NCAA Football Ole Miss RebelsSEC Football

Ole Miss Football: No. 18 Rebels Must Improve Offensively

Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine – USA TODAY Sports

The Ole Miss Rebels‘ offense had three quarters to forget on Thursday night. Luckily for the Rebels, the Boise State Broncos were even worse.

The opening drive was an ominous sign that the game may be sloppy. After two straight false start penalties on first down, the Rebels threw a screen pass on 3rd-and-2 that went for no gain and were forced to punt. That was the story of of the Ole Miss offense most of the night: penalties and bad decisions. The Rebels had seven false start penalties in the first half alone. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil had as many false start penalties called on him as sacks he allowed last season.

The Ole Miss offensive line was completely unable to open holes for the running game against an undersized Boise line, as evidenced by a total of 71 yards on 34 carries. Bo Wallace was pressured more than usual and threw three interceptions in the first half, often forcing passes against a very small secondary that should have been dominated by much larger Rebel receivers. The 7-3 score at the half had many people in the announcer’s booth and in the stands scratching their heads.

A fourth quarter burst finally opened the game up for the Rebels, but it was apparent that depth finally took over and Boise was exhausted. Wallace ended up with 387 yards on the night, finding Laquon Treadwell, Quincy Adeboyejo and Cody Core for touchdowns in a span of five minutes. The Rebels added another touchdown by Mark Dodson to seal the game at 35-13. However, the score did not indicate the undeniable struggle the offense endured for 48 minutes of the game.

Whether it was first-game jitters or not quite ready for prime time, Ole Miss cannot afford this kind of performance against SEC West opponents. A slow start marred by boneheaded mistakes in the wrong stadium could result in some forgettable afternoons in September. With Ole Miss clearly in the hunt to upend the powers-that-be, Wallace and company must find continuity. The rushing attack has to get going and the line cannot dig holes with drive-killing penalties. A repeat of the first half of the Boise game against Auburn or Alabama would be certain disaster.

Hugh Freeze will take this win and move on to the film room to shore up the issues his offense seems to have. There were flashes of greatness in the fourth quarter to build on, and the Ole Miss defense is clearly a strong suit. If the line can give Wallace some time, he can open up the field as much as anyone in the country. Hopefully for the Rebels, this performance was an aberration rather than a sign of things to come.

Brad Stephens is an SEC Football writer for Rantsports.com. Feel free to follow on Twitter @bradstephens320 or add him to your Google network.