second win of the season against an outmatched Citadel (2-3).

The Rebels struggled in the first half trying to generate an offense. Field position in the first quarter was a problem with the Rebels starting at their own 15, their own 5 and their own 14 yard line. On the Rebels' fourth possession, after the Citadel punter shanked a 4-yard punt, the Rebels started on their own 30 and drove 44 yards on seven plays setting up a Will Moseley 44-yard field goal.

The Ole Miss offense in the first quarter was their own worst enemy with a dropped pass, a penalty and then a fumble by Mike Espy after making a 23-yard gain on a first and ten pass from Micheal Spurlock.

The defense, led by Patrick Willis and friends, bailed out the offense by stopping the Citadel in three plays, forcing a punt. I was surprised the Citadel chose to punt on fourth down at the Rebel 34 yard line. I realize the Citadel had a redshirt freshman quarterback running their offense, but the Bulldog coaches should have realized they needed to take some chances if they wanted to have any hope for an upset over Ole Miss at Homecoming.

I knew the Citadel was quick and a well-disciplined team, but I expected the bigger Ole Miss offensive line to be able to get some push and control the line of scrimmage. It didn't happen in the first quarter as the Rebels had four third down conversion opportunities but could only convert one and that being on the field goal drive. The offense generated just two first downs in the first quarter and finished the quarter with eight yards rushing.

The second quarter was more ho-hum as the offense could generate only three first downs and no serious threats at scoring because the offense never got within sight of the Citadel goal line. The Rebels, on their first offensive possession of the second quarter, played ping-pong with the fifty yard line, moving twice into the Citadel territory, only twice to take a big loss putting the football back on the Rebels' side of the fifty. The Rebels had four negative plays and one penalty in the second quarter that killed any hope of generating a sustained offense. True freshman punter, Rob Park, did a good job punting getting his first opportunity in his young college career. Rob averaged 40.8 yards per kick on five punts, closing out the first half with a booming 62-yarder. I was pleased to see Rob get the opportunity to punt and hope this will boost his confidence even more as he has kicked well the past couple of weeks in practice. Micheal Spurlock threw the ball pretty well in the first half completing 9-of-16 passes for 121 yards but he had a minus 37 yards rushing, taking a couple of sacks and running out of bounds on a scramble. The defense played really well holding the Citadel offense to only four first downs, 49 yards rushing and 17 yards passing.

Ole Miss Coach Ed Ogeron was not a happy camper at halftime and said on the radio broadcast as he went to the locker room at halftime, there would be a quarterback change to start the second half. He said the offense had to get something going and that Robert Lane would be the QB.

Sophomore running back Montrell Lee was the Citadel's most prolific offensive threat in the first half as he gained 32 yards rushing on nine carries. Both Ole Miss and the Citadel stayed true to form as each converted 2-of-8 attempts on third down in the half.

The third quarter proved to be a much more productive quarter for the Rebel offense as they scored on two of their three offensive possessions. The defense did in eight seconds what the offense could not do in the whole first half, score a touchdown. After Moseley nailed his 12th touchback on the kickoff to start the second half, the Citadel quarterback, Justin Knox, started on an option to his right, he was hit from behind by Patrick Willis, the ball rolled free toward the sideline but cornerback Travis Johnson scooped it up and raced sixteen yards into the end zone for the Rebels first touchdown. Redshirt freshman kicker Robert Bass converted the PAT giving the Rebels a 10-0 lead.

Moseley followed this quick defensive touchdown with his 13th touchback on the ensuing kickoff. The Rebels' defense did their job, forcing another Bulldog punt after three plays. Coach O kept his word as Robert Lane came on the field to run the offense. Lane on his first play executed a good play-action pass, rolled back and hit Taye Biddle with a 51-yard bomb only to have it called back due to holding by the fullback. Two plays later a Lane pass into the right flat was picked off by the Citadel's strong safety, Avery Dingle, who returned it 44 yards for the Bulldogs only score of the game. Dingle, a senior, is from of all places, Manning, South Carolina.

The Rebels drove 65 and 72 yards for touchdowns on their next two possessions of the third quarter as Mico McSwain and Antonio Turner began to click running the football. It appeared the offensive line started to gel, get some confidence, rhythm and continuity in what they were doing. I was really happy for Keith Houston, the junior from Philadelphia who has bounced around from the secondary to linebacker and this fall to tight end. He got into the game and made a 32-yard gain on a Spurlock first and ten pass to jump-start the final touchdown drive of the third quarter. How ironic is it that his first and only pass reception matched the number he wore on his jersey, 32. That's a positive memory Keith will have for the rest of his life.

The fourth quarter saw the Rebels only generate one field goal by Robert Bass but the offense did make seven first downs which I thought was positive. The game was well in hand as the defense was dominating the Citadel offense as I expected they would do.

I realize this was a win over a 1-AA opponent but the Rebel football team needed to have some success in order to feel better about themselves and have something to be happy about. Winning is an attitude and confidence builder.

The Rebels have got to correct the things they can control like the unforced errors of penalties, dropped passes and mental mistakes. Micheal Spurlock should grow from this game as he completed 20-of-29 passes for a career high 254 yards. He didn't have a fumble, didn't throw an interception, threw one touchdown pass and sneaked one in for a TD, a pretty good day for his last Homecoming as a Rebel. The Rebel offense converted 4-of-5 third down attempts in the second half, the best half by far this season.

Patrick Willis with 12 more solo tackles is the heart and soul of the Rebel defense, all other defensive players feed off his energy. I thought Chris Bowers played really well at LEO or rush end. Michael Bozeman played well except for the questionable call on the roughing the passer. McKinley Boykin seems to be getting back to himself. Viciente DeLoach played well in spots. Travis Johnson made a couple of big plays, just hope his injury is not serious. The whole defensive team played well, to hold any team to 15 yards of total offense in the second half is outstanding. I'm looking for an enthused bunch of Rebels on the practice field next week.

Alabama presents a huge challenge next week, but as players and coaches, that's what playing a football game is all about, accepting the challenge and trying to overcome the odds.

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