Here we are, one week later, one sleepy Sunday later, and we're still asking the generations-old Rebel question, "how'd we let that one go?"
There were two Rebel football teams out there yesterday: a competent, talented squad which played with confidence and swagger, outgaining the Razorbacks offensively and stifling them defensively; and a group of no-talent misfits sprinting in circles and flailing their arms about in a bewildering panic. And you never knew which team you were going to see at any given second. One moment, the game is well within reach, and then, in the next moment, the Benny Hill theme song cranks up and we fans hang our head, once again, in confused embarrassment. One moment, a smart, instinctual football move is made which puts us in real position to do some damage, and then, in the next moment, Bradley Sowell is caught sitting on his hands while Dave Rader is found to be doing nothing but ordering post-game pizzas on his headset.
It's frustrating to say the least, and the incidents which so microcosmically embody this frustration - there are four of them - are after the jump.
- Ryan Mallett's very first throw is picked off in Arkansas territory; the Rebels earn zero points as a result - The Rebs could have easily established a lead early in the fourth quarter. Instead, poor playcalling execution, and officiating gave the Hogs the football almost as quickly as they had it taken away.
D.T. Shackleford returns a fumble to the two yard line; the Rebels settle for a field goal - No description is necessary. If you can't move the ball two yards in four plays - I don't care who it's against - you're doing something very, very wrong.
- Joe Adams' 90-something yard punt return - That was the longest punt return in Razorback history. You're welcome for the memories there, Joe. I must say though, the fact that it took some record-breaking performances to put away Hooten Nuttless, or whatever the fuck it is that Hogville is obsessively still calling him (get hobbies, assholes), and his lowly Old Piss Weebels says something.
- Brandon Bolden's fourth quarter fumble on the one yard line - Did this bring back memories from the 2008 Vanderbilt game for anyone? Up until that point, that drive was magnificent. The Rebels were about to make shit real interesting, before Brandon Bolden metaphorically kicked us all in our collective gut.
If those four incidents go our way or even slightly more favorably, and the Rebels walk out of Fayetteville with something like a 17-point victory. Vince Lombardi or Walter Camp or some legendary coaching figure (I've forgotten, get over it) once said that any football game can be summed up in five plays. Well, coach, there's four of the five right there. Nominees to take that coveted fifth spot go to Jeremiah Masoli's "fumble" (nice one, SEC officials), Charles Sawyer's missed interception opportunities, and Markeith Summers and Lionel Breauxs multiple drops - which are only honorable mentions due to Summers actually figuring out how the human hand operates shortly after halftime ("So this is a 'grip'? And what's this thing? Wait, that's what a thumb is?!").
In a grander scheme, the Cup's cheers - an approximate metric fuckton - go to Jeremiah Masoli. There have apparently been some grumbles about Masoli amongst our fans and, to that, I say "are you f'real?" Masoli played a lights-out game considering the circumstances, namely the weather, a young and injury-plagued offensive line, and spotty receiver play. He was responsible for all three of our touchdowns. He led our team in rushing. He amassed 425 yards of offense. Four-hundred twenty-five. In one game. Only one Rebel has ever had more offensive yards in a single game: Archie Manning. I really don't know what the fuel to the fire is for the Masoli haters is here, aside from either not really understanding what is going on when a football game is taking place or an innate need to blame someone not named Houston Nutt for our offensive miscues.
The jeers this week go to the punt coverage team. Y'all gave up the single longest punt return in Arkansas Razorback history. There's nothing I need to add to that. I thought of also blasting the secondary here, but they really played as well as group of freshmen and transfers stitched together could have against the Arkansas passing attack. I honestly think they're the most improved unit through this point of the season, especially the defensive line.
Oh, and the weather. Boo, hiss, et cetera. Thanks for dragging that one out, rain.
Lastly, anyone who thinks what took place on Saturday serves as some sort of grand indicator of the state of each respective program and, more specifically, the head coaches of these programs, is a fool. Despite the facts that Ole Miss hasn't defeated Arkansas three times consecutively since the early 1990's and that Ole Miss has only won two of the eleven meetings the Rebels and the Razorbacks have ever had in Fayetteville (The Hogs and the Rebs have met more often in Memphis and Little Rock than Fayetteville, for the curious), you'll have people on either sides of this game - but most principally on that side - using what we saw yesterday as prima facie evidence of Bobby Petrino's coaching prowess and Houston Nutt's shortfalls.
And that's pretty damned sad. No sane Rebel expected an Ole Miss win, just as no sane Razorback should be overtly thrilled with yesterday's win. Despite what rabble-rousers and assholes want to think and annoyingly impart upon us, the Ole Miss vs. Arkansas game was a close one - separated arguably by what is perhaps one of the greatest special teams play in Arkansas history (a reach, and I'm sure I'm wrong with that) and Rebel mishaps - and was not decided until later in the fourth quarter. All of which, when considering the 21-0 lead the Hogs established early, says a lot about each of these teams and how they should expect to perform for the remainder of the season. Both of these teams can score, and both of these teams can be easily scored on. For both the Rebels and the Razorbacks, wins and losses this season have been and will continue to be determined by who between them and their weekly opponents damns themselves the most.
That, and abhorrent officiating, albeit to a much lesser extent.
But there are still going to be some who, even if we tattooed axiomatic norms of logic and reasonable behavior to their forearms, want so much to be true which isn't and will unwaveringly do whatever they can to bug the shit out of us about it. To them, I say have your fun getting all aroused over being the 4th best team in the SEC West. We'll hang out here in the cellar, drinking, and not wasting our time being obsessive nitwits. It's sad that some of y'all needed a fucking football game to work in your favor so you could maintain whatever sliver of sanity you've got left rattling around your skull but, fuck it, have your fun.
To everyone else, enjoy your weeks, whoever you may be and with whomever your allegiances may lie. Rebels, let's bring on Auburn HATE WEEK and hope we can keep this exciting "ruin everything in the BCS" parade trucking right through Oxford.