OXFORD, MISS. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss had its Achilles Heel exploited defensively to the tune of 393 LSU rushing yards in a 40-24 defeat to the Tigers on Saturday evening.
LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada handed the football to its bell cow running back Derrius Guice again and again daring Ole Miss to neutralize him. Guice ripped through the Rebel defense into the second and third level on his way to 276 yards and a score on 22 touches. Backup running back Darrel Williams also surpassed the century mark on the ground, compiling 103 yards on 22 touches. Guice averaged 21.5 yards per carry and LSU gained seven yards per carry as a team. The Tigers posted 593 yards of total offense in the game.
"We didn't stop the run like we needed to and we did not make the one-on-one plays needed to win a game like that," head coach Matt Luke said. "I am disappointed for our players. I thought they great effort and put their bodies on the line for this program. I am grateful for that. We just did not make the plays we needed."
The Tigers averaged 8.7 yards per play and the Rebels struggled to find an answer for Guice and Williams for most of the night.
"We went into this week wanting to take Guice away," defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. "He is a Sunday player and we knew they would feed him. We had to stop him. They didn't do anything different. They executed and we did not."
The team's traded field goals in the early minutes of the game before Guice ran for a seven-yard touchdown that aided in his 98 first-quarter rushing yards. LSU's Connor Culp banged home his second and third field goals of the first half in the second quarter from 38 and 26 yards out. That gave LSU a 13-3 just before halftime.
Luke and his staff got an injury scare late in the second quarter when Shea Patterson hobbled off of the field into a makeshift medical tent and eventually into the locker room after injuring his right knee on a play in which he was intercepted by Grant Delpit.
Jordan Ta'amu stepped in and led the Rebels down the field to three points in the final 90 seconds of the half in Patterson's absence to narrow LSU's lead to 13-6 at halftime. Ta'amu was 7-11 for 78 yards on the night. He re-entered the game and led a nine play, 66 yard touchdown drive late in the game.
"He showed some flashes tonight," Luke said. "He made some plays with his legs. I was impressed with him throwing the ball tonight."
Patterson returned in the second half with a brace over his right knee and continued to play in the game. The offense looked more cohesive in the second half and scored two touchdown, but LSU picked Patterson off twice more in the second half and continued to pound the ball on the ground.
Luke said he felt the team will evaluate Patterson tonight and tomorrow in search of the severity of the injury. He said Ta'amu showed him enough tonight for him to feel confident in the junior quarterback going forward.
Ole Miss struggled to set the edge against Guice, who bounced runs towards the outside often. It aided him in getting to the second and third levels of the defense. The Rebels being down two defensive ends in Qaadir Sheppard and Victor Evans did not help the cause either.
"It certainly hurts when you don't have those guys," McGriff said. "They are two good football players and especially when you get into a game where they sustain some drives. It is a battle at the line of scrimmage and losing two big guys certainly shows up. But this is a violent sport we play. We know there is going to be some attrition and we have to be ready for it. The next guy has to step up."
The Tigers' dominance on the ground allowed quarterback Danny Etling to play complementary football fairly easily. He was 9-13 for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 60 yard score to tight end Foster Moreau in the fourth quarter to putt the game on ice at 37-16.
Patterson finished the game 10-13 for 116 yards. It was just the second time this season the sophomore quarterback has not thrown a touchdown pass. There were a couple of times in the second half when appeared to be playing in a bit of pain favoring his left leg. It was initially diagnosed as a sprained knee according to Luke, who added they should know more on the severity of it tomorrow. With Patterson limited in his mobility, the offensive scheme had to be altered.
"He couldn't move the way we all know Shea can move," offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. "He was pretty much relegated to being a pocket guy. We had to direct our play calling to what he could do."
Ole Miss ran the ball well in its own right. Jordan Wilkins had 83 yards 13 carries and scored a touchdown on a nifty 28-yard rush in the third quarter that cut the score to a 16-9 game. D'Vaughn Pennamon earn the other Ole Miss touchdown on a short run late in the ball game. The Rebels tallied 153 rushing yards as a team. The struggles came in the passing game, which is usually not the source of the issuefor this offense.
Drops by the receivers coupled with Patterson's injury and three interceptions thwarted the offense from garnering momentum. LSU played a lot of man coverage, which usually tips the advantage to the Rebel receivers. That was not the case tonight.
"You have to give credit to LSU," Longo said. "They did a really good job on 50-50 balls. They did a. really good job getting their hand through the catch point. We were banking on our guys to make a few of those plays. That is not to blame the receivers. This is a team loss."
With the loss, Ole Miss fell to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in SEC play. The team returns to action next week when a struggling Arkansas team comes to Oxford. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.