So, after modest expectations spiraling out of control into talk of NYD Bowls and Dark Horse potential... here we are, with modest expectations. If that's not Ole Miss, then I don't know what is. Apologies, once again, for the belated report (though I make no such apologies for last week's lack of a report. What did you want me to say?); I made it down to New Orleans, ate seafood, drank 14 gallons of beer, took my sweet time getting back home, and slept in this morning; I'm a Good Rebel.
Like all Good Rebels, I was more than happy to see us win this weekend. And like all Good Rebels, I'm also a bit perplexed...I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I don't like to go overboard blaming coaches for mental lapses or general malaise on the behalf of their players. Most of these guys have been playing sports for their entire lives; they realize, surely, that there are important mental aspects to sports, and that to be a good player, they've got to manage what goes on between their own two ears. So, while play-calling in the second half has been vanilla and uninspiring so far, we still have the types of athletes who should be able to execute these plays with some success, especially against such inferior competition. Step up, Rebels. Get your heads right.
Now let's talk about some guys that totally disappeared on Saturday. Brandon Bolden got seven carries (and four receptions) at a 4.6 YPC clip. After a 100 yard outing last week, why limit his carries, and give Enrique Davis 14 carries (which he used for 2.9 YPC)? Why put Devin Thomas on the field to the exclusion of Jeff and Rodney Scott? Did Melvin Harris or Ferbia Allen have anything thrown their way? Maybe we're still feeling our way through our offensive rotations; maybe we're still giving different guys some chances to break into the lineup. Still, we have some pretty good players that we didn't use properly, en route to scoring 27 points on Tulane. Yuck.
Defense... I'd rather watch our defensive backs get beat man-to-man than watch some mediocre QB throw underhand lobs into the wide open holes in our shitty zone schemes. I'm sure the defensive linemen get tired of rushing the passer, only to turn around and see receivers dancing through the secondary before Johnny Brown awkwardly pushes them out of bounds.
Still, I'm tempted to feel some excitement about this team. Jeremiah Masoli is probably better than most of us expected; his decision-making is rare, especially coupled with the size and speed that he brings. Nathan Stanley should be the best backup quarterback in the SEC.
The receivers... look pretty good. Ja-mes Logan had a pretty terrific grab, and Grandy seems to be getting more and more comfortable running routes. Markeith Summers looks awesome, and it's not the Grove Bowl.
We KNOW we have some experience and talent on the defense. Surely they'll come around at some point.
Wayne Dorsey probably isn't as bad as he's been portrayed. I see a huge, athletic guy who seems out of place. Whether it's coaching schemes, early game jitters, or just trying to do too much, I really think Dorsey will settle down, play within himself, and give us a solid bookend at DE. He made one great play on a reverse, in which he read the play quickly, chased down the back, nearly missed, but used great effort to stay with him until the rest of the defense arrived. You have to like guys that use their eyes, react well, and look to finish plays.
Over the next few weeks, Houston Nutt and Tyrone Nix stand to show us a lot about themselves. Will Nutt force the team to find an offensive identity? Is Nix's defense as immensely predictable as it looks, or can he still be aggressive and smart with his schemes?
I can't pretend to be confident about the Vanderbilt game this weekend. The chance seems too great that we'll mess around and make it entirely too close. Vanderbilt is probably slightly more talented than Tulane, and has already played a solid half of football against LSU. The season is still young, and this game could be a great indicator of how mentally tough the Rebels are as a team.