It’s okay to say “heck” and “shoot” after losses like the Rebels suffered to the Arkansas Razorbacks yesterday.
I’ll even forgive a “dadburnit” if you let one slip.
Yes, games like last night’s deserve the dirtiest of dirty words: ones that even middle school jokes don’t dare include.
Honestly, it did feel a little like a team that just wasn’t focused when its head coach was being courted by other programs. I hesitated to think that way until the score was 42-12, but once it got there, my mind began to wander (and I admittedly turned off the game, so if the facts beyond that point get a little fuzzy, meh, you can have your money back.)
It’s not just the loss.... it’s the way the loss played out. And oddly enough, this could have been a shootout! It’s just that no one told the Ole Miss offense’s composure and attention to detail.
What went wrong?
In many ways the answer to what went wrong is everything sans the running game. The defense let Arkansas rush for 7.8 yards per carry as a team. That’s not great. On top of that, the Rebels couldn’t force any turnovers, only generated one sack in spite of having their hands on KJ Jefferson many many times, and just generally couldn’t get off the field.
This isn’t shocking. Rocket Sanders had 232 yards and three touchdowns in the game. It was..... not the most fun game to watch. HECK! DRAT! Sorry.... I lost my own composure there.
On the offensive side of the ball, the pass protection continues to be only slightly better than if we just had a bunch of 400 pound dudes out there who had no experience playing football. At least then they could be in the way a little.
I know. I know. “Arkansas only sacked Jaxson Dart twice! And they only hurried him four times on thirty-six passes!” I don’t know what to tell you. That pocket was a disaster, and wow the penalties. The two beautiful touchdown passes called back because of holds by freshman offensive tackles are enough to make a fella weep. I didn’t, because I’m too badass, but a lesser man might’ve.
What actually didn’t go wrong?
Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans. Both went over the 200 yard mark, which has to be the first time that has happened at Ole Miss since the forward pass became a real thing. It’s pretty sickening that the running game yielded 8.7 yards per carry to the tune of almost 500 yards and Ole Miss lost by fifteen points to a team that recently lost to Liberty. Like.... what the heckin’ fart?
I still feel pretty confident that we’re headed in the right direction. I think Jaxson Dart is a good quarterback who has regressed a bit in the past two games, but I have high hopes for him next season. I think if we can keep the key pieces together and find some help in the portal, the offense could be pretty dangerous next season.
Defensively, it’s kinda not so clear. Quick: who’s the best defensive player on the team? Who is even an impact player on defense? See what I mean? That’s something we’ll need to find in the portal, especially given how many players are finally graduating on that side of the ball.
I’m on a few text chains with friends, and there are a few who seemed to turn on Kiffin yesterday, almost wishing he would go to Auburn. I’m definitely not there. I want him to stick around and find us some more players who can help turn this thing around. This loss wasn’t with a bid for Atlanta on the line. It was just an unexpected blip on what could be a strong path forward. Still, it would be cool to have some stability, so let’s go ahead and get an announcement on Kiffin’s future, regardless of what that is.