Football coaches like to mention that most football games come down to just a few plays. Those plays, they argue, are so beneficial to one team that, if they weren't to have happened or were to have happened completely differently, the game's outcome would be significantly impacted. As wild as this may sound, I do believe that such a narrative applies to yesterday's 37-10 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
- The wild and crazy turnoverpalooza of the second quarter begins, but doesn't end the way it does. Vincent Sanders doesn't fumble or, better yet, we get to the third turnover in that sequence and Bo Wallace hit's a wide open Vincent Sanders in the flat instead of attempting a heroic pass to Jamal Mosely that falls short. If either of those things happen, then the Rebels could have at least sustained some sort of drive and kept the defense a bit fresher.
- Think about the touchdown to close out the first half. If Ole Miss is able to catch Aaron Murray on the pass rush, or if there were more safeties playing a better defensive scheme (I have no idea why they did not run a prevent on that play.), that score could have been prevented, giving Ole Miss the lead at the half. Instead, Murray escapes the pressure and throws a perfect pass to a receiver which, under better circumstances, woudn't have been open. It was a thing of beauty for Georgia, where they planned and executed in a way that we didn't.
- Speaking of Murray, he was really able to take advantage of our young, inexperienced, and injury-laden secondary, as he should have. I think that when he's on point, he's the second best quarterback in the conference after Manziel.
- On Georgia's first drive of the second half, Trae Elston missed a tackle that would have stopped receiver Marlon Brown behind the line of scrimmage on third down. Instead, Brown raced to the first down and then some, setting up a 42 yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell just a few plays later.
- Also huge in completely deflating any comeback hope we had was Korvic Neat refusing to field a punt that landed on the 16-ish yard line before rolling to the one. If he fields that, the Jeff Scott safety doesn't happen, significantly altering the score and field position of the game.
I don't do this in some effort to argue that the game was closer than it seemed or any such nonsense. Rather, I I think yesterday's game demonstrates one of the most capturing and altogether agonizing aspects of the sport, and that's the fact that nearly every single play run in a football game will impact future plays. Football, to me, has begun to seem like a gigantic, spectacular live-action exercise in game theory. Coaches and players are continuously making decisions based on their prior actions, decisions which are continuously reevaluated with new circumstances, information, or expectations of the opponent. There was a moment yesterday, where all of that spun out of control, where our misfortunes and miscues began to compound upon themselves as we fought hard to make up lost ground.
Maybe I'm not making sense. I'm not sure. This all sounded pretty realistic in my head last night as I played craps at the New Orleans Harrah's (there is a reason I like to title these sorts of recaps the way I do) so maybe you all can make better sense of what happened yesterday in the comments thread.
To put it simply, yesterday's loss is frustrating. It's frustrating because there were so many moments which could have been big for the Rebels or, rather, not as big for Georgia. We couldn't capitalize; they could.
We played hard, especially up front on defense. But simply playing hard was not going to cut it against Georgia. We did not play as smart as we could have, we could not capitalize on Bulldogs mistakes without making several of our own, and we could not overcome the significant disparity in size, strength, and experience between our two teams.
Even if we played Georgia as well as we've played for the past few weeks, we'd have a tough time beating that team in Athens. That's just the reality of this team in year one of the Hugh Freeze era.