Okay, so we've been talking a lot about the emotions of a dominant performance over our in-state rivals and the exciting prospect of a bowl berth just one year removed from the worst season in Ole Miss football history, but what about the actual game itself, a 41-24 victory which saw the Rebels manhandle the Bulldogs for much of the game? Let's share some of our observations and reactions thereof, shall we?
- Special teams miscues proved to be big again, but thankfully only during a half of the game. The Rebels gave up yet another huge return, allowing State's Jameon Lewis to return a first quarter kickoff for 100 yards and a score. Later that half, Jim Broadway would shank a pair of punts which would give MIssissippi State good and undeserved field position. Whatever it is that is ailing our special teams this season needs to be fixed. Now.
- Bo Wallace's interceptions were just bad decisions, and I'm sure he'd be the first person to say so. He shouldn't have tried to force those passes, and the second one could have been due to his second shoulder. His fumble in the first half was the result of good State pressure up front. Regardless, he got it figured out in the second half, and by "got it figured out" I mean "fed Moncrief."
- Speaking of Donte Moncrief, he's the best wide receiver Ole Miss has ever had. That is not hyperbole, in my view. He made Johnthan Banks, an All-American cornerback, look like he didn't even belong on the same field last night. He has such a fantastic combination of size, speed, and talent that is just so hard to find.
- Vince Sanders, Ja-Mes Logan, and Jamal Mosely also deserve credit for stepping up and playing well over the past few weeks. Those guys have been so reliable in a way that probably a lot of us didn't expect. Sanders, in particular, has impressed me with his hands and his use of his body.
- Barry Brunetti played some meaningful snaps. He's really elusive and can absolutely scoot in the open field. I like Wallace, but Brunetti's too athletic to not have a home in this offense.
- And we can't forget Jeff Scott, who I really wish would have gotten a touchdown last night. The way he earned yards in chunks last night definitely warranted a score. He has bought in to this team and I absolutely loved his effort yesterday.
- On defense, we made Tyler Russell look like a bad quarterback for a couple of quarters. There were a few shoulda-woulda-coulda almost interceptions, which were either the result of bad throws or good coverage, if not both in a situation or two. Cody Prewitt, Dehendret Collins, and Senquez Golson stuck out to me.
- There were some plays though were Russell did what he does best, and that's buy time and hit his open receivers with nearly perfect balls. His connection with Chad Bumphis is truly underrated in this conference.
- C.J. Johnson and E.J. Epperson were merciless against the State OL. Johnson in particular was unstoppable at times. He played with such an energy out there. The pressure he and the rest of the DL put on the State backfield was great in pass rushes, and they served well against the run. Gilbert Peña was also a solid run-stopper and had really improved so much over the past few months. It upsets me a bit to know he's a senior, but I do wish him well in whatever it is that he does after Ole Miss.
- Speaking of C.J. Johnson, here's him giving Russell an earful:
- Denzel Nkemdiche again shows why he is so valuable to this program. He's only a redshirt freshman, but he plays with a swagger that suggests the knowledge and experience of a senior. He is so good at being in the right place at the right time. And, yeah, he might be smaller than the prototypical linebacker, but he tackles like he's 50 pounds heavier than he is which, coupled with his smarts and attitude, is why he's such a force on defense.
- Regarding the storming the field - yeah, it's a bit silly to do that when winning the Egg Bowl against an 8-win Mississippi State team, but I think it is indicative of so much more than just a win over a rival. This season, this team has endured so many close, heartbreaking losses. We as fans have seen them, heads draped in towels to cover up their tear-lined faces, jogging back into the locker room after putting up tremendous fights against great football teams like Texas A&M and LSU, only to fall short. This team has wanted to earn bowl eligibility as bad, if not worse, than we fans. They, just like us, were sick of being doubted and sick of having a rival institution and head coach continuously remind them of their recent shortcomings. There's a reason that the players were dancing on the benches and firing up the crowd for seemingly the entire second half, and that's because they knew they would do what nobody - yours truly included - would have expected of them just a few months ago. Our frustrations were their frustrations, and those pent up frustrations, coupled with some hurt egos, were why fans, players, and students all celebrated the win last night in the way they did. In short, it wasn't about State or even Dan Mullen. It was about us and the pride we have in this team and program after seeing them hit the lowest lows for the past two seasons.
- Submitted without comment:
- C'mon, Dan, you didn't think the "we're never losing to this team again" comment wouldn't come back bite you in the ass, did you? Even I can't convince myself that you're that myopic and arrogant.
- I almost feel bad for whomever it is we're facing in our bowl game. This team is out to prove a damn point right now.
Agree? Disagree? Where'd I go wrong?