The Rich Rodriguez era at Ole Miss did not provide immediate dividends.
The Rebels fell 15-10 to Memphis to open the 2019 season on Saturday as the offense put up fewer than 200 total yards and struggled mightily to run the football.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke hired Rodriguez, the former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona coach, to take over his team’s offense after offensive coordinator Phil Longo went to join Mack Brown’s staff at North Carolina. While Ole Miss lost players like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Jordan Ta’amu from its 2018 team, it stood to reason that the Rebels would be able to move the football.
Especially against a non-Power 5 opponent in Week 1 after an offseason’s worth of preparation in Rodriguez’s spread read-option offense. This was a Memphis defense that gave up over 5.5 yards per play in 2018.
The Rebels had a hard time moving that football. Ole Miss ended the game with 33 carries for just 80 yards. And QB Matt Corral was just 9-of-19 passing for 93 yards and an interception. The play calling was a bit predictable at times too. Look at how the first six downs went.
Ole Miss has run every first down with the following results: -2, -1, -7, 0, 3, -1.
— Geoff Calkins (@geoff_calkins) August 31, 2019
It’s clearly a work in progress in Oxford. And that work must be completed quickly. Luke’s hires of the spread-option pioneer to run the offense and former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre to run the defense were clearly hires with short term gains in mind.
But four SEC West teams entered the season ranked in the AP preseason Top 25. And Mississippi State is just on the cusp. With a game against Arkansas — the worst team in the SEC West and maybe the SEC entirely — the Rebels have an immediate chance to bounce back. But the schedule only gets tougher from there in a few weeks.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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