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Rebels fall to Texas A&M 31-24

Jordan Wilkins rushes for 147 yards and a score in loss to Aggies.

Posted: Nov 19, 2017 12:28 AM
Updated: Nov 19, 2017 12:31 AM

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - The opportunities for Ole Miss to grab a win over Texas A&M on senior night were tangible, sitting there in front of them. But penalties and a sputtering offense prevented them from doing so in a 31-24 loss to the Aggies in the season's penultimate game.


"It was a tale of two halves," head coach Matt Luke said. "We struggled to protect the passer in the second half and did not execute offensively. Obviously, you cannot turn the ball over and win the game. I was proud of our defense, we just did not get it done in the second half offensively.

A pace that started out so rapid that each team scored two touchdowns in the first 11 minutes of the game, slowed considerably after that. Each team scored on its first two drives. Ole Miss by way of a seven play, 70 yard drive capped off by a 27 yard touchdown pass from Jordan Ta'amu to A.J. Brown, and a 64 yard Jordan Wilkins touchdown rush on the first play of its second drive.

Ta'amu was 19-34 for 189 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Wilkins had 147 yards and a score on 19 carries. 123 of those came in the first half.

A&M answered each one with two 75 plus yard drives of their own. The score was quickly 14-14 just over ten minutes in. Things slowed after that. Each team scored one more touchdown apiece and a Gary Wunderlich 28 yard field goal with a few seconds left in the second quarter gave Ole Miss a 24-21 halftime lead.

The second half is really when the pace of the game fully evolved. Ole Miss totaled 325 yards in the first half and just 66 in the second. Texas A&M had only 91 yards of offense in the second half alone, but won the game on a late field goal and a Derrick Tucker pick six of Ta'amu in the third quarter. Ta'amu was flushed out of the pocket on the heels of his own end zone. He threw it across the middle, Tucker stepped in front of it and took off towards thee end zone. It proved costly for Ole Miss.

"I have to be more careful with the ball," Ta'amu said. "Penalties killed us a lot and we shot ourselves in the foot."

Perhaps the strangest part of the loss is how the Rebel defense faired against the run. The unit has struggled mightily against the ground game in each of the previous 10 games, but tonight allowed just 119 yards on 44 rushes. Texas A&M's Travis Ford picked up 43 of those on his first carry. Ole Miss yielded just 76 yards on the next 43 Aggie attempts.

"These young men made their mind up," McGriff said. "We went out and did our job. We fit our gaps and tore off blocks. I am looking forward to look at the tape to find the biggest difference."

Breeland Speaks was moved around the field a lot in disguised looks, and it worked well for the Rebels. Part of that was thanks to Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson returning from injuries to provide some depth.

"That is what allowed us to move Breeland around," McGriff said. "The first goal line stand we were able to go to our heavy package."

Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel was 19-32 for 272 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Rebel defense held the Aggies under 400 yards of total offense for the game.

"I am proud of our defense for bowing their neck in the second half," Luke said. "They played really well."

But the offense inexplicably sputtered over the course of the final 30 minutes. Costly penalties put the Rebels behind the chains and out of rhythm.

"The difference in the two halves is that we did not execute plays we made in the first half," offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. "In this league, against these defenses and these teams you have to execute for four quarters. I think all season, the more of a complete game we play, the better of an opportunity it gives us to win. This was not one of them."

Texas A&M's pass rush got to Ta'amu and had him scrambling for most of the night. All of that equated to the Rebels worst offensive half of the year and a defeat. The Aggies were quick up front and outmanned Ole Miss' offensive line.

"Their whole defense is talented with a lot of speed," Ta'amu said. "I tried to make plays with my feet and they were there to tackle me."

Ole Miss was penalized nine times in the second half and 12 for the game. The receiving corps had a few uncharacteristic drops. Everything seemed to be a bit out of sync.

Ta'amu took a shot to the face in the first half on a play that resulted in a targeting call. He and Longo both noted that Ta'amu didn't feel quite the same after that play.

"I was a little dizzy at first," Ta'amu said. "But then I felt better and shook it off."

The defense stood tall for a goal line stand with two minutes to go in the game. Kevin Sumlin elected to kick a field goal from half-foot away from the end zone to give Ole Miss a chance at 31-24. The Rebels went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, sealing OleMiss' fate.

The Rebels will have to put this behind them quickly as they will prepare for their third game in 12 days against Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night. It will be the final game of the 2017 season.

"It's tough," Luke said. "I challenged them to get up off the mat. They have gotten up several times and this is obviously a very big game coming up. We have to go back to work tomorrow to get this taste out of our mouths."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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