Ole Miss’ bowl chances took a big hit this past weekend upon the Rebels’ embarrassing loss to the California Golden Bears in Berkeley. What was supposed to be a national coming out party for Ole Miss’ unique brand of #CHAOSTEAM morphed appropriately into something much more suitable for #Pac12AfterDark. Despite a hot start (where have we seen this before?), the Rebels struggled at pretty much everything that a football team does for the entirety of the second half.
This weekly-ish football season segment on here is something of a marriage between our brands of being the most creative and oddball Ole Miss football and food blogs. It requires a great deal of food metaphors. Sometimes they make sense and work well, but, unlike what we stayed up until 2:30 AM this past Sunday to watch, this segment will neither be sensible or functional. In that sense, it may provide for the best metaphor we’ve yet encountered for Ole Miss football circa 2017.
While I’m definitely much less upset that I wasn’t able to attend this game than I would have been had Ole Miss actually played competent football, I do love that we had this game on the schedule. Ole Miss needs to play more teams in destinations that are fun for Ole Miss fans. I’d happily join this program if they were to go to Berkeley again, or Palo Alto, or Los Angeles, or Seattle. I’d join them in Boulder and Salt Lake City. I’d maybe swing down to Miami or slide into Morgantown. Ann Arbor, Madison, State College? Yeah, sure, why the hell not?
These kinds of out-of-conference games, outcomes aside, are fun for us fans. Welcome them.
“That Didn’t Sit Well”
There was some debate on social media after the game over the appropriateness of my use of the word “deserve” in saying that this team didn’t “deserve to win.” As with any use of language, context matters here.
The defense for this team against my claim, one that is based entirely on accurate facts and a genuine empathy for the players, is that they have undeservedly slogged across a mountain range of shit. They don’t deserve the seemingly endless distraction of this NCAA investigation. They don’t deserve to have had their head coach depart months before the season began. They don’t deserve to have their opportunity to participate in the sport’s postseason because of things way outside of their control.
In the biggest picture, they deserve way better. I wrote just as much only a few a weeks ago:
I just want something better for the schools, the fans, and — absolutely most importantly — the players. They are ultimately what make this sport the fun it is, and even if they’re getting the rawest of deals, the least I can do is support them and their exploits while yelling into the void that they deserve something much better than this.
But, in the very specific context of a single football game, a sport where two teams attempt to move an oblong ball into a couple narrow stretches of turf on the ends of a long field, Ole Miss did not deserve to win this past weekend.
Ole Miss is probably more talented than Cal. This is particularly true on offense, but even the Ole Miss defense showed out at times against Cal’s less-than-SEC speed or size. Shea Patterson is great, the wide receivers are great, and the offensive line and halfbacks should, on paper at least, be great as well. But, despite that, Ole Miss most definitely did not play like the more talented team.
The line struggled to contain a simple pass rush. The running game was yet unimproved. Receivers dropped passes and even tipped a few of them into opposing players’ hands. Tackling was still a struggle on defense as were players being out of position. And this team and its coaches accounted for enough penalties to concede more than an entire football field’s worth of yardage to the Golden Bears.
In this context — this individual game — they did not deserve to win, so they didn’t. Had this team done the little things right, especially at the key moments where not doing so hurt them the most, we would all be a in a much better mood.
“Going Back for Seconds”
You’re at Oxford, Mississippi’s China Royal. You’ve just finished round one of their lunch buffet and eagerly want to begin your second round. You grab a freshly washed plate, looking to load up again on General Tso’s chicken — your favorite — and, on this go around, dabble in the crab rangoon and Chinese broccoli.
You, justifiably enthused, head to the buffet trays and your excitement is immediately dashed. What once was a beautiful smorgasbord of mediocre, inexpensive Chinese food is now a stark wasteland. There’s nothing left, save for a few sprigs of wilted bok choy, a lone egg roll that is inexplicably torn in half, and a completely full tray of chocolate pudding.
“Why is there even pudding here,” you wonder, before looking over to the kitchen and seeing that the whole damn building is on fire and you’re so stupid for sticking around.
You’re gonna die in the China Royal without having finished your meal. This is the metaphor I’m using to explain how much this game sucked.
If you didn’t die in the infamous China Royal conflagration of 2017, then you definitely caught some sort of virus that has you vomiting up everything you put down for a few days. Not even whiskey can help you this time.
You’ll get over it though, and you’ll promise to yourself to not get tricked into eating low quality food like that again. You’ll buy a bunch of salad greens, maybe pick up running again for a few days, but then you’ll find yourself at Zaxby’s a couple of weeks from now, resigned to your own inability to not treat your body like a toxic waste dump.
It’s fine. I’ll be there with you.