Five takeaways from Rebels’ victory over Kent State

Posted on Sep 23 2018 - 4:57pm by Josh Gollihar

The Ole Miss football team has had an eventful trip en route to its 3-1 record. The road includes a convincing win over a Power-5 foe, two “too close for comfort” wins against smaller programs and a blowout loss to the top team in the country. A lot of the same continued on Saturday: the offense moved the ball, and the defense gave up yards. Rinse. Repeat. Five points have become clear in the Rebels’ opening four games.

D.K. Metcalf looks out on the field during Saturday’s game against UT Martin. Photo by Wilson Benton

  1. D.K. Metcalf should be receiving more respect as a top prospect for the NFL Draft.

For three years now, A.J. Brown has been the five-star receiver from the Ole Miss 2016 recruiting class to garner headlines. However, Metcalf is clearly establishing himself as the top billing man in the “Nasty Wide Outs,” and this is not because Brown has played poorly. Metcalf has just been that impressive. He makes plays all over the field and is a threat to score from everywhere. He can score just as easily on a screen pass as he can on a deep route. With his frame and build, Jordan Ta’amu just has to get the ball into Metcalf’s zip code to complete a pass. His 41-yard, one-handed grab in the end zone is as good a play you will see a receiver make. He will be eligible to enter the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore. If he does throw his name in the hat, the Oxford product will not wait long to have his name called.

  1. The dominant play from the offense needs to translate to SEC play.

Even after the slow first half, the Rebels’ offense tallied 651 total yards on Saturday. The 38 points are not great against a Mid Atlantic Conference foe considering the weapons that Phil Longo has to work with. This game offered the offense a chance to rebound from a horrific performance a week ago while looking ahead to the first road trip of the SEC slate. Playing LSU at night in Death Valley is never easy. The Tigers’ have NFL talent at every level of the defense. The offense has a quarterback who manages the game well, but, more importantly, Nick Brossette has established himself as a clear bell-cow running back. Matt Luke needs his offense to show up in a big way to compete against LSU. Do not expect a different result than the Alabama game if the offense puts up another egg.

  1. Rain delays in non-conference games are not good.

At halftime, the referees sent the game into a weather delay with lightning strikes in the area. This brings an automatic 30-minute delay. The delay was then extended with a few minutes left in the delay. This pushed the second-half kickoff back to 1:30. Later, with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, immediately after the Ole Miss defense recovered a fumble in Kent State territory, the officials pulled the teams off the field again. This delay saw the field covered in water and brought a lengthier delay of an hour and a half. Playing games over five hours out of conference is a bit of overkill.

  1. The defense created negative plays for the opposing offense.

In what was still a less-than-ideal performance, Wesley McGriff’s defense made plays that were absent from the first three weeks. The defense totaled 14 tackles-for-loss, seven of which were sacks. Charles Wiley led the way with 2.5 sacks. Zedrick Woods added an interception and Mohamed Sanogo forced a fumble right before the rain delay. At this point, it seems futile to expect the defense to pitch a shutout or hold teams to under 300 yards. That is unrealistic. However, this is a recipe for success. If the defense can force turnovers, the offense can capitalize and score off short fields.

  1. The defense did not give up an absurd amount of points.

A 23-game streak of allowing more than 21 points was snapped on Saturday. The last time an Ole Miss defense had done this was week four of the 2016 season against the Georgia Bulldogs. Any step taken in the positive direction is a win for the defense. After weeks of hearing how bad they have been, today was an acceptable performance.