How we graded Ole Miss football's utterly dominant defense against Central Arkansas
OXFORD − Ole Miss football wasn't tested Saturday, but it still gets a report card.
FCS opponent Central Arkansas posed no threat to the Rebels, which won 59-3 to improve to 2-0.The offense took advantage of short fields, the defense hardly let the Bears' offense cross midfield and the special teams directly led to two touchdowns. It's hard to expect anything else when the nation's No. 23 team plays a middle-of-the-pack team from a lower classification, but at least the Rebels didn't underwhelm.
Here are the Clarion Ledger's grades for Ole Miss football vs. Central Arkansas.
Quarterback Luke Altmyer guided the Rebels to a hot start before his injury, but he took advantage of short fields and circus catches more than displaying any game-breaking traits. After Altmyer left with an "upper body injury," fellow sophomore Jaxson Dart looked better than he did in the Rebels' opener but still wasn't particularly efficient, completing 67% of his passes.
Ole Miss' receivers did a better job of creating space than they did in the opener, freshman running back Quinshon Judkins built on a strong performance and the pass blocking improved. But it's hard to be too enthusiastic about the performance given the caliber of opponent, the less-than-stellar rushing performance, some failed fourth-down attempts and Altmyer's inconsistency while he seemingly was playing through injury.
Ole Miss' defense stopped Central Arkansas on more than 13 third down tries and four fourth down tries. Central Arkansas only got into the red zone once, and the Bears' other deep trips into Rebels' territory ended with a pair of interception.
Crucially, Ole Miss didn't give up a touchdown. Let's not overcomplicate things. It's an A.
Special teams: A
Safety Ladarius Tennison returned a bad punt snap for a touchdown. Reserve running back Bobo Miller blocked a different punt to set up a touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, the Rebels forced another fumble on a punt return. Kicker Jonathan Cruz connected on a 41-yard field goal. Fraser Masin punted twice and boomed both.
Rebels coach Lane Kiffin complained about Ole Miss' lack of discipline on special teams against Troy. His players responded in Game 2.
It's hard to get players excited and motivated for a game against an FCS foe. Ole Miss came out prepared, built a big lead and cruised through three quarters until the backups could come in. It wasn't the cleanest, most technically perfect game, but the Rebels did exactly what they needed to do and the coaches deserve some credit.
Ole Miss looked a lot more like the overwhelmingly dominant team that showed up in nonconference play last year than it did a week ago. There are still some kinks to iron out offensively, but it's hard to quibble about anything when your team wins by its largest margin in almost a decade.
Contact Nick Suss at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.