Box scores are magnificent storytellers. So long as you understand them and know exactly what you're looking for, nothing quite explains what, in a grander scheme, occurred during a football game more accurately and concisely than comparative statistics. Let me demonstrate.
|TOTAL FIRST DOWNS||19||21|
|TOTAL NET YARDS||301||424|
|NET YARDS RUSHING||211||124|
|Average per rush||4.1||4.1|
|NET YARDS PASSING||90||300|
|Time of Possesion||30:19||29:41|
Kentucky outplayed Ole Miss yesterday when it didn't matter. The Wildcats moved the ball well both on the ground and, exceptionally (and typically), through the air, turned first and second downs into further firsts, utilized a very balanced playbook, and generally showed the poise and decision-making one would expect from a well-coached BCS-level club.
But they didn't win. In a nearly uniquely Rebel fashion, penalties and turnovers killed the 'Cats in Oxford.
This is not at all to suggest that the Rebs played poor football - au contraire, bonjour - because they didn't. But they did not play as well as the Wildcats. The Rebels couldn't establish much of a passing game (whether or not it was necessary yesterday is, certainly, debatable) outside of the red zone, were average on third downs, and gave Kentucky lots of field to work with defensively. But the Rebels were opportunistic, for a change, which ultimately won the game.
The Rebel defense was, generally, poor. Injuries have decimated this team, and continue to. (aside: According to Nutt's Sunday presser, Brishen Matthews, Marcus Temple, and Charles Sawyer all suffered concussions yesterday. They'll be back up to speed in no time, though. Matthews was, apparently, begging the coaches to let him in the game despite his dizziness, which you've gotta love. He may not have the most finesse, great hands, or a sensible haircut, but he will knock the shivering piss out of a guy, which is exciting to see in a true freshman.) Our younger players are growing up quickly, but are still getting knocked all over the place due to their smaller statures. These are the growing pains we, frankly, didn't see coming on defense, and they suck.
We cannot defend the edge well. We do not get regular or consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Our secondary is routinely overmatched our out of position (although Matthews and Sawyer are showing incredible promise). We do not break blocks well at all. Our blitzes take too long to develop - undeniably a coaching problem - and leave gigantic holes for opposing and still-standing quarterbacks to dink and dunk all through.
This defense is very much a feast or famine type bunch. Most of time time, as fans, we're watching them nervously allow our opposition to march downfield, just hoping for them to do something to stop a drive. And, considering that, Saturday's game was actually very fun to watch from that perspective because, for the first time all season, the LaNdShArKZzZz!! © ™ ® did just that on multiple occasions.
Kentucky's three turnovers were backbreakers and just as much a result of poor Kentucky ball handling as Ole Miss opportunism. DT Shackleford and Mike Marry's forced fumble in the red zone was crucial in getting the Rebels an easy score early. Charles Sawyer's interception, the first of our season, was thrilling in that it showed a real opportunism on the part of a young guy we're going to count on a ton in the future. And Damien Jackson's forced fumble solidified this secondary's new found possession of a handful of new monikers such as "scrappy" and "hard working" (kinder terms than "not good" or "playing with their heads in their asses", for sure).
Like I said: it's a feast or famine defense which, if the offense can cooperate, will win us a few more games this year.
And cooperate the offense did. Masoli was on point, throwing for three touchdowns, rushing for another, and committing a pleasant zero turnovers. Bolden continued to prove to everyone that he needs the ball in his hands early and often, notching 125 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. The running game in general was fine, and did a good job of moving the sticks and dictating the pace of the game. The passing game left much to be desired aside from Masoli's performance in the red zone, and that has as much to do with coaching as it does with receivers dropping passes as it does with Masoli overthrowing a few guys. Nobody was on the same page it seemed regarding the more modern element of American Football, but that doesn't so much matter when your running game is performing as well as ours was.
It was good to see the fullback and tight end utilized heavily in the red zone. Greer and Allen were wide-the-hell open for Masoli on their respective touchdown grabs, as was Brandon Bolden who was, during his grab, lined up as an H-back. In fact, as far as ball distribution goes, the Rebels were uncharacteristically generous yesterday. Touchdowns were scored by Bolden (once catching, once rushing), H.R. Greer, Rodney Scott, Jeremiah Masoli (thrice passing, once rushing), and Ferbia Allen. Damn, that's exciting. What's also exciting is how Bolden, Grandy, both Scott's, Melvin Harris, and Jeremiah Masoli have all emerged as consistent-ish playmakers on offense. When considering where we stand on both sides of the ball right now, this team is the exact opposite of what we and everyone else with an opinion thought they'd be a few months ago. Instead of a stout defense supporting an anemic offense, we've got a fast and diverse offense propping up an overly forgiving defense. Frustrating? Sure, but it's still likely a bit more fun to watch than the alternative.
Speaking of fun-to-watch, Masoli is such a legitimate play-action threat at quarterback that we're going to catch even the most experienced and talented defenses we play this year off-guard and out of position a couple times, a fun prospect to consider for the coming weeks.
The special teams play was marked by both wild inconsistency and incredible consistency. First, the inconsistency: Andrew Ritter and Tyler Campbell. Ritter, you're a kickoff specialist who is on scholarship to kick a football really far and within the vertical limits of the playing field. Do that, please. You have the leg to consistently put the ball into the endzone, so why you're committing illegal procedures is beyond anyone's comprehension. Tyler Campbell, you need to learn to pooch a ball. Watch what Kentucky's punter does and do that. Every time you're given -60 yards of field, you just kick the fucker way out of the endzone. I do appreciate you keeping the ball away from Randall Cobb for the most part, but srsly brah shoot for a coffin corner or two every now and then.
The team's hallmark of consistency, however, is Bryson Rose. Bryson, carry on with your PAT-kicking goodness. You're a champ. /patshelmet /immediatelyforgetsheisontheteam
And Jesse Grandy, you fast little quark of a man you, keep burning the shit out of your tacklers on punt returns and you'll be in the NFL in a few years. If you hadn't had let a defender or two slow you down on that 70-something yard return, you'd have trotted into the endzone instead of getting dragged down at the three, but I ain't complaining. It was still a thing of beauty and raw football instinct. I see a few more touchdown returns for this guy in his Rebel career, and I hardly think that's a wild prediction to make.
So, to recap everything, Ole Miss played well enough to win against a talented but mistake-prone Kentucky team. I'm happy with it, but still don't expect to win more than half of a handful of SEC games as a result. Bring on the bye week.
- Holy shit, LSU and Tennessee are both pretty fucking terrible at football too. If you missed that game, you missed one of the most lulzrageous clusterfucks evar. We should be able to take one of them, if not both of them, assuming a few folks recover from injury and Nutt coaches a typically Nutty (swidt?) November.
- Let's hope that old dude manning the chains that Jesse Grandy slammed into some piece of sideline equipment is alright.
- SEC officials are still the stupidest collection of pantomimes in the history of modern society.
- Dave Neal and Andre Ware are pretty annoying, but not stupid. They do know football, and SEC football at that, so hearing them call games isn't as excruciating as it could be (lookin' at you, Pam Ward coverin' the early Big Ten games).
- The crowd seemed into it. Anyone have any thoughts or observations regarding that?
- A good porterhouse is grilled for three minutes on one side and three minutes + another thirty seconds on the second side, and not a second more. Don't agree? Ask the guests I had over on Saturday, lawya. They'll change your mind.