I ran cross country at Ole Miss from 2002 to 2004. We were very, very bad. The team has since improved by leaps and bounds, finishing in the top 25 every year and annually receiving invites to the national championship meet in Terre Haute, Ind. In the early aughts, though, we were very bad. A ragtag bunch of runners culled from Oxford, Nashville, Atlanta, Jackson, the gulf coast, Birmingham and Memphis.
We were very bad and consistently competed with Vanderbilt as the most very bad team in the SEC. We may have beaten them at the SEC meet in 2002 in Gainesville, but I don’t care to look it up. That was the meet where I earned my letter and induction into the M-Club.
What I’m trying to say is that between 2002 and 2017, Ole Miss track and field has undergone stark improvement. Improvement is a good thing, because it improves morale and interest.
Ole Miss football on Saturday scored the second-most points in an SEC contest in program history. Their record remains 63 against [mumbles] back in [mumbles some more]. This offense is still potent, but only against sub-par defenses, apparently. This defense is bad, but Vanderbilt’s offense is even worse, which is why Ole Miss was able to nearly double its season sack total in the first half of Saturday’s game. Vanderbilt made Ole Miss look downright good, and the Rebels are not very good this year.
Shea Patterson showed out. He racked up 351 passing yards on 22-of-35 completions with four TD passes and no interceptions. The Rebs scored three rushing touchdowns, including a five-yard scamper from Patterson that finished with him pile-driving over a Vanderbilt DB. A.J. Brown handed in one of his best performances to date. D.K. Metcalf skied a dude and hauled the ball in on his damn helmet. The Rebs were for the most part clicking on both sides of the ball, with some hiccups here and there. This game was legitimately fun to watch, as an Ole Miss fan, not least because Marquis Haynes logged three sacks. He’s a touch behind Greg Hardy for the all-time Ole Miss sack record. We hope he gets it.
What we saw on Saturday, though — despite the stats, despite the 608 yards of total offense, despite the total offensive and to a lesser extent defensive dominance, despite all that — was the annihilation of a team that is not very good. Vanderbilt made Ole Miss look that good. Ole Miss could just do what they wanted with the Commodores, because the Commodores for the most part just didn’t show up, frankly. They blew coverages, got swallowed up by a mediocre offensive line, got fooled by this or that blitz — which, credit to Wesley McGriff for some pretty interesting disguises and play-calls — and fell apart in crucial fourth-and-long situations. They just flat-out didn’t play well.
That Ole Miss should capitalize on that is telling, though. Matt Luke’s crew hasn’t exactly shown a killer instinct this season, but Saturday was a great improvement in overall demeanor and approach that put Vandy in the ground as early as the second quarter. From there, they didn’t let up, and that’s what you have to do in the SEC. Bury your opponent then just keep humping gravel on the grave. Just ask Alabama.
From here, the schedule gets weird. LSU next Saturday, Arkansas after them, then Kentucky. Off the top of my head, I’ll say loss, win, win. That’d be nice. It’d be good for the players, good for the fans, good for a team that’s gone through enough this season, to say nothing of the last four years of NCAA investigations. Enjoy this Vanderbilt win while you can, because we’re only just past halfway through this thing.
At least they put together a game plan that for the most part worked, and it worked well. There’s your upside.