Happy Monday, everybody, and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call, your daily sports page for all things Ole Miss sports.
The Ole Miss Rebels ran all over the Memphis Tigers on Saturday, using a rare dominant rushing performance to beat Memphis, 48-28. Ole Miss, which had been mostly one-dimensional in previous games, finally put a running game together, and in a big way. Junior running back Eugene Brazley gashed the Tigers for 124 yards and a 2 touchdowns, and Akeem Judd added 108 of his own to give the Rebels two 100-yard rushing performances in the same game for the first time since Ole Miss beat Presbyterian in 2014.
Chad Kelly added 361 passing yards as the 3-2 Rebels finished with an impressive 624 total yards.
“We were very balanced for most of the night, which makes us very good,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
This was Memphis, and we should probably know better than to make too much of Judd and Brazley running for a combined 200-plus yards against a team from the American Athletic Conference, but what if this game wasn’t an aberration? What if Freeze, offensive line coach Matt Luke and the offensive line have discovered the formula for putting a legitimate running game together?
These Rebels have been good even without a running game, but with a running game, they could be something better than good. They could be great.
“If Ole Miss can effectively run the football, to go with Kelly’s arm and all those receivers, the Rebels could win out,” wrote Mississippi Today columnist Rick Cleveland.
I don’t disagree with his assessment.
Stringfellow is a cornerback seeking missile
I’m convinced that Ole Miss wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow only wants to catch the football so he can use it as an excuse to run over somebody. I’ve never seen a receiver look for contact after the catch like Stringfellow does. Time and again, the 6-foot-2, 219-pound junior caught the ball on Saturday, turned upfield and then dared somebody to get in his way. Stringfellow won’t go down without inflicting pain.
— OleMissPix (@OleMissPix) October 2, 2016
Stringfellow led the Rebel receivers with 6 catches for 94 yards.
Scoring isn’t a problem
Ole Miss has scored 43 points or more against every FBS opponent it has faced this season. The Rebels scored 38 points against Wofford of the FCS Division.
The Wide Receiver U domination continues
Evan Engram had another good night, finishing with 4 catches for 82 yards and a 12-yard touchdown reception.
As the most prolific pass-catching tight end in the country, defenses are on notice that Engram is one of Kelly’s favorite targets, but even with that knowledge, they are virtually powerless to stop him.
“What are you going to do?” Freeze asked almost sarcastically. “The only way you can bracket him is if you put a linebacker and safety inside out on him, but that means someone is 1-on-1.”
And no defense feels safe in 1-on-1 coverage against the Rebels’ wideouts.
If there’s one thing that Ole Miss and Kelly have established this season, it’s that Kelly will incorporate all his receivers.
Engram – 30
Van Jefferson – 21
Stringfellow – 20
A.J. Brown – 14
Adeboyejo – 13
Lodge – 8
Any one of them could get a pass from Kelly on any given play. It’s a beautiful problem that Freeze has created for defenses to solve. So far, none of them have. Ole Miss has shot itself in the foot with turnovers a couple times, but no defense can say it has “stopped” Ole Miss.
“That is why we are having such success in recruiting,” Freeze said. “We spread it around. That is one of the things that we show people. If you have better people around you or on the other side of the field or inside, you are going to get a lot more chances to get open. I think it is a combination of him being talented and our other guys playing well.”
A good sign
Ole Miss let a 27-7 lead slip away in the third quarter. After Memphis drove the ball 99 yards for a touchdown to make the score 27-21, Ole Miss fans started to lose their minds. It was like the 2nd half collapses against Florida State and Alabama were about to happen all over again.
It would have been easy for Ole Miss to panic and for everything to fall apart. But it didn’t, thanks in part to Kelly.
“Before we went out there Chad (Kelly) kind of got us composed and told us everything was going to be all right,” Jefferson said. “So, we went out there, executed the plays and Chad made the right decisions.”
Kelly completed four passes on a seven-play drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Engram to make the score 34-21 with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter. The outcome would never be in question after that.
That drive is a sign that Ole Miss is gaining confidence as it enters the midseason. It’s also a sign of good senior leadership by Kelly. That kind of leadership will be needed in the SEC stretch to come.
LandShark defense gobbles up football
While the defense wasn’t close to perfect as it allowed 355 passing yards, the “LandShark D” got the job done by wreaking havoc on Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson. Under constant duress, Ferguson threw 3 interceptions and fumbled. The fumble was caused by none other than Marquis Haynes, who continues to be a dominant presence at defensive end. Haynes finished with 6 total tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 2 quarterback hurries and 1 forced fumble.
Every time No. 10 comes running into the backfield, it feels like something big is about to happen. Haynes is so fast and arrives at the quarterback with such force that watching him play defense is almost the most entertaining part of the game.
The best pick was made by defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who looked surprisingly agile stooping to intercept an errant Ferguson pass, but then again, the pick-6 by Zedrick Woods also was a beautiful sight.
Defensive points are always huge. Derrick Jones had a pick-6 for Ole Miss against Georgia last week.
Rebels climb in polls
Ole Miss ascended two spots to No. 14 in the both the AP and the Amway Coaches Poll.
The Chad Kelly file
Another game, another 300-yard night and a touchdown for Kelly.
Chad Kelly (@OleMissFB) has thrown a TD pass in 18 consecutive games, T-2nd longest active streak in FBS behind Deshaun Watson
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2016
The 18-game touchdown pass streak extended the Ole Miss school record that Kelly broke last week. Kelly’s 361 yards passing against Memphis was his 11th 300-yard passing game, tying Bo Wallace’s school record. With at least seven games to go, more records are sure to fall.
SEC Power Rankings
Do you agree with the SEC Country Power Poll? The only reason I ask is because I don’t. Tennessee is not better than Ole Miss. The Volunteers have been surviving by the skin of their teeth in game after game, and that even included their opener against Appalachian State. The Volunteers are like a cat that’s already died eight times. All their lives have now been used and they won’t last. On Saturday, Tennessee needed a miraculous Hail Mary to beat Georgia, the same Georgia that Ole Miss beat 45-14 just last week. The Rebels could have beaten the Bulldogs even worse than that if Freeze hadn’t pulled Kelly in the fourth quarter. I’m not buying Tennessee, even an undefeated Tennessee, over Ole Miss. The Rebels won’t get a chance to prove me right against Tennessee during the regular season, but Ole Miss will get its shot at Texas A&M on Nov. 12. The Vols visit the Aggies on Saturday.
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Mississippi State
- South Carolina
The children of three beloved Oxford couples who died in a tragic plan crash in August were in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to help lead the Rebels on the field.
Here's some video of the kids of the plane crash victims leading Ole Miss onto the field tonight against Memphis. pic.twitter.com/RWBp9oV9sq
— TJ Werre (@TJ_WJTV) October 2, 2016
It’s moments like this that make Ole Miss fans proud to have Freeze as their head coach.
— OleMissPix (@OleMissPix) October 1, 2016
Ole Miss gets a much-needed open date before traveling to Fayetteville to take on Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks on Oct. 15. The Razorbacks (4-1, 0-1 SEC) beat Alcorn State, 52-10, on Saturday and will face No. 1 Alabama this weekend.
After a stretch that included three games against ranked opponents, including Alabama, Florida State and Georgia, Ole Miss was due for a break.
“We still got three practices, so we’ve got to work hard in those and get ready for Arkansas,” Jefferson told the Ole Miss Spirit. “But this bye week is needed to rest and get back right.”
Around Ole Miss sports
- The Ole Miss men’s basketball team hosts Morehouse in an exhibition game exactly one month from today.
- The No. 20 Ole Miss men’s cross country team won the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on Friday. The women finished seventh (out of 23 teams).
- Colby Bortles and Ryan Olenek have high hopes for the diamond Rebels.
- Ole Miss soccer beat Kentucky 2-1, improving to 7-6 (2-3 SEC).
- Get to know Ole Miss rifle team’s Harley Gardner.
- The women’s basketball team held its first official practice on Sunday.
- Men’s golf had a great round Sunday and is positioned to win the Marquette Intercollegiate.
- Ole Miss volleyball gets big win:
— Ole Miss Volleyball (@OleMissVB) October 3, 2016
Ole Miss today
- The women’s rifle team is participating in the Memphis Tiger Invitational at 4 p.m.
- Men’s golf is at the Marquette Intercollegiate in Milwaukee, Wis.
- Women’s tennis is at the Riviera ITA All-American Championships in Palisades, Calif.
- Men’s tennis is at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.
Ole Miss in the news
- At least one fan was agitated that the Ole Miss student section left the stadium early.
- The Ole Miss Homecoming Queen also is a cheerleader.
- The suspension of DeMarquis Gates makes an already thin linebacking corps even weaker.
- The “LandShark D” is creating turnovers.
- ESPN’s bowl projections haven’t changed for Ole Miss.