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Hall: Rebels Still Hold Key to Their Own Destiny


Photo by Josh Bonner
Photo by Josh Bonner

On Saturday, the Ole Miss Rebels will play the New Mexico State Aggies in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium at 11 a.m.

Ole Miss suffered its’ first loss of the season last weekend against the Florida Gators. Jim McElwain’s squad came out ready to play last Saturday and exposed many flaws the Rebels have on offense and defense alike. The 38-10 upset was reminiscent of the Arkansas and TCU games from last season, where the offense couldn’t stay on the field and the defense couldn’t get off it.

Florida constantly exposed Ole Miss’ flaws all game and mapped out a blueprint of how to beat the Rebels. The offensive line depth and talent concerns finally reared their head after the Gator defense gave the unit trouble all day. With injuries all along the offensive front, the Rebels must get healthy in order to properly protect quarterback Chad Kelly. Subsequently, the NCAA has yet to rule on the eligibility of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, putting even more emphasis on the health of the offensive line.

The offense’s red zone and third down troubles continued in the Swamp as the Rebels failed to score more than 10 points. Ole Miss only converted 5-for-14 third down plays and didn’t score a touchdown until the end of the fourth quarter. These two areas must improve in order for Ole Miss to have a real chance at winning the conference championship this year.

The defense must also improve on third downs, as the unit was unable to stop the Gator’s offensive drives for the majority of the game. With Tony Conner and CJ Johnson both our with meniscus tears, the Rebel defense is having trouble against the short-passing game and in the red zone alike.

The defense will have to make personal adjustments going forward in order to have the best 11 players on the field. Look for defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to make changes to the defensive backfield by moving Mike Hilton to husky, Trae Elston to rover, and starting C.J. Hampton at free safety. This shift in personal should help improve the secondary, but the inexperience at linebacker looks to be bigger problem than expected.

Cornerback Tee Shepard announced this week that he leaving the Ole Miss program due to his hearing disability. It has been extremely difficult for him to hear the play calls on the field due to the noise level in games. Yet, another big blow to the Ole Miss team, as players seem to be dropping like flies. With Shepard gone and Johnson and Conner both hurt, the defense is starting to look scary thin at key positions.

Health has to be a major priority for Hugh Freeze’s team this Saturday and with many starters not suiting up against the Aggies, you might need to look at your program to see who’s playing where. I don’t think that New Mexico State will present much of a challenge as their record current sits at 0-4, but Ole Miss has to consistently execute their game plan on both sides of the ball.

This looks to be a game where inexperienced players will get significant playing time, while banged-up starters will get to rest. Injuries are something you cannot prevent from happening, but with five remaining conference games on the schedule health is an attribute this team needs going forward.

The Rebels still hold the key to their own destiny. If they win out, then they are headed to Atlanta and could possibly make a trip to the College Football Playoffs. However, if their flaws on offense and defense are not drastically improved by next week then this season will not be so magical after all. With that being said, look for Ole Miss to capture their fifth win of the season Saturday against New Mexico State.

Young Hall is a reporter and sports commentator for HottyToddy.com. Email him at yhhall@gmail.com

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Adam Brown
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