The score of the Ole Miss-Memphis game Sunday in Memphis Libery Bowl Stadium was a one-sided 45-14 in favor of the 10th-ranked Rebels, but it was closer than the score indicated.
The Rebels played a lackluster second quarter and did not blow the game open until the fourth frame, a fact not lost on Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin and Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix.
"The fact we scored the last four times we had the ball makes me feel better about the outcome," said Austin, "but there is a whole lot we can do to improve our offensive production.
"We played poorly in the second quarter, kind of bogged down and struggled."
At halftime, the Rebels led 17-7, thanks to a Fon Ingram interception return for a touchdown at the end of the half.
The offense started out well, scoring 10 quick points and appeared to have things under control.
But the tide turned in the second quarter via two interceptions thrown by QB Jevan Snead.
"On the first one, Jevan just missed Dexter. He has to hit that pass - Dexter was open. On the second one, he made a bad decision," Austin noted. "At halftime, we simplified and went with a smaller package. We told Jevan not to audible as much - even though he checked into some good plays in the first half - and just run the plays we called for the most part. He became more efficient in the second half.
"We just wanted to execute in the second half and not overthink things. Once we did that, we started executing better and Jevan quit trying to force things. You know he did that some to start last year. Once he quit forcing things, some things opened up for us then."
Austin was pleased with the balance of the offense with 174 yards rushing and 175 yards passing.
"We battled, and that's a good thing, but we can do better in all phases of offense," Austin continued. "We did some good things in the run game, but then we had a couple of key negative yardage plays that put us in long down and distance situations we didn't overcome. We did some good things in the passing game, but we also missed too many throws.
"I just thought our eficiency was better in the second half, but I didn't like the lull in the second quarter at all."
Nix was pleased with the effort his defense gave, but not totally pleased with the results.
"We missed too many tackles to suit me, but I loved the effort and the fact that everything we did wrong is correctable," said Tyrone. "I thought we had a good rotation and kept everyone as fresh as we could on a fairly hot day. We had a couple of spots in the game where we weren't as fast as we should have been, but nothing major."
Nix credited Memphis for some of the Rebs' woes, if you can call holding an opponent to 284 yards and 14 points "woeful."
"Memphis played hard and had some good athletes who battled," Nix added. "I was impressed with RB Curtis Steele and those big receivers are scary.
"The secondary did not allow any big plays and that was key to me. Their receivers are a big challenge and I thought our secondary rose to the challenge. We gave up a few too many yards on the ground, but again I credit Memphis' run game. They did a nice job."
FS Fon Ingram made the big play that changed the momentum just before half, a fact not lost on Nix.
"That was huge. They had some momentum at that point and Fon was in the right place at the right time. Allen Walker slid off to take his man and left Fon open. He caught the ball, got a block from a defensive lineman and scored. Big play," Nix said.
Freshman MLB D.T. Shackelford got some quality snaps in his first collegiate game and Nix was satisfied with D.T.'s first outing.
"He made a big stop on a fourth and one on a blitz when we needed it and did some other good things, but he was up and down, like I expected," Tyrone said. "He's got a good future, no doubt, and I wanted to test him today. I was happy with his showing but we will be working on getting him more consistency."
One player who stood out to Nix was junior DT Jerrell Powe.
"Jerrell was in the Memphis backfield a lot and everytime he was, I had a big smile on my face," Nix stated. "He's getting better in a hurry and his hard work to get to this point is payinhg off.
"Jerrell is showing he can be an impact player on this level."
Overall, it's hard to fuss too much about a 45-14 win, but the coordinators know things can be a lot better for this Ole Miss team.
And they expect it.
"We will improve between the first and second games. Bank it," Nix closed.
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