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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: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
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George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
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Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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