No Robert Nkemdiche? No problem.
That was the feeling on the Ole Miss sideline Saturday, as the 24th-ranked Rebels dominated No. 15 Texas A&M’s high-powered offense en route to a 23-3 win.
“I couldn’t ask anymore from our defense,” coach Hugh Freeze told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game.
Ole Miss gave up just 192 yards to an Aggies offense that was averaging 453 yards per game going in.
Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen finished the game 12 of 34 for 88 yards and an interception, completing just 2 of his last 22 passes, which both went for negative yardage.
The Aggies also managed to net just 58 rushing yards on 27 carries.
“I told them at halftime, ‘You look like a totally different defense the way you’re flying around and executing top notch and doing things I knew you could do,'” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack told Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
One area that has really bitten Ole Miss defensively is their production on third down.
Last week, the Rebels allowed Memphis to convert 12 of 20 third down opportunities. Texas A&M was just 6 of 20 on third down Saturday.
“They were playing so fast,” Wommack said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.'”
The performance certainly impressed Wommack, and it appears even better when you look at who was missing.
Ole Miss was without the services of star defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who missed the game because of concussion symptoms.
“I was disappointed when I heard about an hour before we got on the bus that Robert wasn’t playing,” Wommack said. “It kind of surprised me because you build some things into the game plan for that. I was so happy for all of our defensive lineman. I thought our safety play was much better, and I thought we executed a lot better.”
Defensive end Marquis Haynes led the way up front for the Rebels, totaling three tackles for loss and two sacks. Safety Trae Elston made a big impact as well on the backend of the defense, as he was involved in several pass plays.