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NOTEBOOK: Miscues, Gators’ defense aid in Rebels’ slow start

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ole Miss’ offense came out of the gate sluggish and executing poorly.

The Rebels were held to no points and just 151 yards of total offense in the first half while only converting on 1 of their 6 third-down tries. Some of the miscues were self-inflicted as a Jaylen Walton fumble and a bad snap ending first-half possessions helped Florida jump out to a 25-0 lead that proved to be too much to overcome.

“I’m concerned about everything, that being one of them,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, referencing his offensive line. “We are playing some young kids up there against a really good defensive front. Everybody has some young kids and everybody has some injuries, and nobody really wants to hear that. We just have to get the ones we have prepared to play and play better.”

When asked if he had any indications that poor offensive play was coming, Freeze alluded that he was just as astonished as everyone else.

“I really felt like we prepared well, loved our energy,” Freeze said. “I was worried about their defensive front, and we really needed the game early on to go back and forth a bit. Stay close and let us figure a few things out, but that obviously was not the case.”

Line struggles
Ole Miss got beat on the offensive front early and often. The Rebels allowed four sacks for 39 yards and 11 tackles for loss. Offensive line coach Matt Luke admitted that his unit was overwhelmed at times.

“We can’t make excuses,” Luke said. “We dug ourselves in a hole early and were forced to throw to try and come back. They did a good job with their pass rush, and the crowd did affect the way we communicated. We have the guys out there that we have, and we have to go play well with them. And we expect to go play well with them.”

Beaten but steady
While there were a myriad of struggles on both sides of the ball for the Rebels, one bright spot was the play of junior quarterback Chad Kelly. He finished the game 26 of 40 for 259 yards, one interception and one touchdown.

After the game, Kelly was quick to take the brunt of the blame for the loss.

“Being a leader of this offense, people look to me,” Kelly said. “They look to me when things go wrong, and I have to do a better a better job making sure everyone is on the same page.”

Extra Points
Despite taking four sacks, Kelly led the Rebels in rushing with 40 yards and a long of 19. … Ole Miss racked up 28 minutes and 10 seconds of possession time. … Florida’s 38 points are the most allowed by Ole Miss since TCU scored 42 in last year’s Peach Bowl.