If you look closely enough, you can see August on the horizon and closing fast, which means we've moved into a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that in less than six weeks, we won't be just #TALKINBOUTTHENOLES, we'll actually be #PLAYINGTHENOLES. The bad news is that we've now moved into the top four of our countdown of terribly sad Ole Miss football seasons that robbed us of little pieces of our souls.
Last week, we marveled at David Cutcliffe taking a hard pass on recruiting, which led to the 2004 season disaster, and set the stage for really not good times in 2005. That's where we're picking up today: Ed Orgeron's first year of casting the shrimping nets in Oxford and the number four season in our countdown.
In case you forgot (and congratulations to your mental health if you have) Orgeron came to Ole Miss from USC, where he served as defensive line coach, recruiting coordinator, and PowerPoint expert (at least in the eyes of Robert Khayat and Pete Boone). His booming below-Interstate-10 Louisiana accent, enthusiasm, and general demeanor were wildly (WILDBOYZ) different than David Cutcliffe's soft drone of an oscillating desk fan set on low.
Most importantly, Orgeron promised all Ole Miss fans that the depth chart WAS SET IN DA SAND -- a welcome breath of fresh air after years of watching Cutcliffe declare that you'll pry his seniors out of their playing time from HIS COLD DEAD HANDS.
While no one expected Ole Miss to be even average in 2005, there was sense of hope that this first-time head coach and defensive coordinator (surely that wouldn't be a problem, right?) might just be the right man to correct the wrongs from the Cutcliffe era. Was Ed Orgeron excited about that challenge?
4) 2005 (3-8 overall, 1-7 SEC)
While this team was not bad on defense (but certainly not good), there is no doubt it was one of the more incompetent offenses to ever take the stage at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Outscored in SEC play 208-97, they averaged just 12.1 points per game in conference play (as opposed to a massive 13.5 overall), threw nine passing touchdowns* (compared to 18 interceptions), and were outrushed 1,686-806, a difference of 880 yards.
*From 2004-2006, Ole Miss threw 25 passing TDs in 33 games. Last year, Chad Kelly threw 31 in 13 games.
Those rushing stats come out to 73.3 yards per game and 2.4 yards per attempt. The team's second leading rusher, Antonio Turner, had 79 yards ON THE SEASON. And with those 79 yards, Turner was FOURTH on the team in total offense (FOURTH, I SAY).
As a well-oiled machine with a powerful rushing attack, the offense scored a whopping 15 touchdowns on the season. For comparison, last year's offense, playing an 11-game schedule, would've scored 53.9 touchdowns.
Say what you will about Ed Orgeron (and you have many things to say), but he always took care of business against Memphis, unlike some Ole Miss coaches (AHEM). Against the Tigers, Coach O went 3-0, which accounted for 30 percent of his career wins at Ole Miss in three years (SWEET MERCY).
It didn't take long for the season to jackknife and slide right off the road, as a trip to Nashville resulted in a loss to Vanderbilt. But the most significant damage occurred when Patrick Willis injured his hand and starting quarterback Micheal Spurlock also did something really gross to his hand.
How gross, you probably are not asking?
In case you missed it:
One week later in the loss to Wyoming, in what was the single most depressing game I've ever attended, we learned that Robert Lane (7-of-15, 37 yards, 2 INTs) should stop playing quarterback and that Spurlock and his mangled fingers ( 5-14, 83 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) were somehow a better option.
The following week against Tennessee, Spurlock not only started, but played the entire game with his left hand looking like this:
Since the Tennessee game was also crap (A RECURRING THEME), let's watch zero minutes of it and take a look at the sights and sounds of a Brooks & Dunn-themed Jefferson Pilot broadcast:
That's Dave Rowe saying, "HAWWW YEEEEE."
A couple of weeks later, Orgeron's team, now 2-3, hosted sixth-ranked Alabama in what would be the first of his trio of three-point loses to the Crimson Tide. TO THE CHESS MATCH WE GO.
The rare split screen shot of two coaches who were both Croomed.
In watching clips from this game, you are reminded why everyone was so excited about Spurlock. In addition to being a superb athlete that would make a career out of returning kicks in the NFL (though ZERO kick returns while at Ole Miss!), he had an arm that could do things like this:
Granted, no one could catch that, but that's 45 yards in the air via an effortless flick. Then there's this bit of wizardry:
Sure. Just your average perfectly thrown rope from the near side hash mark to a receiver at the far side numbers, who is running toward the sideline. There aren't five quarterbacks in college football right now who can even dare to dream of doing something like that (for the record, SWAG did it twice while you were reading that last sentence).
Of course, for every moment of brilliance, there was an equal moment that inspired you to lie face down on the cold bathroom floor.
One final note concerning games in which Spurlock played with a non-functioning left hand, take a look at how he was forced to hand off the ball:
THIS IS FINE.
Other than averaging 12.1 points/game in SEC games, one of the most impressive feats of strength from this team was that they won a conference game while scoring 13 points. Most likely due to the home crowd creating a CAGE MATCH ATMOSPHERE.
Over the final four games of the season, Orgeron turned to Ethan Flatt at quarterback to see if he could get the offense to CRANK IT UP TO 15 POINTS/GAME. Sorry to drain the suspense, but he did not do so.
In fact, take a look at Ole Miss' rushing numbers the last four games:
- vs Auburn - 27 carries, 23 yards
- vs Arkansas - 34 carries, 10 yards
- vs LSU - 22 carries, 7 yards
- vs Mississippi State - 25 carries, 31 yards
Speaking of those Egg Bowl rushing yards, here was Orgeron's defense's best play against the run that day:
RIP, Ed Orgeon's 2005 defense.
However, despite the rough ending (and entire season), tfw you still think you can turn it around even though you got dump trucked by an equally bad 3-8 team with one conference win (YOU):