ATLANTA — It wasn't pretty for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.
In fact, it was downright ugly.
Sure, he threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 victory over Boise State, but those stats lie.
That score lies.
Wallace threw three picks, as the slow release that has haunted him for two years was still present. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't play within the structure of head coach Hugh Freeze's offense inside the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.
"I'm looking forward to breaking the film down and seeing. Two of the three interceptions were a bit unbelievable to us, because they weren't even in his progression on the route," Freeze said. "He'll be the first to tell you that and he knows that. It was a bit amazing. He was a little out of sync."
Despite the three first interceptions in the first half, or more likely because of them, Ole Miss carried only a four-point lead into halftime with a score of 7-3.
That didn't really matter to offensive coordinator Dan Werner.
"There's no way we could have played any worse, and we're still ahead," he said.
Why was Ole Miss ahead? That defense was stifling.
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche paid mortgage in the Boise State backfield, the Rebels had three of their four interceptions of Boise State QB Grant Hedrick in the first half, and they laid the wood on Broncos players early and often.
The most impressive player of the bunch commonly known as the "landsharks" was sophomore safety Tony Conner, who finished the day with six tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.
"Tony's a really good football player who has a really good football IQ," Freeze said. "To be a second year player, we're definitely glad we have him. He played a solid game. He had a great pick and on a couple of powers they ran on the goal line, he did a good job with his assignment."
It seems that is what Ole Miss will have to be in order to be successful this season — a group that wins with defense.
It's not going to be much different with Wallace as the quarterback. This is what he is. He's a guy who will throw his fair share of touchdown passes and gets some yards on the ground, but also make some mind-numbingly poor decisions, improvises in the worst possible ways and forces his defense to come up big time and time again.
He's now thrown 44 touchdown passes during his two-plus years in Oxford, but also has 20 interceptions.
Can Ole Miss win big in spite of its quarterback?
Maybe. The defense certainly looked up to the task in the opener, but that's a tall order for any defense in this day and age of exotic offenses and creative play-callers.
It'd be really helpful if Wallace could play within the system and cut down on the mistakes.
It didn't look like he could do that on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!