We continue with our weekly series that assesses my confidence, using a scale of one to five Cowboy Hat-Wearing Matt Lukes, in Ole Miss’ ability to win the remaining games on its schedule. For a refresher on how this works or if you want to remember a time before losing to two SEC opponents by a combined score of 107-23, click here.
The big-picture good news about Ole Miss’ shredding of Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday is that the Rebels, from the start, finally shredded a team qualified for said shredding. The Warhawks were and are terrible, but we finally saw a combination of the Ole Miss offense leaving no doubt in the first half, while the defense did enough that it was a six-possession lead at halftime.
The question at present is can this combination carry over against the rest of the schedule, which includes six SEC teams and no more Louisiana-Monroes. However, the good news is there are no more opportunities to be run through Alabama’s wood chipper or ground into a fine paste by LSU.
Through Ole Miss’ two SEC games, we’ve seen a defense that has been excellent at showing no ability to look remotely competent, and an offense whose future NFL receivers can’t get consistent separation (for whatever reason) and a quarterback struggling to make throws. That blend has proven to have less of a punch than a mixed drink at The Library that you paid $40 up front for the privilege of being able to buy.
In the first quarter alone this season, Ole Miss has been outscored 42-10. Throw in the second quarter because you have to if you want a full accounting of the first half, and the deficit explodes to 77-13. That, friends, is what’s known as SEEMS BAD.
How Ole Miss goes about preventing games from running away from them before 30 minutes expire is of great debate among the people who somehow got sucked into being Ole Miss fans (OUR CROSS TO BEAR). It’s not exactly fair to the offense, but most of the talk focuses on what the Ole Miss offense can do because, other than play with 20 guys, there’s not much the defense can do right now.
The most common bit of hollerin’ solutions relates to giving our stocky son Scottie Phillips the ball more, which certainly isn’t the worst idea. The problem with that is running just to say we’re running it isn’t a sensible direction.
When teams show Ole Miss seven-man defensive fronts and there are only six blockers (five offensive linemen and a tight end), that makes no sense. In that situation, there is cash money to be made on the outside.
The issue at hand is why can’t Ole Miss make that cash money on the outside. There’s plenty of talent at receiver to make it, but it never came to pass (consistently) against Alabama and LSU. Why can’t those receivers make plays?
Is it related to scheme, does Ole Miss have a tell, are receivers not reading the coverages correctly, is Jordan Ta’amu not making the right reads (both in coverage and when to hand off), are they too obsessed with pushing the ball down the field, are they freaked out because they almost need to score on every possession? The answer is, I don’t know!
I do know that if there’s any chance at 6-6 or 7-5, Ole Miss has to win receiver-defensive back-quarterback battles with a high degree of consistency against talent. They do that and we’ll be amazed by the number of six- and five-man fronts we’ll see, which means Phillips can cook and the quarterback draw, which was so effective last season, can come back to life.
Do we think Chad Morris has stopped laughing from the first 30 seconds of film he watched on Wesley McGriff’s defense? Well, the joke is on you, Chad, because WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE OUR EYE DISCIPLINE THIS WEEK.
"It's going to be a football game where we're going to have to have really good eye discipline pre-snap." - @coachcrimedawg— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 8, 2018
Related, some Arkansas tight end will catch like 12 passes for 175 yards. Of course, he’ll trail an Arkansas wide receiver who will top 200 yards. And let’s not sleep on an Arkansas running back who will coast to 125 yards on 15 carries.
The only reason this game is not DEATH AWAITS US ALL is that it’s in Little Rock and not in Fayetteville, the second* graveyard of Ole Miss football.
*Bryant-Denny is the first, as there is LITERALLY a cemetery next to the stadium.
The good news is that Auburn appears to be headed down the same path as Bobby Lowder and Colonial Bank. The bad news is they still have two weeks to get their stuff together before coming to Oxford, which they will because #WAOM and have never played anyone who is on their way to the bottom of the crater.
Teams rising from the crater, yes, but never those in full plummet. I can hear Gus now, after beating Georgia, crediting the Ole Miss game as the one that turned their season around.
Normally, I use this space to besmirch Coach Boom, but I thought I should bring a stunning development to everyone’s attention. It turns out that there are no rules against firing your defensive coordinator in the middle of the season. Who knew!
In preparation* for writing this week’s edition of the Confidence Report, I read what I wrote last week. In this very space, I made mention of Matt Luke’s decision to kick a field goal on fourth down from the one-foot line, while trailing 28-3.
One week later, I am quite sure he regrets his decision, believing he should’ve kicked on third down.
*Preparation goes against everything I stand for
Are Matt Luke and Derek Mason friends? Could they, hypothetically, get along well in an environment in which they happened to be close?
No reason, just curious.
Joe Moorhead may not get that Heisman on Nick Fitzgerald’s mantel, but that Music City Bowl MVP trophy will be a nice consolation prize.