OXFORD — Ole Miss has played good defense this season. That’s what makes the No. 15 Rebels’ defensive effort at LSU last weekend even more disappointing for players and coaches.
The Rebels (7-1, 3-1 SEC) surrendered a season-high 45 points and 500 yards of offense in a 25-point loss to the Tigers in Baton Rouge. For the second game in a row, Ole Miss was gashed on the ground, giving up 252 yards rushing just a week after surrendering 301 to Auburn.
Ole Miss had one of the best defenses in college football through the first three weeks of the season — the Rebels gave up a total of 13 points in that span — though it was against the likes of Troy, Central Arkansas and Georgia Tech. But there were plenty of flashes of good defense in a 22-19 win over then top-10 Kentucky, too.
Star quarterback Will Levis was held to 220 passing yards, and the Wildcats ran for just 108 yards on less than three yards per carry. It was the sort of defensive effort the Rebels will need going forward against the top-tier talent Texas A&M (3-4, 1-3) and Alabama will put on the field over the next two games.
“We’ve got to tackle better and limit explosive plays, which is what we had done really well early in the year. We showed them some film today just to make sure. ‘Here’s something from two weeks ago and three weeks ago, the Kentucky game, how well we played and the energy we played with and gang tackling,’” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s not like we have to come up with it out of nowhere. We’ve done it.”
LSU had five passing plays of 15 or more yards and eight runs of at least 10 yards. The coverage breakdowns were largely mental lapses, senior cornerback Deantre Prince said, given they were the same type of coverages the team had been running all year. Over the last three games, Ole Miss is giving up just under 36 points per game.
Prince admits it was a disappointing effort given the high level the Ole Miss defense had played at during previous points of the season.
“Definitely. I feel like I was very frustrated at the end of the game,” Prince said. “But, that’s just a part of bodies breaking down, mentally not being locked in to what we have to do, and executing our jobs to the best of our abilities.”
But as senior guard Nick Broeker said Monday, there are lessons to be learned in defeat. And the Rebels are making sure they don’t let the same mistakes beat them more than once.
“It’s just the fine details, and I think we see that when we focus on the fine details all around, we’re a really good defense,” senior defensive end Tavius Robinson said. “Sometimes you need that to be able to lock back in, see what we need to improve on, and that’s what we’re going to do this week, for sure.”
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