Ole Miss won the turnover battle, out-gained its opponent, had more first downs, and lost to Texas A&M 24-17 on Saturday night.
Here are the five major takeaways from a game that killed hope:
Grab the hammer and nails.
Head coach Matt Luke’s job security has been in dire straits since Ole Miss lost to California Berkeley in Week 4. Really, his seat was hot long before.
The loss to Texas A&M should seal the coffin.
Matt Luke needed this win. The good news is Ole Miss has played well enough to win in losses to Cal, Mizzou, and Texas A&M.— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) October 20, 2019
Point differential: 5, 7, 8, 11.
The bad news, Ole Miss has loss every single one.
A school with a new chancellor and no AD has a lot of questions.
Luke is undeniably a great man who works hard, and pours his heart into the program. There is a lot that goes behind the scenes that cannot be seen by those outside of the facility. But from strictly the 60 minutes on Saturdays, one has to wonder what he does.
His coordinators call the plays for their individual sides of the ball, which leaves Luke to sign off on their game plans, motivate the team, and handle the logistics. Ole Miss’ energy seems to lack outside of big situations, the clock management is poor, decision-making is timid, and in-game adjustments are nonexistent.
For example, midway through the second quarter, Luke chose to attempt a 50-yard field goal with a kicker who hadn’t hit from that range in his career. The kick was no good, and Texas A&M took over with great field position. Six plays later, Kellen Mond found his receiver for the lead.
Who would have thought that an ill-advised decision to kick a long field goal would backfire on Matt Luke!?— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) October 20, 2019
That falls on the head coach.
Finishing the year at 5-7 would not be the worst possible outcome, but the scenarios from which the record came, are blameworthy.
In the last 14 SEC West games, Matt Luke is 3-11, with 2 wins over Arkansas and 1 over Mississippi State without its starting quarterback. But sure, more time and whatnot.— Gray Hardison (@BellyoftheBeast) October 20, 2019
Luke’s four-year contract extends through 2021, but his results should force a buyout, and losing yet another winnable game should be the final straw.
Hats off, Mike Mac.
Lost in the 3-5 record, the Landshark defense has been really good under first-year coordinator Mike MacIntyre. That trend continued through week eight.
On Texas A&M’s opening drive, the Ole Miss defense was dropping into coverage, and kept quarterback Kellen Mond from finding his receivers downfield. However, Mond is a duel-threat player, and he consistently scrambled his way for positive yardage against the three-man rush. Perhaps MacIntyre thought that head coach Jimbo Fisher (who calls the plays for the Aggies) was going to open the game through the air, or perhaps he was establishing a no-fly zone. Either way, Mond led a 73-yard drive well into the red zone.
But that was it.
The Ole Miss defense stopped the momentum in its tracks and forced a field goal from the six-yard-line. From that point forward, Texas A&M gained less than 300 yards offense, converted 23 percent of its third-down attempts, and threw two interceptions.
Looks good on you, 38. ⛓ pic.twitter.com/D7rWteqRY9— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 20, 2019
There have been moments of uncertainty surrounding the secondary throughout the first eight games, but MacIntyre can only do so much. At some point, the struggles have to be attributed to the athletes on the field.
Ole Miss finished Saturday with four sacks, five tackles-for-loss, two pass breakups (on top of the picks) and three quarterback hits. What more can you ask?
The defense rocked out again.
Two quarterbacks, one play.
Nobody outside of the locker room had a clue about the Ole Miss quarterback situation. Some folks wanted John Rhys Plumlee, the running threat, to play the entire game outright. Others wanted Matt Corral, the gunslinger, to return to the starting role. Many found excitement in the two-quarterback carousel that has proven to work on the college level.
Certain brilliant individuals called for both quarterbacks to be on the field, at the same time.
On Saturday, it was a mixed bag. Plumlee took the start and saw the majority of playing time, though Corral entered throughout the game, primarily to throw. The two-quarterback system was the game plan, but its execution was questionable.
Plumlee, who is a run-first playmaker, came in to start drives and attempted 12 passes. He looked quick to go through his progression on pass plays, wasn’t reading the defense on the option well, and tried to extend plays that could have caused less harm as a sack. On one play in the first half, Plumlee overthrew Braylon Sanders on a quick out-route that would have scored. The very next play, Plumlee went back in the same direction and left it two-steps too long. Keep him on the ground, or in short run/pass options— he does not need to throw over the middle. That is the whole point of having a second quarterback.
Corral, who is a pass-first point man, often entered once the ball was inside the opponent’s 40-yard-line and attempted only five more passes than his counterpart.
Beyond the necessary tweaks in their roles, there is no predictability in a pass-only, and run-only quarterback system. If the two are true to their specific thing, and only their specific thing, it makes the defense’s day much easier.
Texas A&M is essentially playing Plumlee as if #OleMiss is running wildcat. There’s always one, sometimes two, spies on him daring him to throw it. And it’s working.— Trey Mongrue (@TreyMongrue) October 20, 2019
Corral comes in, throws a pick. Rebs have a QB problem.
Corral, who is more mobile than he gets credit, should handle anything between the 40-yard-lines and long third down situations, and run read-options. Plumlee should handle anything inside the 40-yard-line and short yardage situations, and run pass-options. Keep the defense on its toes, but play to the active quarterback’s strengths.
Neither guy played particularly well, which didn’t help, but the smooth flow of a ying and yang approach was consistently interrupted by poor play calls and random quarterback changes.
While there is no telling how the backfield will be handled going forward, there is one thing for certain....
BOTH QUARTERBACKS WERE ON THE FIELD FOR THE SAME PLAY!
AT THE SAME TIME!
AND IT WENT FOR A FIRST DOWN!
AND IT WAS GLORIOUS!
IT WORKED, RICH ROD. DON’T STOP THERE!
A gift, for you.
The Rebels squandered every opportunity to beat the Aggies. Plumlee missed on a sure-fire touchdown, Logan missed from the fifty, Corral had two deep throws called back as incomplete, and this happened:
To add insult to injury, the football gods handed the Rebels a gift...
...but the drive stalled in the red zone and the field goal attempt was blocked.
For the Rebels to lose this game took an incredible amount of ineptitude and misfortune.
Ole Miss has four games left, and needs three wins. No. 2 LSU looks unbeatable, so go ahead and rule that one out. That means taking care of business against New Mexico State and Mississippi State, and an upset of No. 11 Auburn.
It’s not going to happen.
Unless it does.
But it won’t.