Ole Miss football rediscovers rushing dominance, bests Texas A&M 31-28
COLLEGE STATION, Texas − Ole Miss football is back in the win column.
The No. 12 Rebels took down Texas A&M 31-28at Kyle Field on Saturday. Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1 SEC) followed the formula from its 7-0 start back to success, riding three electric runners and some big plays, and getting enough good out of a defense that struggled at times but proved it could make plays when it needed to most.
The Aggies (3-5, 1-4) seized a 14-7 lead in the first quarter as freshman quarterback Conner Weigman proved incredibly efficient and running back Devon Achane couldn't be corralled. But Ole Miss' defense responded with back-to-back shutout quarters, letting the Rebels offense led by running backs Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans to pull back ahead with a 24-14 lead.
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The Aggies cut the Rebels' lead back to one score midway through the fourth quarter but Judkins scored his 13th touchdown of the year to push the score to 31-21 with seven minutes remaining. Judkins broke John Rhys Plumlee's single-season Ole Miss freshman rushing record in this game, rushing for 205 of the Rebels' 391 yards.
Ole Miss gave up a touchdown with 85 seconds left to put the Aggies within three with all three of their timeouts. Texas A&M forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at its own 8-yard line with 54 seconds left. The Rebels forced a four-and-out to cinch the win.
Healthy backfield good for business
Ole Miss' offense slowed to a halt in last week's loss versus LSU in large part because of injuries in the Rebels' backfield. But Evans' return to the lineup helped spark the Rebels' offense, affording it the opportunity to run at a higher volume.
Not only did Evans contribute his carries and receptions, but his health freed Judkins and Jaxson Dart up to carry more as well, getting the Rebels more than 300 yards rushing for the fourth time this year. Despite having Evans back, Judkins set a new career high in carries and broke 105 yards for the sixth time in his freshman season. Evans accounted for 100 all-purpose yards and Dart ran for 95 of his own, 104 factoring out sacks.
First-half play-calling was a head-scratcher
Per usual, Ole Miss took a 7-0 lead dazzlingly quick, scoring a game-opening touchdown in less than two minutes for the fourth time this year. After that, the Rebels' offense looked stilted and out of balance. Some drives were derailed by penalties. Others went rush-rush-incompletion-punt and were snuffed out because of their predictability. And one ended on a baffling fourth-and-3 rollout that lost yardage with the Rebels already in the red zone.
Ole Miss' first-half game plan just didn't seem to work after the first drive. The Rebels tried some new wrinkles, ranging from a quarterback draw out of a formation with just two offensive linemen in front of Dart to playing wide receiver Jonathan Mingo at H-back and tight end. But the results weren't very good and left the Rebels playing from behind.
Tackling rebounds late
In the first half, it looked as if Ole Miss' tackling issues were going to bury the team again. Texas A&M running back Achane rushed for 124 yards in the first two quarters, busting free for five 10-plus-yard gains by easily shedding would-be tacklers in the second and third level.
After halftime, the Rebels defense that dominated the first five weeks of the season made a reappearance. Achane only ran for seven yards on four carries in the third quarter, when both Aggies drives ended in punts. As Ole Miss' lead grew, the Aggies turned into more of a pass-first offense, which kept A&M out of its element and allowed the Rebels to hold onto their lead.
Ole Miss has its open week next Saturday. The Rebels return to action Nov. 12 in Oxford against Alabama.
Contact Nick Suss at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.