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The Rebels coughed up a 10 point fourth quarter lead to the Aggies, letting the first SEC win in 16 attempts slip away.
I will keep this brief, even though I have a lot on my mind from last night. By keeping it brief, I am hoping that you feel free to weigh in with your thoughts about last night and what you think it means for this team and program moving forward.
To keep it simple, last night's loss was Hugh Freeze's fault. One could argue that TAMU was the better team and that they simply regained control of the game late, which isn't necessarily a position with which I disagree, but any team that gives up a 27-17 lead in half of a quarter is clearly doing something wrong.
But let's look at what was being done right. The defense did struggle to keep Johnny Manziel from making big plays at times, but for the most part he was well contained and forced into making turnovers. In fact, the entire Aggie squad was turnover prone, with fumbles or interceptions occurring on what seemed like half of their offensive drives. Cody Prewitt was an absolute monster out there, recovering a pair of fumbles and picking off a very stupid Manziel pass. The defensive line, especially the younger guys, were also very impressive to me. I particularly like Isaac Gross' tenacity out there.
On offense, Bo Wallace's turnovers were absolutely lethal. That second quarter fumble into the waiting arms of a sprinting Texas A&M linebacker was like the most Ole Miss thing ever, and a potential 14-point swing. Instead of getting the ball back at the half with an established lead, we went into the locker room tied. That's huge. Also, his pick to seal the A&M victory was downright agonizing, considering how well he had played for the remainder of the game.
But, outside of that, he was great. Really. His passes were pretty much on point and he made some decent plays with his feet. I know we all want to focus on where Wallace went wrong but, really, he looked like a more-than-capable SEC quarterback yesterday. I'm pleased with him and I'm excited for his future at Ole Miss. I really am.
Vincent Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan were phenomenal last night. Logan especially worked to stretch for the first down a few times, something which really impressed me. Of corse, Moncrief's gonna Monc (?), but it's great to see other guys stepping up too.
Where it all went wrong though was Hugh Freeze's Orgeronian management of the fourth quarter. It was 2011 vs. BYU or 2007 Egg Bowl esque. Establish a double-digit lead only to squander it on turnovers and bad coaching decisions.
Using the challenge against what was not a safety was bad. Using the timeouts the way he did was bad. Going for 4th and inches itself wasn't all that bad, but to run a halfback dive out of a shotgun formation there was.
Of course, you can't count out Trae Elston's non tackle on Johnny Manziel (he must have thought Manziel had stepped out of bounds or something and was hoping to avoid a penalty - I just can't explain him playing two-hand-touch at that moment at all) and Bo Wallace's late pick, but the real point is that we shouldn't have had to have been in that situation to begin with.
Of course, then again, before this game and especially before this season, few of us would have thought that we would have been able to limit Texas A&M and handle them the way we did. So, in an odd way Hugh Freeze deserves credit for that. The reason we are all so disappointed is because we have something worth getting disappointed about. We couldn't say that last year, so this feeling of being let down is, as much as I hate to say it, a step in the right direction.
The biggest concern with all of this is moving on. Next week we host Auburn, which is easily the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, but if we cannot mentally recover from last night then we are in for a struggle. I know that Hugh Freeze is a big advocate of attitude and effort, but how does he get his football team to pick themselves up from a loss which was, frankly, not their fault? How does he motivate a team which, realistically, should be 4-2 right now and on a fast track to bowl eligibility, not 3-3 and still recovering from a heartbreaking loss? Considering that, this week should be a big test for this coaching staff.