The defense held off the offense to win the 2019 Grove Bowl, wrapping up the spring football season

Posted on Apr 8 2019 - 5:50am by Jared Redding

While the Rebel defense struggled, at times, to defend its own offensive coordinator’s new scheme, the group stood tall when it mattered most to ensure that it wouldn’t be passed on the scoreboard.

The 2019 Nissan Grove Bowl went the way of the defense with a score of 29-25 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday. The game capped off 14 days of spring practice and saw a handful of young players burst onto the scene on both sides of the ball.

Ole Miss football proved that they will have a strong defense this upcoming season during the Grove Bowl this weekend, where they closed out their spring practice season. Photo by Christian Johnson.

“It was a competitive game. We saw some flashes from some of our young guys, which was good. Our defense, overall, controlled the line of scrimmage,” head coach Matt Luke said. “Overall, we got what we wanted — trying to keep it vanilla. I wanted us to see a competitive game and get after it. I thought we accomplished that.”

The defensive unit was spotted a 27-0 lead at the beginning of the game, and the offense’s goal was to get out of that hole. The defense could get points by creating turnovers and converting them into points.

New offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez pointed out that quarterback Matt Corral’s ability to run his new-look offense was not on full display during this game.

“Today wasn’t pretty, but overall, in the spring, we put a lot in — a lot more than I thought we could. They handled it pretty well. Certainly, we have a long way to go at every position — there is no question,” Rodriguez said. “They’re working hard. This will be the most important summer for most of these guys that they’ve ever had.”

Matt Corral did most of the damage at quarterback through the air. He completed 22 of his 37 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown pass to Braylon Sanders midway through the second quarter.

Tylan Knight, a newly converted slot receiver, led the receivers with 91 yards on 5 catches. Knight also caught a touchdown from freshman early enrollee Grant Tisdale.

“The reason (Knight) showed up to play in the spring is because he’s such a competitor,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very versatile guy who can do a lot at a lot of different positions.”

Freshman early enrollee Snoop Conner led all rushers with 52 yards on 10 carries. Kinkead Dent, another freshman early enrollee, got 50 yards on the ground at the quarterback position.

Defensively, the Rebels had to adjust to their new defensive coordinator’s 3-4 scheme throughout the spring. A big part of that was having defensive ends shift to outside linebackers in certain situations. New defensive coordinator Mike McIntyre believes that this game showed that it can be done, but the execution needs polishing.

“I think they have improved. At first they were like fish out of water, and now they can swim out of water but not for very long,” McIntyre said. “I’ve seen steady improvement every day.”

Mohamed Sanogo led with 8 tackles, and junior college transfer linebacker Sam Williams had 6. The defense forced 3 interceptions by C.J. Miller, Kam’ron White and Ryder Anderson.

White kept the offensive team from tying the game with an end-zone interception that led to a 100-yard return on a two-point conversion following Hunter Holt’s touchdown. That score gave the defense their only earned points.

The Rebels will open the 2019 season at Memphis on Saturday, Aug. 31.