Game observations

Rebs get Orgeron first SEC win with stingy, dominant defense, butthe kicking game and offense have to step it up for the Rebels to have success the rest of the way in.

OXFORD, MS - The Ole Miss Rebels (3-4/1-3 SEC) scratched out their first SEC win for first year head coach Ed Orgeron over a scrappy bunch of Kentucky Wildcats (1-5/0-3 SEC).

It was not a pretty win but, as the old saying goes, I'll take an ugly win any day over a pretty loss.

Bottom line it was an SEC win and the Rebels needed that first SEC win.

The Achilles heel for the Rebels continues to be the kicking game, placekicking mostly, but also gaining some consistency in the punting game.

The Rebels have made only 8-of-17 attempted field goals this season. Today Rebels kickers with two made, two missed and had two blocked. The coaches have to take a hard look at the blocking scheme for placement kicks, too many attempts are being blocked. It appeared the first attempt by Robert Bass in the first quarter was kicked low. Matt Hinkle's first attempt stayed right and the points Kentucky tried to give the Rebels just before halftime hit the right upright. Matt Hinkle and Robert Bass are redshirt freshmen, so you have to allow for the first year jitters. Lou Groza winner Jonathan Nichols was only 3-of-6 kicking field goals his first year.

Rob Park had an up and down day punting. He forced one fair catch by Kentucky at their own 10 and the Rebels downed one punt at the Kentucky one. Overall, Rob's 31.2 averaged today was 10 yards per punt under his season average. Again he is a freshman, he will get better and better as he gets experience and gets stronger.

The encouraging thing today was the Rebels were coming off a very emotional 13-10 loss to the No. 5 team in the nation. It would have been easy to have a letdown against this 1-4 Kentucky team. Instead, the Rebels put in a solid week of preparation and pretty much dominated today's game in every phase except the score. The defense held Kentucky in check until their final drive in the fourth quarter. The Ole Miss offense moved the football but kept shooting themselves in the foot and having to settle for field goal attempts instead of scoring touchdowns. Had the Rebels made all six field goal attempts, a final score of 25-7 would have more closely defined the game than the 13-7 score indicated.

Patrick Willis had another typical Patrick Willis game as he was involved in 14 stops, 8 solo and 6 assists.

Congratulations go to Mico McSwain for setting a new Ole Miss freshman rushing record with 565 yards in just seven games and he was not a running back until the week of the Memphis game. With four games remaining, it is conceivable McSwain could reach a milestone for rushers, 1,000 yards. He would need an average of 109 yards per game over the final four games.

Robert Lane had three catches at fullback for 38 yards and will get better as he gets more experience playing fullback. I was surprised Lane didn't play in the red zone because of his toughness in running the football. Guess the coaches need to put some more plays in for him in running situations.

The Rebels fared much better today when you look at down and distance. On first and ten, the Rebels averaged 4.5 yards per play. On the other side of the coin, the defense held Kentucky to an average of 2.9 yards per first down play.

On second and short (6 yards or less), the Rebels were terrific, averaging 7.1 yards per play. Second and long (7 or more yards) gave the Rebels a lot of trouble in this game, the Cats held the Rebel offense to an average of 2.9 yards per play. Ole Miss in third and short (3 yards or less) saw the Rebel offense struggled badly, making just six yards on six play attempts today against a team that has had problems all season on third down. This continues to be a problem for the Rebel offense through seven games now. When the Rebel offense was in third and long (4 yards or less), they averaged 7.9 yards per play which was good.

On the season, the Rebels have been in the 30% third down conversion rate, today it was 40% but they were playing a Kentucky team that was allowing a 60% conversion rate on third down.

The Rebel defense held Kentucky to a 23% conversion rate on third downs and they were averaging 41% going into this game. It may not look like it watching the games, but this team is gradually getting better on offense even though the scores don't show the improvement.

But much more improvement is necessary of the offense will be a problem the rest of this season for the Rebels because the games certainly don't get any easier with Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State left on the schedule.

Coach Orgeron has been stressing eliminating penalties and the Rebels showed improvement with only had three today, two on offense and one on the defense.

Micheal Spurlock had a so-so day throwing the football. He had a couple of drops and a couple of near misses that could have turned into big plays. Spurlock did run for 39 yards but looked like he passed up on some opportunities to run when he threw the football away or missed an open receiver. I realize Micheal is playing with a cast and that hampers his holding the football when running, but there were times when everyone in the stadium was begging him to tuck it and run.

The encouraging thing is the play of the young running backs, Mico McSwain and Antonio Turner. There is also more help coming at running back with BenJarvus Greene-Ellis sitting out this season.

Defensive captain Micheal Bozeman summed it up pretty well. "We played better against Alabama because they were a ranked team. Maybe we weren't as fired up today because the game didn't have the same atmosphere." Apparently the fans felt the same way, only 48,457 showed up to see this SEC game.

DT McKinley Boykin talking about Auburn next Saturday, "the last time we went down there, we got a win. We have to go down there and play hard."

I'll add another statement to his comment. THe Rebels will have to play better as well.

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