In last week's installment of this two-month long documentation of dumpster fires of yore, we traveled to a time when the man in charge of Ole Miss football was an interim head coach and did not wear socks, which certainly contributed to the 1994 team earning the No. 7 spot in our countdown. This week, we look at a non-interim head coach, but one who also chose to forgo wearing all articles of clothing (though only when challenging his entire team to a fight).
Yes, we've arrived at Coach O.
Specifically, Coach O's second season at the helm: 2006. After a brutal 2005 season in which little success was expected due to David Cutcliffe's years of self-imposed probation through abysmal recruiting, Ed Orgeron's 2006 team wasn't going to be good. Still, a top-15 recruiting class headlined by one Brent Schaeffer -- the high-profile quarterback Orgeron believed would finally unleash the full-power, shirtless flex of his USC-style offense -- provided a hint of momentum in the air that smelled like a freshly-opened Red Bull.
The scent went stale quickly when Schaeffer didn't show up to Oxford in June as expected. A summer spent trying to qualify academically delayed his arrival until the day before preseason practice started, leaving the projected starting QB with four weeks to get familiar with his teammates and learn an offense that did not suit his athletic abilities.
With questions about his quarterback and general coaching ability swirling, Ed Orgeron led the Ole Miss Rebels into the 2006 season. IT WENT GREAT.
2006 (4-8 overall, 2-6 SEC)
For those Ole Miss fans pecking the barren landscape for whatever morsels of hope they could find, the one positive is that this team had four conference losses of six points or less (two of which went to overtime).
But there was much more evidence to indicate that perhaps the tag team duo of Robert Khayat and Pete Boone had made a terrible mistake in hiring a defensive line coach. Outscored in SEC play 182-123 (that's 15.4 points a game for the offense), the 2006 team was outgained by all opponents in total yardage 4,247-3,137, a difference of 1,110 (ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED TEN). The Schaeffer-Orgeron USC offense also managed just nine passing touchdowns. Oddly enough, eight of those came in conference play, while only one came against the conglomerate of Memphis, Missouri, Wake Forest, and Northwestern State.
Speaking of Memphis, here's The Blair Witch Project's interpretation of Brent Schaeffer's first Ole Miss touchdown, one just 21 offensive touchdowns the Rebs scored all season (the defense gave up 33).
I can't tell if that's the audio crackling on the video or the sound of daytime fireworks on its practice run of attempting to knock out power to the stadium. And no reference to that Memphis game would be complete without the high-water mark for creativity in Orgeron's USC offense.
Meanwhile, in the Ole Miss Band:
Over on the defensive side of the ball, which Orgeron coordinated alone, they spent a season surrendering 5.3 yards per play and doing things like this:
If you're scoring at home for some reason, that was a 20-yard touchdown pass on third and three.
But what about conference play? How did things look there?
The good news is our fearless leader made it off the bus. The bad news is our fearless leader had yet to figure out the best way to use Brent Schaeffer. And here's the old USC toss play.
In fairness, Ole Miss did take Alabama to overtime, thanks to one of the most unlikely throws ever made by Brent Schaeffer. I saw this happen live while sitting in the upper deck of Bryant-Denny and it still seems fake to me.
Ole Miss went on to lose in overtime because an Ole Miss/Alabama game involving Ed Orgeron was meant to inflict as much emotional pain as possible on Rebel fans. FUN FACT: Orgeron was 0-3 against Alabama, losing by three points all three times, and on the last play of the game twice (the third time was essentially the last play of the game as well). HOW DID WE SURVIVE 2005-2007?
Anyhow, to lighten things up, let's enjoy some Alabama kickers in action.
Magnificent. And one more please.
OH THAT'S THE GOOD STUFF.
Despite that heartbreaking loss to Bama dropping their record to 1-3, Coach O's boys at least knew they could compete with SEC teams this year. They'd beaten Vanderbilt, lost by five to 10th-ranked Georgia, and were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter against a Kentucky team that went 8-5.
Their next test was a tough one: a trip to Fayetteville to play Darren McFadden and Arkansas. But as the Rebs lined up for the opening kickoff, their competitiveness in recent weeks surely fostered a belief that they could play the Razorbacks close and possibly steal a win.
Aaaaaaaand scene. Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 3.
After being ground into a fine paste, the Rebels returned home to face No. 7 Auburn in yet another Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial showcase of scraps. Remarkably, Ole Miss recovered enough to lose yet again by less than a touchdown and an extra point.
Thanks to an insane person who uploaded the ENTIRE GAME, some scenes from the 23-17 affair:
We all cope in different ways.
Please call child services at once.
I would be remiss if we didn't remember how the Auburn game ended. The Tigers kicked a field goal to go up 23-17 with 35 seconds left. After the kickoff, Ole Miss had 30 seconds left, with the ball at its own 20.
Due to a clock rule at the time, the referee would signal for the clock to start running once he'd spotted the ball after a kickoff, even though it was a change of possession (2006 was weird, man). How do you think Ole Miss handled that?
If you guessed "be unaware of of the rule despite this being the ninth game of the season, snap the ball after letting 14 seconds run off the clock, and take a sack to end the game," you remembered how most offensive possessions in the Ed Orgeron era unfolded.
Three weeks later, Ole Miss found an even more painful way to lose when they blew a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead to LSU. If you recall, LSU scored with five seconds left in regulation (on fourth down, of course) to tie the game, but, just to kick us in the face one more time, the sports gods allowed Ole Miss to block the extra point and force overtime. Schaeffer fumbled on the third play of OT, allowing LSU to run five plays and kick the game-winning field goal, dropping Orgeron's team to 3-8.
Me too, coach. Me too.