The shock is not in the loss itself, but in how it happened. The Aggies got pushed around and lost the battle up front on both sides of the ball. Needless to say, there were outliers and individual performances in which you can find positives, but overall, Saturday night was an impressive display of A&M taking a dose of their own medicine. Ole Miss was the team with a dominating run game and suffocating defense that dominated the line of scrimmage.
I will say the defense did enough to win, as bad as it looked and as many yards as Ole Miss had... the defense never broke. It was ugly but the defense forced field goals instead of touchdowns and forced a few turnovers or this game would have been over at halftime by the tune of 35ish to nada. The defense then made huge adjustments in the second half. After allowing a staggering 408 yards and 23 first downs in the first half, Ole Miss’s offense only produced 96 yards and 9 first downs in the second half.
The lack of any offensive production in the first half, coupled with some odd calls and Calzada turnovers in the second half was just too much to overcome. When you’re blessed with two great tailbacks and one is having a great night, ride the hot hand, dance with the one who got you there, insert any other cliche you want, just give Achane the dang ball! Achane has a way about his running style that is attacking and downhill, regardless of his size, he brings pressure on a defense. Regardless of who was in at RB, a lot was put on Calzada’s shoulders in a game that was 15-13 with plenty of time left. Jimbo had been on a hot streak with his play calling, but we got away from our identity in the fourth quarter when we didn't have to. The defense made the deficit a manageable one because this team is not built to play from behind, and much like the Arkansas game, we seemed to abandon the running game much too quickly in the fourth quarter.
As painful as this is, let run back the tape and examine some key plays from both sides of the ball.
OLE MISS FIREPOWER
Matt Corral may be hobbled in the run game (thank goodness) but his command of this offense and decisive throws were impressive. In the opening drive, there was plenty of tempo and chunk plays as they moved down the field in a blink.
More of the same on the second possession, Matt Corral was the problem we all knew coming into this game. The hope was we could slow down the rushing attack with our front seven... Ealy ran all of the defense much of the night.
Ole Miss used Ealy, Conner, and on this big run, Parrish Jr. to run wild on the defense... the stable of backs rotate in to stay fresh in this fast-moving attack.
DEFENSE BOWS UP
On the opening drive of the game, Ole Miss did what they wanted in between the 20s, but the Aggies tightened up and forced a field goal.
Leal had one of the best nights by an Aggie, he fought all night and made plays in the run & pass game with relentless push and pressure. Here he single-handedly gets the Aggies off the field with a big strip sack!
Goal-line stands! Ole Miss was rolling deep into the red zone once again but Richardson comes up huge here making a sack and forcing a huge loss on the fumble recovery. Field goals and turnovers keep the Aggies alive.
OFFENSE MADE ADJUSTMENTS
Ole Miss changed their game plan up in a big way against the Aggies and it paid off, if you read my preview, you saw how soft and back this team had played most of the year. Not the case at all Saturday night, they had their linebackers up all night aggressively playing the run and forcing pressure when Calzada went to throw. It completely shut down the offense in the first half, but Jimbo adjusted and attacked over the backers in front of the safeties in the second half. Here are a few big plays that loosened up their front seven.
Achane finally got the running game going, finished the night with 110 yards, two TDs, on ONLY 12 carries :/ Would have loved to see him with around 20 carries, but it is what it is, and I tend to trust this coaching staff more than questioning it. On to the next one ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE ENDS IT FOR THE REBELS
In the first half, our offensive line was pushed around as the Rebel defense flew around like madmen, never allowing our run game off the ground. This play is a perfect example of how the front seven of the Rebels dominated the first half.
The ender was Calzada’s second INT, this time it was a pic6 and there was simply not enough time to do any real damage after this one. Calzada locked into a lot of targets Saturday night and Ole Miss cashed in this time.
I don't want to be too critical of Calzada for a few reasons. One, he was asked to throw the ball too much, and two, that simply is not who he is. The reason why I keep saying enjoy this year and the magical moments he has produced is I really don’t think he is the QB to take this program to the next level. Love the kid, he is tough as hell and plays his heart out but there are going to be games when you have to out sling your opponent, make plays with your legs, and just be elite. Haynes King won the job for a reason and I watched this kid grow up and play in East Texas... don’t sleep on him, and we all know the 5-star stud recruit, Conner Weigman is on his way in to enter the mix as well. After beating Bama, Calzada’s most solid performance has been a zero offensive touchdown game vs Auburn. Yes, there is raw talent there, but I personally want to see a wide-open QB race in the spring.
Onward and upward my Aggie friends, Prarie-View this Saturday before the season finale at Death Valley. I give props to the Ole Miss coaching staff for a heck of a game plan, and the players for executing that plan with physicality. A 10 win season is still very much on the table, let’s have some fun and see how it all plays out, Gig’em!