Considering the circumstances, it is easy to initially conclude it unusual that so many Rebels would be so upset over Saturday night's performance. A ranked Auburn squad has never lost in Oxford, Ole Miss has never defeated a #1 ranked team, and auburn's offensive weapons played right into our defensive weaknesses. Suggesting a Rebel win was, initially, a long shot.
But people were still calling it. Professional and amateur pundits alike had that game circled as an upset special of sorts. And, just as with predictions of a Rebel loss, such calls were understandable. Auburn hadn't played very well on the road all season and number one teams were dropping as quickly as they were climbing the BCS rankings throughout October.
But, as is always the case with Ole Miss, the trends of recent memory were quickly overrun by those of the longer term, and the Rebels fell once again to a good Auburn team within the confines of Vaught-Hemingway stadium. My initial impressions are that there frankly was very little our Rebels could have done to better the Tigers on Saturday night. After a night of costumed mischief - brief aside: anyone who shows up to a Halloween party out of costume and tries to pull the "I'm too cool for a costume" routine is trying too hard - and a lazy Sunday dominated by junk food and NFL football, my initial assertion of Rebel helplessness remains. It would have taken a lot of Auburn mistakes for the Rebels to win that game, but one cannot deny that, aside from scoring 31 points, we did ourselves very few favors.
The offense wasn't good, but despite the calls for coaching changes - calls that I agree with; more to come on that, perhaps - it was not entirely embarrassing either.
Auburn's opponents average 24.3 points a game. Their dominant defensive line and athletic, playmaking linebackers give them a fighting chance on every defensive drive, even if they're a defense which ranks in the bottom half of the conference in nearly all of the major statistical categories. When considering those trends, I temper my frustrations on Saturday, albeit only slightly.
On the one hand, we were all excited to see our Rebels score early, as Jeff Scott whipped around the Auburn defense and tore down the sidelines for a long touchdown run on only the second play from scrimmage. Trading blows, the Rebels and Tigers maintained a tie 14-14 ballgame through the first quarter, meaning that, were Nutt and company to win, we would have to see a shootout. Unfortunately though, our offense was far too bipolar to maintain a tie for very long.
Our first few drives were effective. Masoli made some excellent plays, the receivers found open space, the rushers gashed Auburn defenders, and the team marched downfield for scores. Other drives, many of which were three-and-outs reminiscent of the Vanderbilt game (RUNNING RIGHT AT NICK FAIRLEY WHEN OUR OFFENSIVE LINE IS MADE OF FRESHMAN IS A TERRIBLE GAMEPLAN, COACH), drove me flail about and cuss like a whiny 12-year-old. The lack of consistency was, frankly, embarrassing. I do think our offense is good and, when considering the numerous freshmen we're playing, could be quite competitive in a couple of seasons, but the play calling has to improve if we're going to go bowling this year*.
Offensive cheers go to Jeremiah Masoli who, horrible interception aside, played well enough and Jeff Scott who showed us all why the coaches and press raved about him after Fall practices. He'll be a helluva weapon for us over the next few seasons.
Defensively... What can I say? This is literally the worst defense I have ever seen in an Ole Miss uniform. Our secondary was horrid and consistently out of place, our defensive line couldn't get much pressure on Newton - which I attribute more to Auburn's truly incredible offensive line than our underachieving defensive front - and our linebackers couldn't get in position to stop Onterio McCalebb (His brother's name is "SiskachaJuan" and his sister's name is "Alburta." If you get this joke right away, you're awesome.) and Michael Dyer on the ground. It seemed our gameplan was to keep Newton from rushing all over us as he did to LSU, which we mostly did but, in return, still gave lots of ground to the other Tiger rushers. And with only a bunch of underachievers and freshmen up against a veteran offensive line guarding the nation's best offensive weapon, any gameplan or scheme we mustered was ultimately rendered futile.
I want to avoid a rant regarding this defense, but I'll keep it to a short five words: Tyrone Nix should be fired.
So here's the general feel of the game, as I can tell: we didn't really expect to win, but were still terribly embarrassed by the loss. Is that close enough?
And please fill in where I left off. There's a lot to say regarding the play calling, the special teams, the decision making, the crowd, the atmosphere, and the weekend in Oxford itself; and I feel that those of y'all who were actually in attendance could do better in those regards than I.
*Yes, it's still possible. While our defense is poor, we have the wonderful fortune of playing three of the four worst offenses in the conference to round out our season. Bring ‘em on, I say.