Ole Miss

Tunsil's return paves way for No. 19 Ole Miss' bounce-back performance

Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) is locked up by Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (78) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) is locked up by Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (78) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) AP

One week after being embarrassed and out-coached in The Bluff City, Ole Miss bounced Back Saturday with a convincing 23-3 win over No. 15 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2). With the win, Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1) became bowl eligible and jumped up five spots to No. 19 in the latest Associated Press Top 25.

What we learned

The ground games looked quite a bit different for the two teams. Despite going up against a Robert Nkemdiche-less Rebels defense, the Aggies rushed for just 58 yards, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. The Rebels showed a much improved ground attack, totalling 230 yards -- a SEC high this season -- at a 4.5-yard clip.

A big reason for the success was the return of All-America left tackle Laremy Tunsil, which moved Fahn Cooper back to his natural position of right tackle.

"Having (Tunsil) back and having everyone in their regular spot that we planned on having them at the start of the year helped our offense rush the ball against a defense that hasn't given up much this season except their previous game," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I believe part of that being because of Laremy's return."

Saturday also featured a breakout performance of sorts for Evan Engram. The junior was expected to be one of the top tight ends in the country, but the statistics through eight games haven't reflected the lofty pre-season expectations. Against Texas A&M, Engram cuaght four passes for 35 yards and hauled in his first touchdown of the season. With those marks, Engram took over sole place as Ole Miss' top receiving tight end with 1,126 yards, passing Jim Poole's career mark of 1,113 yards. He also moved into third place in receptions (77) and second in touchdowns (six).

What's next?

The Rebels continue to control their own fate in the SEC West with the win, but there's plenty of hurdles still between them and a berth in the school's first SEC Championship Game. Next up is an 11 a.m. visit to The Plains to play the down-and-out Auburn Tigers (4-3, 1-3), who lost 54-46 in four overtimes to Arkansas. Former Ole Miss commit Peyton Barber led Auburn with 120 yards and four touchdowns.

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