REBEL NATION REWIND – The UT-Martin Game

By Jason Scarborough – Contributing Writer
Photos by Greg Pevey, Rebel Nation Magazine

They typically say that a football team makes their biggest adjustments from week one to week two. If you’re an Ole Miss fan and watching the game Saturday between UT-Martin and Ole Miss, you struggled to find what those adjustments were-especially on the defensive side of the ball. But the Rebs sputtered offensively to start the game too. The slow start put pressure on an already struggling defense still trying to find their identity in a new system with a new defensive coordinator.

For much of the 1st half, the Rebels offense wasn’t clicking like the Ferrari we expect to see featuring speedy receivers Brown, Lodge, Metcalf and the sensational craftiness of Patterson. Thanks to the defense’s inability to tackle Skyhawk Ladarius Galloway and the offense struggling, Ole Miss found themselves down 9-0 in the 1st quarter. Finally, the offense woke up and began to give the defense the cushion it will apparently need all season.

Now that I’ve been brutally honest about Saturday let me point out some things that get lost in all the fandom with this Ole Miss team. Granted, you should never have to say you were worried in the 1st half against UT-Martin or that you were down to the Skyhawks (what is a Skyhawk by the way?) 16-7 with fewer than 7 minutes to go in the 1st half. But let’s keep in mind what this team has been through in the last year. If it’s been rough for adults in the program and outside the program, can you imagine what it’s been like for these kids? There’s no need to document all of the occurrences of the past year because you already know what this team, this school, and this program have been through lately. There’s still so much that’s new to these kids and coaches right now.

“3 THINGS”

SHEA PATTERSON WAS NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK WITH HIS RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE.

FIRST
The Rebels racked up 543 yards of total offense, with 489 of those yards belonging to Shea Patterson through the air, which broke the school’s single game passing yards record previously held by Chad Kelly. “It takes more than one guy to break a record,” Patterson said. “The offensive line and the receivers helped a lot.” Ole Miss also scored 40+ points for the 2nd straight game, and this coming after it looked like the Rebs may not score over 20 points there in the 1st quarter.

Sophomore WR A.J. Brown continues to be a joy to watch, leading the receivers with 156 yards on eight receptions and two scores and showing that there really aren’t many that can cover him.

Junior WR Damarkus Lodge erupted with six catches 133 yards and a score and showed why he might be the most improved offensively this season.

Senior RB Jordan Wilkins had a good day with 76 offensive yards and a rushing TD and receiving TD.

Defensively, the Rebels did hold UT-Martin to only 334 yards of total offense for the game and register a takeaway, a Javien Hamilton interception. SR linebacker DeMarquis Gates led the defense with nine tackles, and defensively the Rebs DID get it together in the 2nd half, only allowing seven 2nd half points.

Special teams were relatively solid as the Rebs averaged 49 yards per punt and Wunderlich was perfect on PAT attempts. He did miss a makeable 37-yard field goal after nailing a 21-yarder. Something to work on for sure when it comes to field goal attempts of 40+ yards.

SECOND
You probably already know where this is going, but here goes anyway. It’s a mystery how out of position the Rebels are on defense and dare I say, how uninspired they seem right now. I can’t remember a time in my life of seeing a defense just lunge or heave themselves at an opposing ball carrier and expect that to work. It seems like they’ve forgotten how to tackle, just to be frank.

“The most glaring thing is, when we’re at the attack point, that we miss the tackle. It looks like we’re more reaching than knocking them back. It’s a combination of things,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said after the game. “We’ve got to continue to show up with our run defense and our tackling,” McGriff continued. “You can’t ignore that. We didn’t tackle well, and I’m not satisfied at all…the way we played against the run.” Well, at least someone on the staff sees it, and head coach Matt Luke addressed the lack of energy the defensive unit showed as well.

Here’s an old school tip that many of you guys probably remember as far back as our days of playing Pee Wee ball or playing in the backyard with your dads. Someone carrying that football can be 5’9 or 6’9, but the equalizer is if you tackle someone around the legs and ankles-they’re not going anywhere. The most textbook tackler I’ve ever seen on the field at Vaught-Hemingway is former Rebel great Patrick Willis. Maybe it’s time to pull up some of his old videos for inspiration and instruction because right now this defense needs both.

GARY WUNDERLICH

THIRD
The good news is the Rebels are 2-0 and didn’t mess it up against two teams that they should’ve beaten. This is a roster full of kids and coaches that have been through more than any team or program should have to endure in one year. They lose their head coach amid startling allegations leading to their offensive line coach being boosted to head coach, they have a new offensive AND defensive coordinator, and their administration has self-imposed the one-year bowl ban. I’ve spoken with adults that this grates on and stresses out. Now think about being a 19 or 20-year-old kid juggling college studies with game preparation for a SEC football program-THEN add all that extra jazz. So yeah, it’s been pretty tough for these kids, coaches, and their families.

Having said all of that, I do believe that the right man is in charge of the program right now and at least through two games, Matt Luke hasn’t given the red and blue colored glasses answers on the issues that need to be addressed on all sides of the ball. He’s been through what this program is currently dealing with as a player and knows what it takes to survive. He’ll have a tough week coming up now that he’s been requested at the COI hearing on today (don’t even get me started on that).

His game preparation will be limited for the Rebels’ road trip out to take on Cal this Saturday, which adds to the concern for this upcoming game even more. It was already going to be a tough one because the Bears are 2-0 and it’s a long road trip coupled with playing later than a team from the South is accustomed to playing.

Hopefully, the adjustments from week two to week three will be enough to produce a Rebel win. – RN

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