The Ole Miss Defense Still Has a Ton of Work to Do

Nate Gabler

As good as the Ole Miss offense was in Lane Kiffin's debut on Saturday afternoon, the defense was equally pitiful.

Yes, the Ole Miss offense put up 613 yards against Florida, but the defense surrendered 642 yards. It was an encouraging debut performance as a whole for the Rebels, but if this team is going to go anywhere, they're going to need to get more out of this defense moving forward. 

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask completed 71.4-percent of his throws on Saturday, going for 416 yards and six touchdowns. It was the best passing performance for a Gator quarterback since Tim Tebow threw for 482 yards against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. 

"That's about as bad as you can play against the pass. Those are video game stats," said head coach Lane Kiffin. "A lot of credit to Kyle and then the tight end was unbelievable. Two of the touchdowns he was double covered. Again, credit to them, they played really well and we just didn't."

The tight end Kiffin is referring to is probably the best tight end in the nation, Florida's Kyle Pitts. Pitts dominated Ole Miss over the middle of the field today, catching eight of his ten targets for 170 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

Sure, Pitts is likely going to be the first tight end drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, but Ole Miss has to be better over the middle of the field defensively. 

"He's a great player. But at the end of the day, guarding a player like that is just going to make me and make us better," said linebacker Jacquez Jones. "We weren't prepared for how good their passing game really was. We barely got any hits on the quarterback. We could hardly get any pressure back there and they picked us apart."

Over the past few weeks of camp, it was actually the Ole Miss defense was actually dominating the offense. Today was a lot different. 

The defense had been forcing a ton of turnovers from the Ole Miss quarterbacks over the past month of camp. Today, the Rebels got an interception off a trick play from the Gators backup quarterback but otherwise were unable to force Trask into any mistakes.

"We just gave up so many big plays," Kiffin said. "It's hard to say you played with good effort when you give up over 600 yards, but I feel like it was more execution issues than effort issues."

As bad as the day was for Ole Miss defensively, these players definitely haven't given up all hope for the year. 

They're still playing the No. 5 team in the nation and the SEC Coaches' pick for All-SEC First Team quarterback with Trask. They're going to learn from today, but they're confident in where they're at moving forward. 

"Come the rest of the season, this will be a different Ole Miss defense, I can promise you that," Jones said.

More From Ole Miss vs. Florida:

Matt Corral, Elijah Moore and Ole Miss Offense Impressive in Lane Kiffin's Debut

Rebels Debut 'Turnover Bag of Cash' After First-Quarter Interception

Ole Miss and Florida Kneel at Kick in Pregame Demonstration, Rebels Decline Penalty

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