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

After the Auburn game, we all heard Ole Miss coaches and players talk about how halftime of the Auburn game could be, and should be, a turning point for the rest of the season. We hear stuff like that sometimes and honestly don’t give it a second thought because we honestly believe it is just “coach speak” or the players trying to rally themselves. However, this time, it may be spot on.

In the 2nd half of that Auburn game, as we chronicled last week, this Ole Miss team appears to have finally woken up. They only allowed nine points in the 2nd half against an explosive Auburn offense and scored nearly at will in that 2nd half against a pretty stout Auburn defense. You wondered how that would translate to the first home game for the Rebels in over a month. Well, it translated pretty well in a 57-35 outing against the Commodores.

I am going to go in reverse a little bit on the game, starting with the postgame interview Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson had with Olivia Harlan of The SEC Network (Shea is already so poised and such a pro at these it is ridiculous). Patterson pointed out that Ole Miss had not played a home game in over a month, had two road games against top 10 competition in Alabama and Auburn, and a road game all the way across the country against a Cal team that beat previously top-10 ranked Washington State by 30 points. This Rebel football team, as young as they are, has had to grow up quickly this season. I applaud them for the courage under fire and sticking with the program (at least for now). Maybe the halftime speech in the locker room at Auburn really was the turning point for this team? At least on Saturday, it was.

Let’s start with the defense first. Congrats to Marquis Haynes on becoming the all-time sack leader at Ole Miss with 27. Also congrats to him for being selected the SEC’s Defensive Lineman of the Week. But wait, he did not finish with only one sack on the day. Haynes was a beastly disrupter all game long and finished the day with a career-high three sacks. The Rebels came into the Vandy game with only four sacks all season, and by the time the final horn sounded the “Landshark” defense had registered an amazing seven sacks on the day. Remeber, this defense was pushed, prodded, critiqued, busted-up and downright embarrassed at Alabama. To bounce back and get that kind of pressure on the Vandy quarterback was pretty impressive.

Now, the 35 points given up to Vandy ARE a big concern. I love Derek Mason, but come on, it is Vanderbilt. They are not that multiple on offense and are a one-dimensional team with Ralph Webb at running back. Webb gashed the Ole Miss defense for 163 rushing yards and 2 TD’s, one of which was a 38-yard gallop where he was not even touched until he finally reached the pylon. While the Rebel defense has plenty to be happy about after Saturday, there’s still grave concern on this team’s inability to stop the run. Oh, and Darius Guice and LSU are coming to town Saturday.

Offensively, what can you NOT like about Saturday? The Rebels scored the 2nd most points in a SEC game since 1979. AJ Brown had some kind of day. The SEC’s leading receiver reeled in eight catches for 179 yards and two TD’s from the SEC’s top quarterback in passing yards, Shea Patterson. Patterson is beginning to look more and more comfortable with this team, Longo’s playbook, and just the overall job of being a quarterback in the SEC. Patterson was dominant Saturday, accounting for five TDs. He was 22-25 through the air for 351 yards and four TD’s and had one rushing TD where he ran not around but OVER a Vanderbilt defender to get into the end zone. Moreover, if you did not see DK Metcalf’s acrobatic Tyrone Prothro-like catch Saturday, just Google it. It is worth it. If there’s a better wide receiver unit in the nation, please point it out to me because I do not see it.

So it is LSU week. Also, if you did not know it by now, current LSU and former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron had an interesting little jab to throw at Ole Miss this week. I am not sure if that is the smartest thing to do going into a rivalry game against a team that will field easily the best wide receiver corps you have defended this season.

I get why he said it, but the timing of it is, well, that is Coach O. You are really just adding fuel to the fire for Ole Miss fans to not just beat the Tigers, but destroy a former head coach on the field. Will that happen Saturday night in Oxford? Who can predict these things? We are supposed to, right?

If Ole Miss can jump on LSU early, get the same pressure on Danny Etling as they did last Saturday against Vandy, and bottle up Guice, they have a shot. However, they cannot be complacent on offense and throw all of this lateral junk that doesn’t do a bit of good. You have the best wide receiver corps in the nation – UNLEASH THEM. If Ole Miss does that, they win by 14. A piece of cake, right? We will see you Saturday night in Oxford. – RN

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