With three minutes to go in the first half, Akeem Judd scampered into the end zone from 11 yards out to give the Ole Miss Rebels a shocking 28-6 lead over the Florida State Seminoles. The Rebels were firing on all cylinders in the first half, with senior quarterback Chad Kelly tossing three touchdown passes, while Florida State couldn’t get anything going against the Rebels defense. Florida State couldn’t stop shooting itself in the foot, either: the Seminoles were penalized 15 times for 128 yards on the evening.
And then Florida State came charging back. Redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois connected with Travis Rudolph just before halftime to cut the deficit to 28-13. Things got worse to start the second half: after Ricky Aguayo kicked a 40-yard field goal on the Seminoles’ first drive of the half, Ole Miss held the ball for nine seconds before a pass bounced off the fingertips of Evan Engram and wound up in the hands of the Seminoles’ Marcus Lewis. The Seminoles scored a touchdown three plays later, and on the Rebels’ next series Chad Kelly got sacked and fumbled, which led to another Seminole touchdown.
In 8 minutes and 47 seconds of game time, Ole Miss had gone from a 28-6 lead to trailing 29-28. The Rebels never regained the lead as Florida State wound up with an impressive 45-34 opening-week win.
Here’s what we learned.
- Rumors of the Rebels’ demise are greatly exaggerated. Laquon Treadwell may be in the NFL, but Evan Engram had a fantastic night, catching 9 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line and (especially) the defensive line look like they’re going to be fine, even without (respectively) Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche. Don’t let the final score deceive you; Ole Miss kept Dalvin Cook in check for most of the night and FSU needed a fantastic second half from Deondre Francois to come away with the W.
- Hugh Freeze is the anti-Butch Jones. While Jones gets criticized for being too conservative, Freeze is perhaps not conservative enough. The Rebels ran the ball 25 times (in 64 plays) and held the ball for a paltry 17:22. The former could have been related to the fact that the running game was rather ineffective (they did generate only 68 yards on the ground), but those numbers are rather striking in a game that the Rebels led by three touchdowns at one point. Taking too many risks led to some costly turnovers that allowed Florida State back into the game.
- Florida State is very, very good. This loss isn’t a knock on the Rebels, who are still a bona fide contender in the SEC West — remember, Alabama comes to Oxford this year. While perhaps the way that they lost hurts, a highly competitive loss to a legitimate top 5 team in what basically amounted to a road game is nothing to be ashamed of. Ole Miss will win a lot of football games this year.