PAY ATTENTION TO US!!!! Is it just me, or would the complete lack of coverage for today's game have been different if Arkansas wins? Sorry, the anti-Ole Miss conspiracy is gaining some credibility, at least in my head. I want the rest of the nation to join us in making fun of silly Arkansas fans today. Instead, I got to see Air Force/Utah and Indiana/Northwestern on Sportscenter, as well as coverage of a baseball game that was postponed due to rain (enthralling!!!), but didn't see Ole Miss until we were getting scored on by Arkansas in the Top Ten plays of the night. I wonder if Mark May's glasses contain a mind control chip that forces him to act like a smug, metrosexual, football-ignorant piece of dog shit, or if he's just always that way. More post-game thoughts after the jump.
On to more pressing matters...
Kent Austin is probably calling the plays now. Arkansas fans (I'll address you directly a few paragraphs down), I'll admit that I don't want Houston Nutt calling the plays. This game, we used intelligent playcalling, ran plays to set up later plays, took what the defense gave us, ran the offense with a nice tempo, and otherwise abused the defense from a strategic standpoint. That was probably Kent Austin's doing. This I will concede.
Dexter McCluster may be the best offensive threat in Ole Miss history not named Manning. A great QB can cure all woes, but a guy that's often just too fast to tackle is pretty effective, too. Find me another 170 pound guy in a BCS conference that can take 29 touches and carry a team on his back.
Pat Patterson: keep throwing him the ball. Also, Jesse Grandy and Ferbia Allen. But mainly Patterson. You have to love a 5-star caliber guy who will lay out for any ball that comes his way, drag guys along the field with him, run block like a maniac... I mean, this guy likes to play some fucking football. Let's facilitate his desire to do so.
Bradley Sowell (and the rest of the offensive line) played like a 14 year-old who'd just gotten dumped for the first time for the first several games of the season. Today, he was pumped. He went after people. He was good. I can't imagine the reason for the turnaround (or for the shit-tastic play in the first place) but hey, thanks for showing up while we can still have an awesome season.
We could really use a fullback who can get to the perimeter a little better. Powe is not that guy. Neither, apparently, is Hartmann. Anyone?
I loved the playcalling. Screens should have been a cornerstone of our offensive scheme from day one. You can't let a defense get used to pinning their ears back against a line like ours and going for the ball. The passing game was much less vertically oriented, which really helped as well. When we needed to throw it downfield, we had some space to do so, because we'd passed it short to set it up. Amazing.
The defense did not play it's best game, which is pretty great, because they still looked good. Tackling needs to improve. Michael Smith was able to bounce off of guys all game long. We had trouble bringing guys down after the catch, which is a new problem that needs to get fixed, STAT. We had some unlikely guys step up today, so that's fun to talk about. Lamark Armour had an amazing sack. Marcus Tillman made some real noise against the run, coming off blocks nicely a few times. Jonathan Cornell had a great game. Powe continued to have the most enthusiastic offsides penalties in the history of football, but you know that gets in the O-line's head, because if he jumps the snap successfully, I've got news for you: you aren't about to block him.
Defensive playcalling was great, and if you're an Arkansas fan, you have to be upset about Petrino's inability to adjust. To be fair, this game was an ambush for Petrino and Arkansas. Ole Miss hasn't played well all year, hasn't called a good game offensively, haven't given teams enough good material to study. How could they have known that we'd suddenly be 5000% better than we were against Bama and USC? Also, Ryan Mallet's receivers had a pretty shitty day catching the ball. Mallet could've used more touch on several passes, but this is big kid's football. Dropping sure TD passes won't take you very far. After the catch, the Arkansas receivers were exceptional, but it wasn't even close to enough.
Because let's be real here for a minute. Ole Miss thoroughly kicked the shit out of Arkansas. If not for a lucky bounce on a 3rd and super, super long, Arkansas manages 10 points. If Cordera Eason doesn't fumble, or if Andru Stewart doesn't make an amazing interception, maybe Ole Miss extends the lead even further (not trying to take away from two outstanding Arkansas defensive plays, but they were both huge and unusual momentum swings). I'll say with confidence that Ole Miss didn't benefit from any bounces or bad officiating in this game. We just... won. The game was in doubt for all but the final 3 minutes, but it was so cleanly called, so well executed... It was an incredibly fun game to watch, even though it was nerve-wracking.
Sitting in the Grove post-game, talking about an outside shot at the Capital One Bowl is a lot more fun that getting drunk in the dusk and wondering if we'll ever be good at football again.
And finally... Arkansas fans.
I almost miss your nagging today. Maybe you knew we'd feel this way if we won, and you disappeared strictly to spite us. Maybe you're just not ready for this realization to sink in. But here it is:
Somewhere in the madness, you forgot that Houston Nutt is a good coach. He hired great assistants here, he (usually) motivates the shit out of his team, and he uses tried and true strategies to win in the SEC: run the ball, take care of it, and play nasty defense. He isn't perfect, but compared to some coaches, Nutt peaks at the right time. He drops games he should win, but he does it in September and October. Is that frustrating? Yeah, it can be, but so, too, can starting off 5-1 just to end up in the Indy Bowl. We've been there. Nutt helped claim a respectable spot in the SEC for Arkansas, and gave you the leverage to go and get a hot, slutty piece of coach when you got tired of him. At Ole Miss, we'd be thrilled if he elevated our program a bit, retired, then allowed us to hire someone who can win us an SEC title when he's gone. We're patient like that (usually).
To the better half of the Arkansas fan base: You have lots of reasons to be excited about your situation. Your team is young, your coach is recruiting the players he needs to make some runs in the SEC. I don't think he'll win an SEC title, but he could, if the chips fall his way. We feel like we're in the same position, just at a different time. Next year will likely be a down year, as the juniors and seniors will represent the dark years of Orgeron's recruiting. But we'll bounce back, and Arkansas and Ole Miss will be fighting for a spot in the West division race more often than not. We hope you'll come around and talk football, but man... let's drop the coach shit-talk.
To the shitty Arkansas fans: Please realize that this convincing victory has crushed most of the even slightly valid theories about Houston Nutt. Even if you feel like you still have something interesting or important to say on the matter, please be assured that you are mistaken. It's over for the year. We're doing fine, you're doing fine, but not quite as fine... because we beat you. We were the more experienced team this year, playing at home. Next year, it's your turn; we lose a lot of talent from a great 2006 recruiting class, and we play in Arkansas against a bunch of young guys who are coming around big time. You'll probably win next year, and it won't mean much with regards to the long-term futures of either program. We're tired of hearing the same stuff, we could easily turn this season around and be really good, and you have no ammo left in the chamber until next season. Give it a rest; even you guys will probably feel better.
That's about all I've got. Feel free to add your experiences and observations. It was a hell of a weekend. Hotty Toddy and goodnight.