Ole Miss vs Arkansas: 5 Things We Learned From the Loss
The Ole Miss football team lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks 34-30 on Saturday night, here are five things we learned from the loss.
Ole Miss vs Arkansas ended up in a sorrowful defeat for the Rebels for the third straight season. The Razorbacks and Rebels have proven to be a big-time matchup game that results in a shootout.
The game started out with each team going three-and-out, but after that, the scoring began. The first score of the game was a 51-yard pass from Austin Allen to Dominique Reed on a play where Tony Conner bit on the fake and left the receiver open with no help over the top.
The Rebels would react with a touchdown drive of their own, with Evan Engram catching a 13-yard pass for a touchdown.
The teams would swap scores for the rest of the game, ending with the Razorbacks ahead 34-30.
So what did Ole Miss do wrong in this game? What did they do right? What else did we learn from the game? Well, here are five thoughts after Saturday’s loss.
Dave Wommack Needs to be Fired
The Ole Miss defensive unit is one of the most talented in the SEC, yet they rank as one of the worst. Why is that? It is the scheme they run.
Look at the defense on any normal 2nd and 6 play. The defensive backs are playing 10 yards off the line, giving the receivers the six yards needed for the first down.
The Ole Miss defense is currently ranked 104th out of 128 in Total Defense this season, a stark comparison to just two seasons ago, where the Rebels were ranked 13th in the nation in Total Defense.
So what happened to cause such a change? Tom Allen left at the end of 2014 season and took the defensive coordinator job at the University of South Florida.
Allen is currently the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for the Indiana Hoosiers, who rank 49th in the nation in Total Defense.
One of the main differences between Tom Allen and Dave Wommack came on the recruiting trail. Wommack has had a lot less success than Allen did when recruiting big time defensive talent.
Looking at the 2013 recruiting class, the one that put Ole Miss back on the map. Allen ranked 85th in the SEC recruiting that season, pulling in five recruits with an average ranking of 85.47.
Wommack came in ranked 111th in the SEC, and brought in four recruits with an average ranking of 85.31.
The story repeats itself in 2014, with Allen coming in 113th in the SEC, and Wommack creeping in at 141st in the SEC, which happens to be absolutely last on the list of qualifying coaches.
Wommack refuses to call for man defense, according to Quintavious Burdette on Twitter.
@drm_12 we also have to actually call man defense when we get one.
— Quintavius Burdette (@THA_ChoSen_1_) October 16, 2016
The defense has been a liability ever since Tom Allen left the program, so why not go and hire Allen from Indiana and bring back the key to the defense?
The whole coaching staff at Ole Miss needs a good, hard look at, but Wommack is the first one that needs to go. Batoon, you’re next.
Evan Engram Will Be an NFL Tight End for a Long Time
One of the first plays of the game for Ole Miss was a slant pass to Evan Engram, and for the first time in his four seasons at Ole Miss, I watched him drop the ball. It encapsulating the whole game. The best Ole Miss receiver drops an easy first down, something that repeated itself through the night.
Engram redeemed himself later in the quarter, with a powerful touchdown to give the Rebels 6 points.
Engram had 7 receptions for 111 yards, an average of 15.9 yards per catch.
Kelly was obviously targeting Engram heavily in the game, and Evan made sure to repay him with his big-time catches.
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Engram nearly had his second touchdown of the game on a fade pass to the right side of the endzone where Kelly overthrew him ever so slightly (and the defender interfered with Engram). The defender came down hard on Engram, who landed on his left shoulder hard.
But after walking off the field in some pain, Engram returned to the game and made an impact.
Returning for his senior season may have been the best decision Engram has made in years. Before this season, Engram was probably a 4th round draft pick with some potential, but halfway through the season, Engram has moved his way into the discussion for first round draft pick.
The perfect team for Engram would be the Dallas Cowboys or the New England Patriots, two teams that heavily utilize their tight ends.
He reminds a lot of Aaron Hernandez at Florida, and I could see a team such as the Patriots taking a flyer on Engram late in the first or early in the second round.
If Kelly can continue to feed Engram the ball, then we could see a special season in the making for the senior tight end.
Ole Miss Needs to Make 5* RB Cam Akers Their #1 Priority
The Ole Miss rushing attack is once again non-existent. After the showing against Memphis, most Rebel fans thought that Brazley and Judd would have a good game against the Hogs.
Arkansas should have been a good opponent to earn some rushing yards against as well, as they rank 80th in the nation in rush defense, allowing on average 175.9 yards per game.
The Rebels ran for 150 yards last night, led by Chad Kelly who ran for 89 yards on 14 attempts.
Kelly did have a rushing touchdown last night and looks really good running the ball as usual, but all night I was worried about Kelly going down with an injury. There were multiple plays where Kelly got bent backward by the tacklers.
Even on the final Ole Miss play of the game, Kelly fumbled the ball on 4th down where it appeared like he had the first down. After the play, Kelly was holding his throwing arm and appeared to be in pain.
So what is the issue here? Our two running backs can’t outrush the quarterback? Judd looked slow all night and Brazley was just getting hit at the second level. On average, they rushed for 3.7 and 3.3 yards a carry.
4-star running back D’Vaughn Pennamon is sitting on the Rebel bench right now, but he could see some playing time later in the season if he can keep up the production.
The Rebels also lack some depth at the position after the ACL injury to Eric Swinney and Jordan Wilkins being declared academically ineligible.
So who does Ole Miss turn to for help? Well, the answer might be a few hundred miles south of Oxford.
Cam Akers, a 5-star running back from Clinton High School is the most sought after running back in the country. Watching him play in high school reminds me a lot of Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys.
Akers will have to make a choice between Ole Miss, Ohio State, and Alabama come National Signing Day.
Ole Miss appears to hold the edge, but Ohio State could be a big player due to the NCAA investigation looming over Ole Miss.
Alabama should not be a factor unless Najee Harris decommits from Alabama.
Ole Miss heavily needs Cam Akers. If they do not get Akers, expect them to take a look at Mississippi State commit Kylin Hill from Colombus High School.
Special Teams Continues to Haunt the Rebels
When was the last time that Ole Miss scored off of a punt or a kick return? The answer came from Dylan Edwards of OleMissSports.com on Twitter last night.
That is four years without a special teams touchdown for the Rebels. How is that acceptable to anyone? Ole Miss had a kick returned for a touchdown early in the game, but it was called back due to Davis slightly stepping out-of-bounds.
After that, the Razorbacks kicked the ball away from Davis multiple times. He appeared to be ready to break another long one later in the game, but tripped over his own feet.
This has been the story all season.
Gary Wunderlich, the Ole Miss place kicker, was perfect on extra points coming into the game, yet he clanked one-off the uprights in the first quarter to miss his first career extra point.
Will Gleeson’s first punt of the game was a horrible shank that took a great Ole Miss roll to get to the Arkansas 18 yard line.
So what is wrong with the special teams unit for the Rebels? Is it coaching, or talent?
Carlos Davis is another player on the long list of kids who were supposed to be the next great special teams return man for the Rebels, yet he continues to be unimpressive.
Jalen Julius is the next victim to that list. Kailo Moore was one of the first on that list as well.
Can Ole Miss please start coaching special teams? Do we just not take that aspect of the game seriously? Corey Batoon was brought in to do two things, coach the special teams and recruit the west coast of the country. He has yet to do either one.
Bret Bielema is the Second Best Coach in the SEC
Nick Saban is the best coach in the Southeastern Conference, but not far behind him is a lovable big guy named Bret. Bret Bielema, the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation.
Look at the in-game and in-season adjustments he makes to put his team in the perfect place to succeed, these are adjustments that I honestly don’t think Coach Freeze would make.
Last season, the Razorbacks lost their two big-time running backs, so what did they do? They became a passing team and Brandon Allen emerged as a star quarterback.
He prepares his team in a way I have never seen done at Ole Miss. The Rebels will usually run the same style offense no matter the opponent. Arkansas tailors their offense to the team it is facing.
Watch the Ole Miss game, where the recievers ran short slant routes and comeback routes to feed on the soft coverage, and look at the Texas A&M game or even the Alabama game, and look at the offense they run.
There are times I wonder if our coaches even scout the team they are playing, and Coach Freeze’ comment before the game last night was not very comforting on that front either. Saying that the team has not even talked about last season once.
Well maybe that is why the Hawgs ran all over you, Hugh?
We’re on to LSU.
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