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Ole Miss is a Top 10 College Football Team, Saturday Showed Another Reason Why

Ole Miss football gets it done via the running game and flashes on defense again. Can the recipe stick?

LSU stopped Ole Miss on the opening drive of Saturday's game and went to work. It conducted a balanced drive of four Tyrion Davis-Price runs and four Max Johnson passes to move down the field. 

Despite starting from their own 10, the Tigers punched it in from 1 yard out via Davis' fifth carry of the drive. 

Ole Miss went three-and-out and LSU's longest drive, with a 7-0 lead at its back, would commence. It went 72 yards in 14 grueling plays. On the last one, it was fourth down from the Rebel 3 yard-line. 

It may have felt like the Eli Manning-led festivities, with a gaudy list of top recruits including his nephew Arch in town, was about to go for naught. An upset was brewing of epic proportions given the news of LSU and coach Ed Orgeron separating after the season.  

Johnson rolled left, to his strong side, before receiving pressure from Ashanti Cistrunk. He would release the ball in time, aiming for the end zone towards a sprinting Trey Palmer. 

Tysheem Jonson was in coverage, at the junior's near hip, and he broke on the ball simultaneously.  The undercut was brilliant, but the securing of the football and subsequent toe-tap was even better. 

The true freshman changed the trajectory of the game and Ole Miss would never look back. 31 unanswered points later, and the final score was cosmetic in the final moments. 

Ole Miss took care of business the way it should have against a wounded LSU team, at their field, playing for a lame-duck coach. 

After the interception, Snoop Conner went to work. Gains of 13, nine, and 23 electrified the home crowd as the first quarter came to a close. The Rebels were about to run away with this thing. The 13-play drive would end in a field goal. 

Matt Corral looked more settled and it would kick start a stretch of scoring on four drives in a five-drive run spanning from the end of the opening frame through more than midway through the third quarter. 

The Ole Miss defense would force two more turnovers in arguably its best performance of the season against SEC competition. Chance Campbell forced a fumble on a sack and Cedrick Johnson would do the same later on. 

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Casual fans won't remember perhaps the slowest Rebel start to a game this season beyond Alabama, but the coaching staff and its players will. To the dialed-in onlooker, it shows yet another way Ole Miss can tangibly respond to adversity. 

To be a top 10 program, like Ole Miss should be -- and to sustain it -- a team has to win in a variety of ways. Early in the season the offense ran opponents off the field. It showed resiliency in a general sense after a poor first half against Alabama. It survived the Arkansas shootout and even the bizarre extracurriculars at Tennessee. 

On Saturday, it took a hit to the chin and rebounded in time to bury a weakened opponent. And it was fueled by the seldom talked about Ole Miss defense and a freshman who has been in the secondary rotation every game he has donned the red, white, and (powder) blue. 

If this Rebel defense, which has forced six turnovers over the last three games, continues to build consistency, it has a chance against anyone on any given Saturday with what the offense brings in the other element of football that travels -- the run game.

Ole Miss ran for 266 yards Saturday. It totaled 276 against Tennessee and of course, ran for 324 in the memorable win over Arkansas. 288.6 yards per game against SEC competition will get the job done for most programs. Throw in a Heisman candidate at QB and you get the picture. 

The growing identity of this offense and opportune nature of this defense has season-spanning production regardless of opponent. 

It won't be easy in the SEC West, because it never is. 

Traveling to Auburn and hosting Texas A&M two weeks before the Egg Bowl will serve as three more chances to prove the point. 

Ole Miss is a top 10 team with a formula for winning that pushes against convention. 

How Lane Kiffin is that?


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