The meeting between the Boise State Broncos and the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night featured two teams heading in very different directions.
The Broncos entered the 2014 season without longtime head coach Chris Petersen, who left Boise State for Washington after eight seasons and 92 wins .
Ole Miss, on the other hand, hoped to improve upon an already positive trajectory under head coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels won seven and eight games, respectively, in Freeze's first two seasons in Oxford; that marked quite an improvement from a 2 -10 season in 2011.
Despite a full offseason of expectation, the first three quarters of this game left much to be desired as turnovers and an on-going punting contest defined the battle.
Ultimately, however, a struggling Ole Miss offense woke up and gave way to a high-scoring Rebel fourth quarter and a 35-13 victory over the Broncos.
Check out the game's final stats here and take a look at first and second half game grades and analysis below.
|Boise State Broncos Game Grades|
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Second-Half Grade|
|vs. Ole Miss in Week 1|
Boise State Broncos Grade Analysis
Pass Offense: It's hard to move the ball against a defense as talented as the Rebels'—especially when turnovers limit drives like they did for the Broncos on Thursday. Quarterback Grant Hedrick was under pressure for most of the game and his receivers had very few opportunities to get loose thanks to smart, physical play by the Ole Miss secondary. Four interceptions by this unit kept the Broncos out of contention in their season opener.
Run Offense: Boise State found some success early running the football by getting outside the tackles. Jay Ajayi proved to be a hard-nosed runner and earned his keep with his ability to break tackles. Unfortunately, the Broncos struggled to establish the run in the second half. And after falling behind, the running game became less and less effective.
Pass Defense: The Broncos' defensive secondary was able to come up with three interceptions of its own in the first half, and in doing so kept the game close. Opportunistic play by cornerbacks and safeties kept things interesting early, but Ole Miss receivers (Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core in particular) were able to get open in the secondary far too often. All in all, the secondary's efforts were not attrocious, but an inability to consistently pressure Bo Wallace put the pass defense in a bind repeatedly as the game wore down. Four of five Ole Miss scores came through the air.
Run Defense: Early on, it seemed as if Ole Miss had no interest in establishing the run game. As the game progressed, however, it became clear that the Rebels were unable to do so. Boise State's run defense forced the Rebels to throw the ball, which seemed like an ideal scenario at half-time. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Wallace was sharper in the second half and shutting down the run game yielded minimal benefit.
Special Teams: With Boise State's first two scores coming on field goals, it's hard to knock the unit's efforts. No large returns were surrendered and no major breakdowns occurred. Overall, it was a solid evening for Boise State's special teams.
Coaching: Bryan Harsin will always remember his first game as Boise State's coach, but it won't be for his team's heroics. In the second quarter, he left four points on the board after getting inside the five-yard line and having to settle for a field goal. While it's hard to question many of his other decisions as Ole Miss clearly possessed a talent advantage, the offensive play-calling seemed generally bland—which was particularly surprising late in the game as the Broncos fell behind big.
|Ole Miss Rebels Game Grades|
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Second-Half Grade|
|vs. Boise State in Week 1|
Ole Miss Rebels Grade Analysis
Pass Offense: This was a first half that Wallace will hope to soon forget. Based on his play in the game's final two quarters, he already has. His three first half interceptions were countered by four touchdowns through the air (three in the second half) and nearly 400 passing yards. To be sure, first halves like the one tonight won't bode well for Wallace against better competition, but his ability to refocus and gain composure in the fourth quarter made the difference in this game.
Run Offense: Ole Miss struggled establishing a running game for most of the game. No player on the Rebels' roster accounted for more than 30 yards on the ground and runs—both designed and improvised—were consistently snuffed out by a feisty Bronco defense. This will certainly be an area of concern for the Rebels as they move into conference play.
Pass Defense: Much like Boise State, this Ole Miss defense established itself as extremely opportunistic. However, consistent pressure on the quarterback combined with sound open-field tackling showed that this pass defense is stellar—even when not forcing turnovers. The turnovers were certainly there, but the big hits by defensive backs and consistent pass rush were equally impressive.
Run Defense: Boise State had success on the ground early with outside runs. But as the game progressed, the Rebels did a nice job of adjusting lanes of pursuit and keeping opposing running backs from bouncing outside for extra yardage. There was certainly no cause for alarm on this unit, especially as the defense seemed more focused on stopping the pass.
Special Teams: Ole Miss placed one punt on the 1-yard line, but outside of that produced very little activity of note on special teams—which is probably a good thing. Kick and punt coverage was solid and an onside kick attempt by Boise State was recovered cleanly by the Rebels late in the fourth quarter.
Coaching: Hugh Freeze had a talent advantage, but he also made better adjustments than his counterpart from Boise State. Most noticeably, outside containment against the run was greatly improved as the game progressed. Perhaps his best coaching move, however, was sticking with something that seemed to not be working—the passing game. Wallace's strong second half showed that Freeze's confidence was not misplaced.