SUNDAY REFLECTIONS: A look back at Ole Miss’ game vs. Mississippi St.

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sweet as sugar?

Ole Miss is hoping its win over Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday was for more than one for the road team in an Egg Bowl series where the visitors have won just twice in the last 12 meetings. With two straight wins to end the regular season, the Rebels (9-3, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) have positioned themselves for a possible berth in the Sugar Bowl should Florida lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game next weekend.

“I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that we get in one of those New Year’s Six (bowls) for sure,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We want another chance at that.”

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At worst, the Rebels will head to Florida to ring in the new year after a rather convincing win over Mississippi for its second straight win in the series, the first time Ole Miss has accomplished that since 2003-04.

How’d they do it? Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Rebels start fast

Ole Miss led 21-0 before the first quarter was over and scored 28 of the game’s first 31 points, and it was essentially over.

Mississippi State scored the first 10 points of the second half to get back within two scores at 28-13, but the game was never really in doubt for the Rebels. The only turnovers of the game led to 14 points for Ole Miss, and with the large deficit forcing the Bulldogs’ offensive hand, the Rebels pinned their ears back to get after Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott completed an Egg Bowl-record 31 of his 42 attempts but had most of that success, including both of his touchdown passes, with the game well in hand late.

Ole Miss gets after Prescott

The Rebels got after Prescott early and took advantage of Mississippi State’s pass-needy offense the rest of the way to pile up a season-high seven sacks and pressure the Bulldogs’ senior too many other times to count.

The pressure came from all over against a Mississippi State offensive line without starting tackle Rufus Warren as seven Rebels finished with at least half a sack. Robert Nkemdiche had a team-high 1.5 sacks while Marquis Haynes had one to run his team-leading total to 9.5.

Prescott ended up throwing for 254 yards, but he rarely had time to let routes develop down the field, averaging just 8.1 yards a completion.

Run and gun

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has been the SEC’s leading passer all season, but the junior continues to be a big part of the Rebels’ running game.

Kelly tallied 74 yards on the ground and has run for at least that many in three straight games. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels started calling more designed runs for Kelly the last three games in order to “do everything we can do” after holding back on those calls through the first nine in an attempt to keep Kelly healthy.

It’s paid off as Kelly has racked up 265 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in those games. His 10 rushing scores are tops among SEC signal callers.

He started the early onslaught Saturday with a 27-yard scoring run and avoided pressure on other occasions to keep plays alive, adding another element to Ole Miss’ offense it didn’t have before.

Stringfellow emerging

When Laquon Treadwell declares for the NFL draft next year, the Rebels will need a big-bodied replacement out wide. Looks like they may have it in Damore’ea Stringfellow.

With the Bulldogs devoting much of their attention to Treadwell, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Stringfellow had his best performance in an Ole Miss uniform Saturday, catching five passes for a career-high 84 yards and two scores. Stringfellow showed some speed on his second scoring grab, a 36-yard catch-and-run early in the second quarter where he cut across the field and outran the Bulldogs’ defense to the end zone.

The Washington transfer has four of his five touchdown catches and 284 of his 503 yards in the second half of the season, an encouraging sign for a player that’s going to get the first crack to fill that void come next season.