So here we are: I had all kinds of things to write about last night, but most of them resided, along with the sick feeling in your gut that surely, all of us felt (at least those of us who actually follow the team. And/or smuggled Ziplock bags of Jack into the stadium). Beyond the terrible effort on display on the part of Jevan Snead and the Ole Miss offensive line (can't fault the receivers, backs, or the defense), we have a pretty significant quandary on our hands in Oxford: we can't possibly conceive a way to win a football game wherein a loss is a possibility. Not since South Carolina in 2004 has Ole Miss defeated a team with an equal or greater combination of talent, experience, and coaching. Don't even bring up wins against Memphis, State, and Vandy (2006). The talent gap makes it inexcusable to lose those games, despite our ability to always make it look close.
Before Hog fans (you lost by 5 touchdowns to Alabama. This should be enough to silence you for the week, but I know otherwise) come here to gloat: this isn't a coaching issue. Houston Nutt and his staff have demonstrated that they can coach fundamentals, concoct a good game plan, choose the right personnel, and generally put the players in position to succeed. And while Orgeron's teams lost all kinds of games, some of which can be put on his shoulders, he still was incapable of fumbling the ball, throwing interceptions, or allowing Derek Pegues to go untouched into the endzone on a critical punt return. He was on the sidelines. And please, spare me any talk of how part of coaching is teaching kids to avoid mistakes like these. Having to teach kids to hold on to the ball and to avoid throwing 5 interceptions in a game is like taking attendance and grading homework in a 500 level class. It should be fucking insulting, and an unnecessary waste of time that could be spent on conditioning, learning playbooks, and scouting. I can't blame Nutt for this one, as the game plan was there.
If Nutt is at fault at all, it is in his recent inexperience in instilling a winning attitude. He inherited players that were decent and knew how to win at Arkansas. He recruited some excellent players and instilled a continued winning attitude, and did a lot of great things, all while located in the asshole of America, Fayetteville (again, Hawg fans, don't talk, your town sucks, and don't say 'thank God for Mississippi,' because that's a crock of shit bolstered by misleading statistics. Mississippi > Arkansas as a good place to live). Anyhow, it is certainly an alien feeling for Nutt to teach a bunch of talented, habitual losers to win. I can understand that. What I can't understand, is how it got this bad to begin with.
Ole Miss has some incredible talent. For certain, the talent in the secondary, at tight end, and in the linebacking corps, leaves something to be desired by the standards of the SEC elite. However, there aren't many guys like Mike Oher, John Jerry, Shay Hodge, Mike Wallace, Dexter McCluster, Greg Hardy, Peria Jerry, Brandon Bolden, etc., in the SEC. We have some serious players, and good balance overall. We just haven't found the chemistry and resolve to pull out any solid SEC wins in the last four years. Losing feels inevitable to these guys, and I'm not sure what can be done about that.
With all that behind me, let's go to the actual game analysis:
7 penalties for 82 yards vs. 2 penalties for 20. Hard to believe that the home team had over four times the penalty yardage as the away team, especially given the subjective nature of most of the penalties. Late hits were called on the UM offense when I saw the same thug garbage committed by a VU defender on the same play. Not the reason we lost, but damn. Give us a dozen or so fairly officiated SEC games and we just might win one or two...
Snead is a talented head case. Get ready, folks. If a QB lobotomy isn't performed on Snead soon, look for Brent Schaeffer part II. Last night was possibly (with talent level taken into consideration) the worst underperformance by an Ole Miss athlete since the invention of the forward pass. The stat sheet says four INT's. It was actually five, as the one immediately stolen back by the Ole Miss receiver wasn't counted. Can't even recognize the guy that threw four TD's on the road at Wake Forest. Either way, the 4/5 INT's doesnt begin to tell the story of how poor Jevan was. He was Ethan Flatt at Wyoming poor. He was Brent Schaeffer at Kentucky poor... Need I go on?
McCluster and Green put too much weight on their shoulders to make plays. Both are dynamic with the ball. Both made critical fumbles last night. Green had no business trying to break all those tackles on the punt return. There was no seam, no extra yardage to be gained. Protect the ball in this situation. McCluster probably shouldn't have been the guy to take the ball through the middle of the defense in this situation. Send any of our top three RB's, who are much bigger and stronger and have demonstrated sure hands for the most part, into the thick of things when it counts, instead of a 5-8 scat back. I agree with running the Wild Rebel, but again, decision making wasn't all it could have been by McCluster.
Defensive line will be a star unit if they don't get bogged down by the rest of the teams fuckuperation. Hardy, Jerry, and Powe were all monsters. Could be time for Gerald Pow to do the Hotty Toddy on the Grove stage, because he's getting much closer to his expected impact (12 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT, and a pass touchdown per game, approx.).
The rest of the defense fed off of the increased pressure from the front four. I hate to get all optimistic here, but we may just be able to pull an upset by playing good defense and keeping the ball out of Snead's incapable hands.
The offensive line is still soft. Even with over 200 yards rushing, the line failed to impress, this time with the problem being in pass protection. I wonder if most of this wasn't caused by Snead's inability to audible and take advantage of/cover for the blitz. Still, these guys are talented and experienced, and need to maul some motherfuckers. Hasn't yet happened.
That is about all I have. Last night, I was pondering the abysmal lack of intestinal fortitude and mental strength by Ole Miss athletes since I arrived here in the Fall of 2004. It really is sickening, and I find myself wondering after a loss like this what draws us to be fans. Certainly, regional proximity and school loyalty are a big factor in what team you support, but shouldn't you also respect something about the resolve, the tenacity, the effort level and the spirit of the teams for which you so fervently cheer? Well, as it stands, I can't respect them until they come out and win a big game. No loss can be considered a moral victory, no good effort can be deemed worthwhile until a W appears in the stat column. Here it is, Rebs: I don't respect you. I've seen more resolve and mental composure in Club and Intramural level teams, and your consistent failure to seal a victory has made me question the worth of my years of support. I won't go to Gainesville with my crew next weekend, because I know that you won't show up in any better mental condition to beat Florida than would I and my drunken compatriots. Please, Rebels, at some point this year, prove me wrong. Make me believe again. Win six and get to a bowl. Being a jaded asshole just isn't fun. Goodnight, and Hotty Toddy.