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).
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
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.
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
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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