A blowout would have been nice.
Better execution on both sides of the ball would have made the coaches feel better, we're sure.
But the 41-24 win over the visiting Memphis Tigers was just what the Rebels needed.
The end result was never in question - Ole Miss was better than Memphis and played that way, for the most part.
It was a comfortable win, the kind coaches like to start their seasons off with. On a squad that didn't have a clue of how to win last season, the convincing victory was just about all any reasonable person could ask for.
Now the Ole Miss coaches have the best teaching tool they could hope for this week when they prepare for Wake Forest. The Rebels can correct and sharpen with a savory taste in their mouths, the taste of winning.
If I were Wake Forest Coach Jim Groh, I might not sleep as soundly this week as I might have anticipated I would prior to the Ole Miss-Memphis match.
Yes, the offensive execution left something to be desired, but no Ole Miss offense in years has offered a) as much diversity for opponents to prepare for and b) as many playmakers to deal with.
Really, folks, a sharper Rebel offense could have easily hung 60 on the Tigers and the feeling after the game was that a sharper performance was inevitable, just around the corner.
After watching him tonight for the first time versus live bullets, I have no doubt QB Jevan Snead will just get better and better. His 10-22 passing performance was very close to being a 16-22 affair. He was off, but only by a little, a very little. Don't expect that to be the norm.
As OC Kent Austin said, Jevan managed the offense effectively and he took care of the ball. There were no clock issues or confusion issues. All he lacked in the opener was something we all know he has - better accuracy with his throws. It's coming. Book it. Now that the first game is behind him, he'll settle down and he'll be more on target the next outing. He's a gamer. Even when he was a bit "off," his potential was evident to even the harshest reviewer.
Dexter McCluster is dynamite. The Offensive MVP of the game, in my book. Shay Hodge has a knack you can't coach. Mike Wallace was inches from two or three long-gainers. The tight ends and fullbacks even got in on the aerial action.
If all I had to be concerned with was the Rebel passing game, I'd have no concerns at all.
The Rebs gained 216 yards on the ground in 36 carries. That is an even 6.0 yards a rush. And it came from all angles, including excellent debuts by frosh Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis.
All the backs ran hard and with a purpose. Kudos to RB Coach Derrick Nix. If you are looking for something to hang your hat on, when was the last time you felt comfortable with four or five-deep at RB at Ole Miss?
The OL also did a nice job, showing some of the "more physical" play Coach Mike Markuson has been preaching and demanding.
And last, but not least, the playcalling was as imaginative and unpredictable as I have seen at Ole Miss in years. If that doesn't concern Wake's DC, I don't know what will.
On defense, the Rebs were salty for a while, but then dropped their guard a bit late in the game. With a 34-10 lead, I suppose that can be forgiven, this time, but as DC Tyrone Nix said, it can't turn into a habit.
Personally, I had few qualms with the play of the D until late in the game. Memphis' quick passing attack was dangerous and had a lot of variety. Their passing game was a true test. It's not close to the best the Rebs will face, but it was representative of the coming weeks and the secondary did a good job of holding their own, for the most part. A couple of picks doesn't hurt their cause either.
The front seven misses Greg Hardy and Peria Jerry, but they also had flashes of effective play, especially in the first three quarters. Then, it appeared, Memphis got into a late rhythm when the Rebs dropped their guard. Again, that was a scenario that might not have popped up if the lead were not as comfortable as it was. Oh, that is perfect fodder for the coaches this week - the playing-for-four-quarters theme. They relish that.
And, I must add, especially after all the doubts cast their way in the preseason, I was personally pleased with most of the special teams play. Tip of the hat to Justin Sparks for his excellent kickoffs and the coverage of said kicks was much improved. PK Josh Shene was, as he has been most of the preseason, perfect. Bolden fumbled one kickoff, but the Rebs were fortunate enough to cover it. No harm, no foul - this time.
The Ole Miss Rebels didn't have a four-quarter, perfect, "wow" type of game, but it was plenty good enough for a lidlifter.
The Rebs are obviously well-schooled and the plans on both sides of the ball were grade A and not homogenized.
While I have been a vocal fan of Houston Nutt's from the day he was hired, my regard and enthusiasm for him as the Rebel head coach just jumped a notch.
And my excitement meter for this team moved into another plateau altogether. (Even as big an optimist as I am, I wanted to see some game proof.)
There's plenty of work to be done. There's no question about that, but for the first time in a while there are good signs things are getting better.
This team has a chance for some real good accomplishments. When is the last time we've dared to say or feel that?
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