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Ole Miss couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities against Auburn

Let’s go to the film room.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi
When you’re about to get hit.
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Given that it’s a bye week, we shall conduct ourselves accordingly, as we take the steps to prepare for the final month of a season that needed to be over two months ago. That means we’ll take time to rest, heal, engage in some self-scouting, and possibly do something really dumb* in the alley outside The Library.

*A tradition like no other!

Usually in a time of self-scouting, you want to review all areas of your deficiencies. But this Ole Miss defense hit structural failure two yeas ago, so analyzing them is a waste of time until we can clear the ruins and pour a basic slab with Quikrete. Fortunately, the Ole Miss offense offers something that resembles a functioning group, so we will focus on its failures, most notably when it creates a scoring opportunity.

Why did the Rebel offense stall inside the Auburn 40?

If you don’t have your football mumbo jumbo glossary on hand, a scoring opportunity is when an offense has a first down on or inside its opponent’s 40-yard line. Ole Miss had seven such opportunities against Auburn, which they turned into 16 whole points.

The question at hand is why did an offense that moved with relative ease prior to creating a scoring opportunity become so inefficient once it got crossed that threshold? As you’ll see, it was a delicious blend of poor decisions, failure to check out of bad plays and general mistakes.

First-and-10 from the Auburn 14

After an opening drive that saw Ole Miss move the ball methodically down the field (the longest play was 14 yards) before missing a field goal, the Rebels went right back to work, needing about two minutes to reach Auburn’s 14-yard line.

Since Ole Miss can’t block everyone here on a running play, it has to be a throw. The good news is it was! The bad news is Jordan Ta’amu didn’t take the free yards!

Although he’s staring in that direction, it’s possible he was looking at the outside receiver instead of a wide-open A.J. Brown.

Ignoring five easy yards, Ta’amu gets all the way to Braylon Sanders in his progression and delivers a good throw, but Sanders is unable to catch it. As a result, it’s second-and-10 instead of second and five. That, friends, is a big difference; just ask advanced stats nerd Bill Connelly, who would deem that an “unsuccessfull play.”

A false start then pushes Ole Miss into a second-and-15.

Here’s a really frustrating instance of not checking out of a play. Auburn is clearly playing zone coverage and rushing four, yet Ole Miss tries to throw into that coverage. The Rebels don’t need the first down on this play, so checking into something else would have been beneficial.

It appears as though the Rebs were trying to fake a screen to Braylon Sanders on the outside to let slip A.J. Brown down the middle of the field.

In Phil Longo’s defense, maybe it works if Ta’amu has time to throw. However, the protection breaks down about .00000003 seconds after this shot, forcing Ta’amu to scramble and toss a jump ball to Dawson Knox. Knox lands out of bounds, but before doing so somehow enters the Matrix. Just look at this shit.

Related, if these Auburn and Ole Miss players were on the same team, this would be an acceptable touchdown celebration:

First-and-10 at the Auburn 33

In the second quarter, Ole Miss was driving in Auburn territory when they decided to ignore numbers. BEHOLD:

Simple math tells you that one person will be unblocked here. To be fair, Ole Miss has at times been successful running against this numbers disadvantage, but the play always calls for Greg Little and Javon Patterson to pull from the left side and become lead blockers. That’s what they try here and ROLL TAPE:

The most amazing thing about this play is that Phillips got back to the line of scrimmage. You’re just as easily looking at a three-yard loss.

On the next play (second-and-10), Ole Miss once again decides to take a shot downfield instead of taking free yardage underneath. And I say “Ole Miss” because I don’t know if Ta’amu is told to throw it up or if he has freedom to read here.

The play calls for a pump-fake to Phillips in the flat, with the three receivers feigning blocks before releasing into their routes.

While A.J. Brown is absurdly wide open and guaranteed 10-plus yards, DaMarkus Lodge has beaten his man.

It’s hard to fault Ta’amu for throwing it deep to Lodge because he’s beaten his guy, but one won’t find an easier throw to Brown, the best player on Ole Miss’ team. While I think he made the wrong choice, Ta’amu’s biggest mistake here is throwing late and short to Lodge.

After Auburn gets bailed out on a replay, Ole Miss fails on another third-and-long.

First-and-10 from the Auburn 8

Auburn has pushed their lead to 17-9, which felt like 207-9.

Here’s the front Ole Miss was looking at on first down:

Ole Miss cannot block one person (two if the defensive back in the slot attacks), yet Ta’amu hands it off instead of maybe (MAYBE) taking advantage of Brown on a safety.

It’s possible this was a run play all the way,and Ta’amu was reading either the outside linebacker or slot defensive back. BUT A.J. BROWN ON SOME PUNK ASS SAFETY HOLY MOLY WHY CAN’T WE SEE THIS.

It was even worse on second down. Why in the holy hell did he not check out of this?

Even if six guys perfectly execute their blocks, two Auburn defenders cannot be blocked. Pull that ish and throw it. Yet, Ole Miss runs again for no gain.

This is the play that upset Brown so much and had people, including yours truly, hollerin’ at Ta’amu for his bad read. Well, dear reader, we are all FOOLS because even if Ta’amu pulled the ball from Phillips, he wasn’t getting the pass off.

Ole Miss should’ve checked out of anything that gave eight rushers time to get after the quarterback. I have no idea if this one’s on Longo or Ta’amu, but there’s no way a run into an eight-man front with six blockers.

Ole Miss had multiple chances to burn up the scoreboard but didn’t because of poor choices all around. The Rebels moved the ball quite well against a good defense (which is a new development) but couldn’t get out of their own damn way when it was time to put touchdowns on the board.