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Ole Miss shows great offense, bad defense through 2 games

Ole Miss hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.

Posted: Sep 11, 2018 11:18 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The Ole Miss football team can look vastly different from one minute to the next.

Catch the Rebels on offense, and they look like one of the nation’s elite teams. Catch them on defense, and it’s easy to wonder how they’re going to win a Southeastern Conference game this season.

Both units will have to play well when Ole Miss hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams. Ole Miss (2-0) will be about a three-touchdown underdog when it plays the Crimson Tide (2-0), who beat the Rebels 66-3 one year ago in Tuscaloosa.

For second-year Ole Miss coach Matt Luke, it’s a chance to show fans and recruits that the Rebels are still a factor in the SEC Western Division.

“We’ll obviously have a lot of prospects here, and it’s a good opportunity for them to see Oxford at its best,” Luke said. “Night game in The Grove, stadium packed, it’ll be a great atmosphere of college football.”

That atmosphere will turn sour in a hurry if Ole Miss can’t figure out how to stop someone on defense.

The Rebels currently rank 123rd in the nation out of 128 teams in total defense, giving up more than 550 yards per game. The main reason they’ve still won their first two games is the offense ranks No. 8 out of 128 in total offense, piling up nearly 600 yards per game.

The Ole Miss offense is stacked with talented players who likely have NFL futures, including left tackle Greg Little and receivers A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. The same can’t be said for the defense, which lacks star power and gave up more than 600 yards to FCS-level Southern Illinois last weekend.

The defensive ineptitude in that game was shockingly obvious, with uncovered Southern Illinois receivers making easing catches and then bouncing off would-be tacklers.

The Salukis actually led Ole Miss 38-35 at halftime on Saturday before the Rebels roared back for the 76-41 victory . The comfortable final margin did little to alleviate the defensive concerns.

Luke and Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said the Rebels’ defensive struggles were much more about motivation than X’s and O’s.

“I’ve got to get them going in the first half,” McGriff said. “It wasn’t about scheme. We didn’t change the scheme in the second half. We, as a staff, have got to get them going, get them playing fast, playing with some energy. That’s our job to get that done.”

One thing Ole Miss has stressed is the need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Rebels had just one sack against Southern Illinois.

If Alabama sophomore Tua Tagovailoa isn’t under some duress on Saturday, it’s probably going to be a long night for the Rebels. Tagovailoa has completed more than 71 percent of his passes for 455 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions this season.

“One of our goals on defense is to wreck the decision-maker,” McGriff said. “We have to get to the quarterback. We have to impact the game. We have to get him off schedule.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Choctaw714
Quitman670
Tishomingo651
Perry594
Alcorn551
Stone511
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena61
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4210140
Montgomery378894
Mobile3634134
Tuscaloosa196436
Marshall14959
Lee116737
Shelby105623
Madison10216
Morgan9553
Franklin84313
Walker84317
Dallas8088
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Baldwin6639
Etowah60613
Butler60427
Chambers57627
DeKalb5765
Tallapoosa56069
Autauga53011
Unassigned50924
Russell4690
Lowndes45719
Houston4244
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Cullman3983
Pike3965
Colbert3635
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Barbour3221
Covington3086
St. Clair2922
Hale28520
Wilcox2788
Marengo27711
Sumter27512
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Clarke2645
Escambia2586
Talladega2576
Dale2410
Winston2293
Jackson2102
Chilton2062
Blount2041
Pickens2046
Marion20012
Monroe1942
Choctaw19112
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Randolph1699
Bibb1671
Macon1668
Greene1647
Perry1350
Henry1293
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Lawrence1000
Washington987
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Lamar711
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Clay532
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