Thursday, September 6, 2012
Rebels' offense brings needed excitement
By Edward Aschoff
Take a stab at the top statistical offense in the SEC heading into Week 2.
Right off the top of most people's heads is probably Arkansas. Good guess, but no. Alabama? Pretty good first showing of the season, but that is incorrect as well. Tennessee looked pretty darn good with the ball in its hands, but the Vols didn't quite take the No. 1 spot.
Bo Wallace and the Rebels' offense put on a stellar performance in Week 1. Can Ole Miss keep it up?
Believe it or not, the Ole Miss Rebels walked away from the first weekend with the league's top offense after totaling 565 yards in their 49-27 win over Central Arkansas. This is the same team that ranked 11th in the SEC in offense last season, averaging just 280.8 yards per game.
A team that couldn't pass to save its life last year threw for 330 yards. A team that was 10th in the league in rushing last year, rushed for 235 yards. It also racked up 31 first downs, after averaging less than 16 a game last year.
Yes, it was against a directional school from the FCS level, but it was a much-needed start for the Rebels and first-year coach Hugh Freeze. This team was far from perfect, but the offense finally had some life to it for the first time in a long time. There was something to really cheer about in Oxford Saturday. Ole Miss -- and its fans -- needed it.
"You can't underestimate what winning does for a program that's in the state that ours is in," Freeze said.
One thing that really impressed Freeze was how his team fought for four quarters. Players have admitted that going 100 percent for four quarters was a struggle last year -- a year in which the Rebels went 2-10 -- but Freeze said he was very pleased with how his players responded after a dreadful second quarter and showed some fire in the second half. The Rebels outscored Central Arkansas 35-0 in the second half.
What should really have Rebels fans excited is the thought of having a reliable quarterback out on the field. Bo Wallace, who spent a year with Freeze at Arkansas State before going the junior college route, had a very good debut with Ole Miss. He connected on 20 of 24 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns and led Ole Miss with 82 rushing yards and another score.
"It was about as good of a performance for him in his first game here as I could have asked for," Freeze said.
The offense went through Wallace and he was easily the best player on the field when the Rebels lined up. It helped that he found some reliable receiving targets, especially Donte Moncrief, who caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Now, it's all about carrying that offensive momentum into the next week and the next. Will Ole Miss be a true offensive juggernaut in the SEC this fall? Probably not, considering all those tough defenses and its depth issues, but it also doesn't appear the Rebels will be the pushovers of old on offense.
Ole Miss didn't play a great opponent, but it got off to the kind of start that Freeze needed in order to build some more excitement for this team in Oxford.