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Ole Miss vs. Cal football 2017: 3 things we learned from the Rebs’ 27-16 loss

Well that was horrible and we are sorry you had to see that.

Mississippi v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Ole Miss Rebels lost to the Cal Golden Bears 27-16 tonight in Berkeley.

That sentence tells a story. It doesn’t tell the story. It’s a story that is bad and stupid and a complete waste of your time. Just stop reading now if you’ve got something better to do.

Ole Miss and Cal played a game that failed to live up to whatever potential it had. What was to be a game of high-scoring, big-play offenses become something of a maddening drudgery that was both disappointing and not even all that entertaining. It was a game of a few highlights and a lot of lowlights. It was a game of “what if” and “if only,” something that aroused far more questions than it answered.

It was a bad game. Ole Miss played bad football, and Ole Miss lost because of it.

Aside from a couple of big plays, virtually nothing from yesterday’s loss to Berkeley felt right or looked good. The offense killed itself with penalties and turnovers. The offensive line struggled to contain pressure. Wide receivers dropped passes. Tackling was still not great (though the defense looked vastly improved). Injuries happened and were significant.

It was bad. It was also good in that it was pretty on brand for #Pac12AfterDark, but it was mostly bad. It was very bad, actually. So bad. Very bad.

So, now that you know how we feel, here are three quick reactions to Saturday’s “football game” in Berkeley.

The Rebel defense got better!

This has to be the case, right? Overall, the tackling was better, I thought coverage was tighter, and the calls were not particularly questionable. Sure, there were a few blitzes that didn’t pay off but that’s any game.

This team is still very one-dimensional, but that they held a Pac12 team to just 20 points of offense on the road is, believe it or not, a very good sign.

The defensive front got pressure, big plays were largely limited, and the secondary did a fair job of keeping opposing receivers in check. Really, they did play well! That has to be the silver lining here. Take it. Run with it. Be happy with it.

Football teams need their best wide receiver to play.

Sorry for the scorcher of a take, but Ole Miss losing AJ Brown sucked. Injuries are the worst thing about this sport.

Also, losing Gary Wunderlich was significant because his near-guaranteed field goals weren’t on the table.

And losing Sean Rawlings meant that the offense was never really in sync vis-a-vis motions/snaps/audibles/etc. If you want a lesson on why a center matters, watch this game and see how many late or errant snaps gave Ole Miss a penalty or busted play. I don’t have the exact numbers and I hella ain’t gonna look it up but it’s definitely more than whatever is acceptable.

But, yeah, AJ got hurt. That sucks.

This team would still have won if they had executed.

Football is a weird sport. It’s something that requires a lot of athleticism and skill, as well as a lot of planning and management. Ole Miss has the former; Ole Miss does not have the latter. The penalties, the playcalling, the time management, the errors in execution, and the team’s inability to respond to any sort of hardship all suggest as much.

You can blame whatever you want. You can say it’s on the coaches, the players, the inherent difficulties in such a long road trip, the uncertainty surrounding the Ole Miss football program, whatever. You can blame any and all of those things and be 100% correct. None of that means Ole Miss, for all of its talent, didn’t play like a team that was ready to win on the road.

This team made some huge pass plays on offense and had several key stops on defense. In between those moments, though, were penalties, offensive miscues, blown assignments on defense, penalties, questionable coaching calls, and penalties.

Simply, the team played bad football and got a bad result.

Next up is a bye weekend? Is that right? Let’s just say it is. Bye.