I'll be frank: I'm not in the mood to really break this down. There are a lot of reasons we lost. Here's the biggest, and the only one that really mattered in the end:
Bradley Sowell is the worst starting player in major college football. That's it. John Jerry is only better because of his size and strength. His technique, aggression, stamina, and quickness were all extremely disappointing for an SEC player. How, as a coach, can your offense plan around having two such terrible players protecting the quarterback? I was aghast. Was Snead bad? Oh yes. Did the receivers, at times, seem to mail it in? Sure. But the failure in this game starts back in 2004, with our consistent inability to recruit offensive lineman worth their weight in dog shit. As far as I can see, we don't have any. Some of them may go on to have NFL careers, and at this point, I can't even be happy for them. As a unit, they're completely terrible while playing for the only team that matters to me.The defense was great. McCluster was great. The running backs did the best they could, and the receivers... well, it's hard to run crisp routes and really dominate your man when you have no confidence that the ball will come your way, or if it does, if it will be catchable.
Sure, I was, as always, a little irritated about the officiating. It's rare for a receiver to be called for a hold on a play where his hands are completely inside the cornerback's shoulders. On Bolden's called-back TD run, Hodge made a clean block, and an excellent one at that. It's unfortunate that the official, who generally flagged the Ole Miss guys for interference on some relatively close ones (though I felt like they were the right call) missed a pretty bad interference flag on Hodge, on the comeback route where Hodge appeared, to the visually impaired, to fall down on his own accord. He was pulled down. You also really, really want to pick up that 15 yard facemask that would have made it 1st and 10 in the red zone instead of 4th and 1 on the 40 or so. USC picked up their share of flags, some of them more obvious than others. It just turns out that we got the more critically timed flags and no-flags. It certainly didn't cost us the game; I just wish we could get the same favors returned at home. Ever. But it didn't cost us the game.
Tomorrow, lots of people will question the playcalling. I'm undecided. It seems like if we had known how bad Sowell, Jerry, and Snead would be, we could have put something in place to minimize our weaknesses. I just don't think they could have had any idea how bad these two guys would be. John Jerry is supposed to be good. He got embarrassed on several occasions. I wanted to see more pass protection from the tight ends. I don't remember seeing Harris and Allen held back in protection very often. I also understand the coaches' early hesitance to send Dex running through the middle. It's a long season, and we had enough talent, we thought, to move the ball without requiring him to get too beat up.
Tomorrow, lot's of people will question Snead. Those people will be, for the most part, totally justified. Hog fans have been claiming for a year and a half now that Nutt is a quarterback killer. I don't see it. What I see is a quarterback who can't find his head right now. Nutt isn't holding an Xbox controller wired into Snead's brain. I can't tell how much of his problems come from the offensive line, how much comes from sickness and distraction, and how much comes from poor preparation, physical and mental, on his part. I just know that it isn't Nutt's job to teach a quarterback the things that Snead is doing wrong. And for folding in the face of such a huge opportunity, I really resent Snead right now. Do what you need to do to get your head in the game. Move the chains with your legs, audible into something more manageable... just anything other than throwing into coverage and taking sacks for 4 quarters.
TIME THE FUCK OUT...
"I'm glad it's gone," left tackle Bradley Sowell said of the high-intensity spotlight, "so we can just get back to basics and win ballgames."
Get the fuck out of my University, you weak sack of shit. You lost the game. You did. I feel sick. Have fun watching the coaches scramble to replace your sorry ass in the starting lineup. Nice quote, you sad, sad loser. Seriously: if you feel relieved of the pressure because your miserable performance led to a loss... I don't know what to tell you. I'm no athlete, but when I fuck up and let other people down, I at least have the decency to feel bad about it. Ugh.
Wow. I was getting halfway calm again, then I had to go read the Internets. My mistake.
On a "bright" note: This defense is fantastic. They'll keep us miserably close to winning some games this year that our anemic, defeatist offense will blow for us in the end. Really, they're the best Ole Miss defense I've seen. Is it 1993 again? Well, no it's not, because we won't win 9 games and have the pleasure of losing to Michigan in a bowl.
I usually analyze plays and players for awhile, then wax philosophical or shit-talk at the end of the report. Tonight, I'm pretty stumped for inspiration. If our offensive line wasn't so terrible... if our quarterback could've found a little more focus... we'd still be riding the wave of fun and anticipation that comes from having a top 5, undefeated team. Now, we may never see that again. This was our shot. We blew it. Our fate may have been sealed by complacency and mediocrity that started before most of us were born. I hope not; I'm sure I'll feel better about the future of Ole Miss at some point, but for right now... I've got nothing. If we end up 6-2 in the conference this year (which ain't lookin' too likely) and finish 2nd in the West again, I'm not sure I'll consider that a success. This was our shot.