It was not perfect, it was not pretty, and it still does not feel all to convincing, but the Rebels got the proverbial monkey* off of their back today with a 21-point victory over the Auburn Tigers to earn the program's first SEC victory since a 2010 42-35 win over Kentucky.
As with any football game, there were examples of questionable coaching, poor execution, lucky breaks and odd officiating, but when and where it counted the offense scored touchdowns and the defense kept the opponent from doing so themselves.
Typical to this team all season long, the first and fourth quarters decided the game. The Rebels scored 31 of their 41 points in those quarters, with the first quarter seeing the Rebs establish a 14-point lead and the fourth seeing them cap the game off with 17 unanswered.
Questionable was the playcalling from Coach Freeze, especially when the game was close. In the game's open thread, we were just begging for the coaches to feed Moncrief, do something down field, or generally just move from the read option rushing attack they were relying so heavily on. But, considering the past few weeks, it could be that the coaches wanted to limit turnovers, a successful strategy in hindsight. There was also the deja vu 4th-and-one call and poor special teams play but, gosh, I'd rather not belabor those points right now.
I'd rather focus on what there is to celebrate.
Bo Wallace had a great game with 290 total yards of offense and four touchdowns. Jeff Scott was absolutely phenomenal on the day, leading the team in both rushing and receiving with 207 total yards and a score on a wild 53-yard "he's tackled but not really down" touchdown reception. Mike Marry, with a sack and a game-winning pick, was the star of the defense in my view, but Denzel Nkemdiche, Cody Prewitt, Mike Hilton, and Charles Sawyer all had big games.
Yes, we all realize we were favored to win, and we realize that Auburn isn't particularly a good team, but we needed this win, especially after last week's heartbreaker against Texas A&M. The Rebels have already exceeded the expectations of many of us, so hopefully today is an indicator of continued overachievement to come.
It feels good y'all. Today, we won both the game and the party, a combination which has been far too rare in Oxford as of late.
*Reference to Gene Chizik's resemblance to a lesser-evolved primate is, in this case, entirely coincidental.