Austin, TX – The Texas Longhorns don't have much time to lick their wounds following an embarrassing loss, as they return home to take on the 25th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night.
Ole Miss is 2-0 on the young season, having topped SEC rival Vanderbilt in the opener (39-35) followed by an easier win over FCS foe Southeast Missouri (31-13). The Rebels entered the AP poll at No. 25 this week, marking their first appearance in the Top-25 since the end of the 2009 campaign.
Ole Miss was also 2-0 before facing the Longhorns last season, a game in which the Rebels were summarily dismissed in a 66-31 final to fall to 1-6 in the all-time series. Following this bout, Ole Miss will get an extra week to prepare for its SEC opener at No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 28.
Mack Brown's Longhorns find themselves on the outside looking in on the national rankings after getting run over by the BYU Cougars in Utah last Saturday, 40-21. It was a far cry from UT's season opener against visiting New Mexico State as the team whipped the Aggies in a 56-7 final.
Texas is hoping some home cooking will give it the edge it will need to get back on track as it looks ahead to the Big 12 Conference opener versus Kansas State on Sept. 21.
Ole Miss scored early and often in its recent clash with SEMO, jumping out to a 31-0 halftime lead before coach Hugh Freeze called off the dogs. Despite allowing the Redhawks 13 points in the third quarter, the Rebels easily won the yardage battle (532-252), using a balanced attack to overwhelm the visitors in averaging 6.5 yards per offensive play, converting 10-of-17 third- down opportunities, and scoring on 3-of-4 trips to the red zone.
Bo Wallace went 8-of-15 for 188 yards and two TDs before giving way to his backups who combined to go just 6-of-17 for 72 yards with an interceptions and two sacks. Donte Moncrief and Evan Engram made the most of their limited touches, with each having just two catches but for a combined 144 yards and two scores. Although it's only been two games, Wallace is hitting 62.9 percent of his passes for 235.5 ypg with two TDs and no INTs, and there are three receivers with more than 100 yards.
Barry Brunetti rumbled his way to a career-best 111 yards and a TD on 18 carries against SEMO, while I'Tavius Mathers logged just four carries, but averaged 14 yards per in finishing with 56 yards and a score. Brunetti already has three rushing TDs, matching his output from all of last year.
The Ole Miss defense allowed just 93 yards on the ground to the Redhawks, giving the unit an average yield this season of 109.5 ypg. Filling in for injured linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, Serderius Bryant posted a career-high 15 tackles, while Cody Prewitt logged six stops, came up with an INT and forced a fumble.
While obviously pleased with the outcome, Freeze was quick to point out his displeasure with the lack of focus his team showed for a spell in the second half.
"We're happy to be 2-0, come out of the game healthy, and get a lot of kids in the game," Freeze said. "Those kids give a lot of effort practicing and preparing, and some playing time is good. At the same time, I'm disappointed in the passion we played with in the second half. With the stretch of games we have coming up, that will not get it done."
The Longhorns took it on the chin in Provo last Saturday, getting steamrolled for 550 yards on the ground -- the most ever surrendered by a defense in the storied history of Texas football. They had allowed just 104 rushing yards the week before against NMSU, but Brown was clearly not happy and decided to make a change.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired on Sunday, giving way to Greg Robinson who begins his second tour of duty with the Longhorns after serving in the same capacity back in 2004.
"Our performance on defense last night was unacceptable, and we need to change that," Brown said on Sunday. "Greg will be here tonight and get with the staff and players to start preparing for Ole Miss (next week's opponent). He will be running our defense immediately."
Brown continued, "His familiarity with the staff and players should make for a smooth transition. He knows this place, did a terrific job in leading our defense before, and I'm excited to have him back on the field."
Despite the historically bad performance by the unit overall, both Jordan Hicks and Cedric Reed did all they could in combining for 30 tackles.
On offense, Johnathan Gray ran for 90 yards on 13 carries, while David Ash completed 19-of-34 passes for 251 yards and two TDs. Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley both had eight catches, with the former logging 114 yards and two scores, and the latter 105 yards.