Ole Miss didn't make it pretty in its opener against Boise State, but the Rebels held off the Broncos 35-13.
While Texas A&M and South Carolina were lighting up the scoreboard in Columbia, these two teams were providing a stubborn counterpoint. There was some pretty good defense being played, with excellent tackling by collegiate standards coming from both sides.
There was also a lot of dumb football being played. The Rebels exited the first half with a 7-3 lead after 14 combined penalties and three interceptions apiece for the two sides. Half (!) of those 14 penalties were solely false start flags on Ole Miss. There was plenty of needless jawing and shoving and preening as well.
The teams cleaned things up a bit in the second half, with the penalties and turnovers subsiding. The teams really couldn't get anything going until the fourth quarter, though. The Rebels' size and speed finally won out, and they scored touchdowns on their four final full drives. At one point, Bo Wallace had touchdown passes on three consecutive attempts. Boise State managed a touchdown in that span too, but it was too little, too late.
The real story of the game was Wallace. He has the most wins of any current SEC starting quarterback, and he's the only one of the 14 who passed for over 3,000 yards a year ago. On a night when A&M's Kenny Hill broke all kinds of records in his first ever game, Wallace was the one who looked like bewildered rookie. Hugh Freeze even said at halftime that his signal caller was doing things that were outside his progressions. His work as BSU was running out of gas made his line look better, but he was a liability more often than he wasn't.
The Ole Miss defense came to play, though. It was fearsome and physical all night, and it wrapped up far better than most college defenses ever do. It was very impressive despite Denzel Nkemdiche being suspended for the game and losing Serderius Bryant midway through the first quarter to a (proper) targeting penalty. I don't know if it'll be good enough to bail out an offensive performance like that against a better team than Boise State, but it worked well enough tonight.
Ole Miss is 1-0, and ultimately that's all that matters. Freeze and his staff have plenty to chew on, but it's better to do it after a win than a loss.