Ole Miss

Loss at Memphis makes Rebels question place in CFP landscape

MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESSOle Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, center, watches from the sideline as Memphis upset the No. 13 Rebels 37-24.
MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESSOle Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, center, watches from the sideline as Memphis upset the No. 13 Rebels 37-24. AP

Earlier this season, Ole Miss earned a historic victory at Alabama. The Rebels were on the receiving end of a historic 37-24 loss Saturday that marked Memphis' first win over a ranked opponent since 1996.

What we learned

Problems that have plagued the Rebels for most of the season continued to do so on Saturday. Ole Miss (5-2 overall, 2-1 SEC) rushed for just 40 yards in the game. Perhaps more problematic, the Rebel defense allowed Memphis to extend drives on third down, a problem the Rebels have struggled to resolve. Saturday, the Tigers completed 12 of 20 third-down attempts. By comparison, Ole Miss converted 4 of 13 opportunities.

"I have to take responsibility for us," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "We were as bad as you could get on 3rd down getting off the field and, at times, converting those 3rd downs."

Later asked about the tackling on third downs, Freeze said: "I wish I had all the adjectives. It was as bad as I've ever seen."

Ole Miss' defense was dealt a blow when star defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was knocked out of the game with a concussion while trying to convert a third-and-short opportunity -- on offense.

Freeze made several questionable calls Saturday. Perhaps the biggest was the decision to go for it from the Rebels' own 34. Quarterback Chad Kelly was stuffed and Memphis found the end zone six plays later to go ahead 24-14.

"That wasn't a good decision," Freeze said. "You've got about half a foot, thinking we really need to change this momentum and get some points is what you're thinking but, obviously, it was not a good decision."

What's next

The good news is the Rebels still control their fate as far as the SEC is concerned with Texas A&M on Saturday and Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State still on the schedule.

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Ole Miss will also see the return of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, which should help solidify a leaky offensive line. Will it matter? The Rebels will find out against the Aggies in Oxford.

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