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The Final Whistle: Ole Miss fumbles away a winnable game against Texas A&M, 24-17

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It’s okay to be sad.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss football lost to Texas A&M 24-17 on a foggy Saturday night in Oxford, and fumbled away any legitimate bowl hope.

In the first game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with the sale of alcoholic beverages, Rebel fans would need every last drop. Outside of a few explosive plays, it was a series of unremarkable and unfortunate events that literally and figuratively ended in gloom.

Ole Miss forced a three-and-out to begin the game, but the offense followed suit.

Texas A&M took over on downs and drove 73 yards on the feet of quarterback Kellen Mond, while the defense seemingly keyed on his arm. However, defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre’s unit stepped up to force a field goal from inside the 10-yard line. It was a great showing after a slow start without inside linebacker Jacquez Jones and defensive Tariq Tisdale, who were to miss the first half due to targeting penalties against Missouri.

Jerrion Ealy didn’t take kindly to the 3-0 deficit and broke a nice run down the sideline for the touchdown. Before you could say “he’s a freshman,” he was gone.

Ealy missed the entire second half due to flu-like symptoms, but made sure to get him one before his exit. It would appear that getting him the ball in space is a good idea.

John Rhys Plumlee took the majority of snaps at quarterback next to Ealy and company in the first half. No help from offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s play calling, the freshman speedster could never quite found a rhythm on the ground, and was unable to find his receivers when the situation called to pass. On one instance in particular, Plumlee missed a wide open Braylon Sanders on a deep corner route that likely would have gone for six.

One has to wonder why Plumlee was throwing the ball deep in the first place, when his signal-calling counterpart Matt Corral is the far better passer. With that being said, Corral could not get anything going either, and the Rebels had just 111 yards of first-half offense beyond the Ealy score.

The Aggies struggled in tandem, until Mond got to work on the two-minute drill. He completed six of his seven pass attempts for 67 yards for six points, and took a three-point lead to the half.

Though Plumlee began the second half behind center, it was Corral who set up a two-yard Snoop Conner touchdown run by dropping a dime over the shoulder of Scottie Phillips.

The defense held it own and the game was headed in Ole Miss’ direction.

Until it wasn’t.

From there, head coach Matt Luke bumbled his way through the rest of the game without an answer. The wheels fell off and the car came to spark-filled, violent stop.

Plumlee, who led the team in rushing in each of his previous three starts, finished with 13 carries for 38 yards. Corral attempted just five more than his tag-team partner, and barely hit the 50 percent completion mark. None of the running backs eclipsed 100 yards rushing.

There was no flow. The offense was stale. It was frustrating.

With the loss, Ole Miss must upset either No. 2 LSU or No. 11 Auburn, and beat both New Mexico State and Mississippi State to reach bowl eligibility.

To the Crossroads?