Ole Miss Defense Shows Impressive Signs of Life Despite Loss

Nate Gabler

The Ole Miss defense boarded busses to Fayetteville, Ark. on pace to be the worst defensive unit in the history of FBS football.

But when the fourth quarter came along in the Ole Miss game at Arkansas, it was actually the defense, not the offense, that kept the Rebels in the football game with a shot to win. 

Entering the game at Arkansas, Ole Miss was giving up 51.7 points per game. They help Arkansas to 33. Entering the game, they were giving up 641.3 yards per game. For reference, the worst defense in FBS history gave up only 617.4 yards per game. Arkansas only had 394 yards of offense.

"I was happy to see our defense play a lot better. They played with energy and forced turnover. They had good emotion and executed well," said head coach Lane Kiffin. "To me, the message to the team is it shows we can be really good. What if we play offense like we did prior to today and played defense like we did today? We'd be a really good team."

Ole Miss rushed only three defenders at times, which was bizarre, but dropping eight allowed them to hold Feleipe Franks to 244 yards passing. When they rushed more, they did a better job of getting home. 

Ryder Anderson, in particular, had a really impressive game. Anderson had 13 tackles, one tack and two tackles for loss. He was also credited for another quarterback hit.

"Collectively, as a unit, we just decided we were going to come out and play better defense. We were tired of the disrespect we were getting," Anderson said. "I had a couple more rushes on the edge today and the defensive backs did a great job covering. The rest of the line was getting after it too. Whenever everything compliments each other, it makes it easier."

Anderson said the defense did play more three down lineman sets and did some more stunting and different things on the line than previous weeks, but as a whole it was the same defense. 

The defense was playing without Taquarius Tisdale and Jakorey Hawkins, both of whom played over half of the Ole Miss snaps on the year going into the day. Anderson was one of the guys who had to pick up the slack of the missed snaps. It worked.

Kiffin is right. Moving forward, if the Ole Miss offense can get back on track, and pair themselves with a defense that is closer to what we saw today, this could be a formidable team. That said, this defensive performance does come against Arkansas, who's offense ranks No. 94 nationally by SP+ efficiency. 

Is this a fluke or a sign of things to come? That we will see in the following weeks. But for now, there's some reason for optimism along the Ole Miss defense. 

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