No. 3 Mississippi's offense rolling as Vanderbilt arrives
Sep. 25, 2015
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is piling up points faster than at any time in its football history.
Now the third-ranked Rebels (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) host one of the league's best defensive teams so far this season in Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1).
The list of superlatives for the Rebels' offense is extensive.
Ole Miss is scoring 64 points per game, which is tops in the nation. It's the first time in school history that the Rebels have scored at least 43 points in three straight games. First-year starting quarterback Chad Kelly leads the SEC in pass efficiency and is averaging more than 19 yards per completion.
The scary thing is Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze believes Kelly was only "average" in the team's stunning 43-37 win over Alabama last week.
"There were about three or four times that we missed on explosive plays because he is glued in and not going through the progression he needs to go through," Freeze said. "We need to coach him better and get him more prepared."
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is well aware that the Rebels would like to play at a fast offensive pace. He's seen it before — Oregon often played an up-tempo style when he was the defensive coordinator at Stanford.
"For us, it's going to be quick. It's going to be fast," Mason said. "We practice it. We understand it. It's nothing new. This isn't my first rodeo with tempo."
Vanderbilt is allowing just 153.3 passing yards per game this season, which ranks second in the league.
Some things to watch when No. 3 Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday:
OLE MISS ON AN OFFENSIVE TEAR: The Rebels are putting up some ridiculous offensive numbers through the first quarter of the season, averaging 64 points per game which is tops in the nation. The running game is improved, but it's the passing game led by quarterback Chad Kelly and receivers Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo that's been truly elite. Core has arguably the biggest surprise — he caught four passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Tide.
REBELS ARE MASTERS OF THE TAKEAWAY: Ole Miss is tied for the national lead with 10 forced turnovers through three games, including seven interceptions. The Rebels benefited from five turnovers in their victory over Alabama on Saturday. Trae Elston has three interceptions this season, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
STILL MISSING TUNSIL: It hasn't hurt the Rebels yet, but they still don't have starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who has missed the first three games because of an ongoing NCAA investigation. Ole Miss has had to shuffle the offensive line in his absence, with Fahn Cooper playing at left tackle and redshirt freshman Sean Rawlings at right tackle.
LOOKING FOR TURNOVERS: Vanderbilt has yet to force a turnover on defense, and the lone takeaway came when the Commodores recovered a pooch kick against Georgia. That has the Commodores last in the SEC and 124th nationally in turnover margin. Linebacker Darreon Herring says they've missed opportunities they've had at getting the ball back. But the defense will be without linebacker Nigel Bowden, who's recovering from a concussion and likely will miss his second straight game. He's not isn't listed on the depth chart for this game.
PROTECT THAT BALL: The Commodores are minus-7 thanks to five interceptions from quarterback Johnny McCrary. He's only thrown four touchdowns, just one more than the passes he's had intercepted in the end zone. McCrary is coming off his best game as a starter. He set the single-game record with an 84.8 completion percentage throwing for 368 yards in Vanderbilt's win over Austin Peay. That was McCrary's first game this season without a turnover.
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this story.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP . AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org.