The Ole Miss Rebels took care of business, sometimes in a ho-hum way, and rolled to an easy 59-14 victory over visiting Idaho to raise their record to 5-3 and coast into a much-needed open week before the stretch run.
Everyone who has paid attention knew Idaho was overmatched when their game in Oxford against Ole Miss approached.
So it comes as no surprise the Rebels steamrolled the Vandals 59-14 without expending too much emotion and, for a brief time in the first half, too much energy.
In fact, the game, except for the Rebel fans who love a massacre, was bordering on boring after the score got out of hand. No suspense, no drama. Perfunctory in nature compared to the past two weeks, where both the Texas A&M and LSU contests were decided on last-second field goals.
Realistically, how could this game match up to those?
Coaches, however, don’t take that view.
It was a win, it was one-sided, it was one step closer to bowl eligibility, there were relatively few injuries and they enter a much-needed open week on a two-game win streak.
“In the second quarter, Idaho got some things going with their power and zone games when we weren’t fitting some gaps properly,” said Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack. “We got that adjusted at halftime and they didn’t get too much after that except one long pass where our DB got out of position.
“Actually, the same play they hurt us on in the first half is the one where we hit them in the backfield and Dehendret Collins scooped a fumble and scored. I was pleased with the way the kids took the adjustments and handled their gaps in the second half.”
Coach Hugh Freeze said in his press conference that the team, after getting up 17-0, got “sloppy” in the first half. Wommack said he was part of that equation.
“I made a bad mistake by switching personnel too late and we got a penalty for 12 men on the field that kept one of their scoring drives going,” said Wommack. “That was definitely my fault. We had them stopped and my mistake kept them alive.”
Wommack didn’t know what to expect from the team, but he felt they prepared hard, played hard, if not always effectively, and finished strongly.
“After the two emotional wins we had, facing a team – with respect to Idaho – who had not won but one game and was pretty beat up themselves, I didn’t know if we would get the attention of the players the way we needed to, but I thought Coach Freeze did a great job in Tupelo this morning showing them some recent upsets and getting them focused,” he added.
Wommack had a pretty simple gameplan – a lot of base defense with zone coverages and very little blitzing.
“They do some things that can put you in a bind if you get too aggressive. We played it kind of vanilla and safe,” he explained. “We looked at what they did last year and thought it would be best to lay back and let the guys up front hunt, get a pass rush and play zone.”
Wommack played without several players, again. LB Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle), DE Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring) and CB Mike Hilton (hamstring) did not play and several others were gimped up, but played some.
“It’s been tough putting together gameplans with the number of players we have, but it was good to have Serderius (Bryant) back out there and we had a lot of younger players who got good experience,” Wommack stated. “Derrick Jones, John Youngblood, Temario Strong and a few others got a lot of reps that will help them down the road.
“Temario has been coming on lately. We moved him from LB to DE and he showed great quickness in the pass rush. John hung in there and did a good job as well. He’s a hard worker, tough kid and will work hard to make himself a good football player. Derrick was thrown in the fire last week against LSU, so he needed a game like this, where he didn’t have a ton of pressure on him and he gained experience. I think he was pretty solid.”
Wommack called the open week coming up “huge.”
“In our case, with all the injuries we have, we need a week off. Sometimes you hate to slow down your momentum and would rather play, but this is not one of those times,” he closed. “We need Robert and Mike and Denzel and some more back to full strength for the last third of the season.
“These last four games will go a long way in making our season and we need all hands on deck. We’ve got three more SEC games to play and a tough non-conference game with Troy. We need everyone ready.”
On the offensive side of the ball, it was a big-play extravaganza, which suited OC Dan Werner just fine.
“We completed three long balls for touchdowns and broke a couple of nice runs for scores,” noted Werner. “That was good to see. Our playmakers made plays and, as a coach, that’s always fun to watch.
“We got a little sloppy with penalties and doing the little things poorly after we built a 17-0 lead, but I was proud of the way they came back in the second half and played well.”
Werner was pleased with the way Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti ran the offense and he was really proud of the way all the young backs ran the ball.
“I was happy for Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore because they haven’t gotten to play much and they showed me some good things tonight. Mark showed a burst and good vision on a couple of runs, but he’s got to protect the ball better,” he continued. “I was happy with the way Bo and Barry took care of the ball and made good decisions. They checked down to the right people and did what we asked them to do.
“We’ve preached all week long to get the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays and that’s what they did. When a big play opportunity was there, they took advantage of it.”
The biggest difference for Werner was not having TE Evan Engram, who is out for the season after ankle surgery early in the week.
“Evan’s a guy who could beat linebackers or safeties and that was something we felt we had when we needed a play,” Werner explained. “Now, we are calling the same type plays, but we are more likely to go somewhere else with the ball. Losing Evan has been an adjustment, but we will play to the strengths of the players we have available.”
The offensive side of the ball is beat up a little bit too, but not as noticeably as the defense.
As a consequence, Werner is also a fan of the timely open week.
“We hope to get Jeff Scott back and we have several players who are gutting it out and playing through nagging injuries that need to heal up in the open week,” he closed. “I’m sure we will take it easy on them next week and then come back and gear up for Arkansas.”
— Chuck Rounsaville, OMSpirit.com Publisher