Numbers can be deceiving in athletics at times.
There was nothing deceptive about the numbers in Ole Miss' 30-17 victory over Arkansas in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.
We'll start with offense.
Try this one on for size: 553 total yards on 80 plays.
And another: 9-15 on third-down attempts.
The kicker? 30 points.
"I am really proud of the way we played today," said Rebel Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin. "I thought the guys up front did a tremendous job and our skill people, given opportunities to produce, did just that. This was a very important outing for us - to have this kind of day against an SEC defense. They are all good and we needed to come out and execute better than we have in the past against a quality defense.
"Jevan threw the ball very well and made good decisions all day, the receivers caught the ball well and Dexter, well, what can you say about him? He was tremendous. Put it all together and it was a great day. If I am not mistaken, that was the first time Jevan has ever thrown for over 300 yards (332), we had over 550 yards of offense (553) and Dexter accounting for about 250 (260) rushing and receiving yards. It was a good day and I'm proud of them."
In Coach Houston Nutt's press conference, he mentioned the offensive line first as well. Kent did for good reason.
"We felt the OL had been improving a little each week, but they put it all together today," he said. "They punched some holes in a very aggressive defense for 221 yards rushing and Jevan had time to throw. Jevan was not pressured but a couple of times when they brought an extra guy. That's the guys up front making it happen.
"We put in some new stuff this week and those guys up front responded. We ran some outside zone scheme trying to get the edge and the interior guys were able to help seal some things off. They are communicating well and gaining some confidence. It was good to see. We felt we were starting to show some consistency last week against UAB and needed to build on that. Again, the guys responded and maintained their consistency, which is exactly what we needed."
McCluster got 29 touches - 22 rushing, 7 receiving - in the game and made the most of them, rushing for 123 yards and gaining 137 yards receiving, including a 64-yard touchdown reception on a catch-and-scoot screen that broke open.
"We felt there were more ways we could get the ball to him this week and we are at the point in the season where we have to risk him a little more. Earlier in the year, we were a little hesitant to give him that many touches because it's a long season and he weighs 168 pounds, but we're over halfway through now and we feel we can stretch our limits some.
"Everyone knows Dexter is a playmaker. He's so explosive. He blew out a shoe today and had a thigh pad broken, but he kept on trucking. It's very evident we have to keep him involved a lot from this point on. Now it's our job to make sure we add some new wrinkles with him each week and utilize him the best we can. We'll have to be careful to not get in a rut and try to give him some new stuff each week so the D-coordinators in this league can't hone in on him and exploit our tendencies."
The Rebels started the game off with some misdirection plays trying to get the edge with McCluster and some short passes to slow down Arkansas' rush. There was also another motive for that gameplan.
"Jevan does really well when he starts off strong. We gameplanned to keep Arkansas from laying their ears back, but trying to put them on their heels, but also with the thought of getting Jevan out of the blocks early with some success," Austin explained. "What I liked about him today though is that even when he missed, he came right back and made something happen. He didn't try to force the ball - he threw it away when nothing was there. Both his interceptions were tipped balls that were underthrown about a foot and could have been big plays. He was just real good today. I loved the way he was leading the offense today - he was very active on the sidelines."
Austin also utilized the rollout more against Arkansas than he has in previous weeks.
"We thought that would help the offensive line too - to roll him to one side and seal off their rush. Jevan can throw well on the move, so we used that more today to negate their pass rush and help our OL," said Kent. "With the run game going, the play-action was more effective as well."
Another factor in the outcome was the blocking effort by the Rebel receivers.
"They did a great job of sealing off the edge and in downfield blocking and they did it without any penalties," said Austin. "Everyone fought the whole game and that's what it takes - all 11 - like we have been saying all season. We got that today and it paid off."
The game came down to execution, Kent said.
"Arkansas did a great job of mixing up their defenses. They gave us no tendencies to get our teeth into at all, but when you are executing at a high level like we were today, that can be overcome," he closed.
Back to the numbers, this time for the Rebel defense.
Arkansas was limited to 299 yards. They have been averaging over 450 per game.
The Hogs were just 4-13 on third downs.
Ryan Mallett was just 12-34 passing.
"We were able to pressure Mallett, who I think is the best quarterback we will face this year. He can make every throw in the field. We knew if he was able to set his feet, he would tear us apart, like he did in the last drive of the first half. He got time then and shredded us, but for the most part we were able to flush him, pressure him and sack him a few (4) times," said Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix. "That was a major key for us. I think we got to him him enough that he never got comfortable in the pocket. We couldn't allow that or it would have been a long day."
Priority number one, however, was stopping the Arkansas run game. The Hogs only rushed for 45 yards on 22 attempts and could never get going with their ground game.
"Arkansas ran the ball well against Florida last week, so we knew we were going to have to find a way to make them one-dimensional and take the run away," Tyrone continued. "Playing the run takes desire. Our kids played their hearts out, something we expect of them and something they give us every game."
Tyrone said the game moves too fast for him to recall all the big plays, but two stuck out.
"Every sack is big, but I thought LaMark Armour's sack came at a great time and Patrick Trahan had a big sack that shifted the momentum more in our favor," said Nix. "They are all big though. Anytime you can cause a negative yardage play and put them in long down and distance situations, you are ahead of the curve."
Nix's pressure package was a mixed bag of calls.
"We tried to come at them from every angle. We sent corners, safeties, linebackers. We wanted to try to keep them on their heels so they couldn't hone in on where we were going to apply the pressure and the kids executed all the calls very well," Tyrone noted. "Against an offense as potent as theirs, you cannot allow yourself to work into any kind of tendencies and give them anything they can zero in on."
Being solid on first and second downs was also a key in the game.
"We kept them in third and long situations most of the day. That made them have to throw more vertical routes which allowed us more time to get to Mallett," Nix assessed.
Nix also tipped his hat to the Rebel offense.
"We knew we were not going to shut Arkansas out. They have too good an offense. We knew our offense would have to score some points for us to win," he added. "They went out there and played lights out and gave us a cushion the whole game.
"When you are constantly two scores up, it changes the way you can call the game. It all played right into our hands."
Surprisingly, Nix's motivation was based off last week's performance against UAB.
"That game was the only time all year I have not been proud of our effort and I let them know it in practice this week," he closed. "They responded with an exceptional effort today and as a result we got a big win.
"I also want to compliment our whole defensive staff. This isn't about me. It's about us. Chris Vaughn, Kim Dameron, Terry Price - they all came up with a great gameplan and the kids ran with it."
The numbers don't lie.
OM Spirit Top Stories
Rebels RegroupingFrom watching about 30 minutes of Tuesday's practice, one would be hard-pressed to detect the Rebs have lost two games in a row and are below .500 for the year at 3-4. It was…
OM Spirit3:35 PM
Which SEC School will Labryan Ray Select?Labryan Ray has come to the conclusion that he will play in the Southeastern Conference, but for which school? The No. 9 defensive end in the country discusses his recruitment here…
Scout Football11:21 AM
Patterson Confident in Line Despite InjuriesOle Miss Spirit correspondent Kate Robison recently spoke to Ole Miss guard Javon Patterson about injuries on the offensive line, the progression of freshman Greg Little and facing…
OM Spirit6:00 AM