It’s been a tough few weeks for Ole Miss football fans. Twice, Ole Miss has played a marquee, top-10 opponent in front of a captive national audience. Twice, Ole Miss stormed out to a 21+ point lead against these opponents. And, twice, Ole Miss sloppily handed over the lead and failed to hang on. Against Alabama on Saturday, Ole Miss led 24-3 in the second quarter before penalties, turnovers, and a thin perimeter defense gave Alabama a sizable lead late. Ole Miss did mount a more-than-respectable comeback effort in the fourth quarter, but fell by four after Alabama was able to move the ball enough to clock out the game.
It sucked, almost as much (maybe more?) than the Florida State loss sucked. But that it even happened is an indicator of this program’s competitiveness. Ole Miss was four points away - or, in better terms, a single play or two away - from beating the Alabama Crimson Tide for the third year in a row. Ole Miss was within a hair of doing something that no SEC team has done to a Nick Saban coached program. And you can yuck it up and “RTR MFER” your way through the anxiety all you’d like Alabama fans, but for three straight years Ole Miss has proven Nick Saban is not unbreakable and that the teams he coaches are, indeed, vulnerable. If that’s the service that the college football world at large needs us to provide, to serve as a reminder that no program or coach is unbeatable and that even the most feared names in this sport also have to incessantly worry about losing, then we’ll be your huckleberry.
The newly renovated Vaught-Hemingway Stadium doesn’t look a damn thing like the old Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Sure, there’s a semblance there, a strain of the old place’s DNA that will be forever woven into the aesthetic of the place, but what Ole Miss’ football stadium has evolved into over the past decade or so is, frankly, unreal.
And, might I say, y’all looked damn good in your powder blue.
“That Didn’t Sit Well”
Look, I don’t like blaming officials on the outcome of a game. In very few cases does it really many anything. Outside of a CMU-Oklahoma State situation where, yes, the outcome of a single play as determined by the officials meant the difference between a win and a loss, the guys in the zebra shirts are rarely going to keep a deserving team from winning. You can say what you will about penalties, both called and not called, and ball spots, let alone the unsettling reliance on lengthy reviews of seemingly every scoring play, but officials didn’t cost Ole Miss that game. Officials aren’t why Ole Miss is missing some of its best tailbacks. Officials aren’t to blame for overly conservative playcalling on first down. Officials aren’t to blame for Chad Kelly’s turnovers (nor do they deserve credit for his full-throttle, loose play). Officials aren’t to blame for Ole Miss’ thin secondary and linebacker corps, nor are they to be blamed for persistently bad punt coverage.
There are just way, way too many variables and moving parts in an American football game for any of us to blame the outcome of a game a squadron of old men, none of whom actually have to do with what happens with the football during live action. It’s too easy and convenient a scapegoat, and a lazy one at that.
But, damn, the officials in this game sucked ass.
“Going Back for Seconds”
Should I just recycle what I wrote in this column after the Florida State game? Where I wrote that “Chad Kelly is still a remarkable quarterback” despite the fact that he “stares down receivers and misses dudes who are wide open”? Where I wrote about Ole Miss’ “badass young receivers” including AJ Brown and Van Jefferson? Because all of that still applies here, and it’s even more telling that they were able to move the ball through the air against a typically talented and strong Alabama defense. Even if Ole Miss is continuing to struggle on the ground, and even if Ole Miss doesn’t intimidate anyone with its defensive play in the back and along the perimeter of the field, an offense that includes Chad Kelly and these receivers is enough to make Ole Miss one of the SEC’s better teams (and, by a mile, its most entertaining and interesting - however you may take that).
So chin up, y’all. Hell yeah, you’ve got every right to be upset and frustrated after the first few weeks of football, but there’s a lot of ball left to be played. The hardest part of the Rebel schedule is over with, and what we’ve seen during that stretch isn’t enough for us to think this season a total wash just yet.
On to Georgia.
No, I mean it, on to Georgia. Ole Miss is almost a touchdown favorite this point over the Bulldogs, and we at the Cup would advise you to take Ole Miss and the points. The Dawgs own the Rebels longest SEC win drought, which we have full faith in this team being able to finally end. It ain’t time to freak out or mope just yet, so let’s get this party started.
(Hell no, this video ain’t SFW.)