Thoughts and observations from the Rebels’ 30-27 loss to Texas A&M. …
As I mentioned before, I’ve covered a lot of SEC losses lately, 16 straight to be exactly, but few were as bizarre to the finish or as emotionally draining for Ole Miss than last night.
The LSU game in Baton Rouge two years ago was close, but many of the losses the last two years were not even competitive.
Last night there was such great anticipation for what most folks thought was about to happen. A single play – just one more play made by the Rebels – and the streak would have ended. That play could have been Senquez Golson batting down a ball caught over the top of his head, a block made for Jeff Scott, a ball that didn’t slip out of Bo Wallace’s hand or more.
But the Rebels sit this morning still one play away from an SEC win.
It wasn’t only about big plays, it was about a big call too. There was the possibility of the safety, the “no-call” that set in motion the chain of events that led to defeat, and there was the fourth-and-inches call by Hugh Freeze. Freeze said afterward that people might second-guess his decision to go for the first down. That’s not what people are second guessing. For all the good the Ole Miss offense has achieved this season, there comes a time for getting under center, pushing back the opponent for one inch. For all that can be gained by finesse and deception, football is still a physical game.
In the big picture, I didn’t have the Rebels winning this game. More important for Ole Miss, I thought, was making sure it defeats a struggling Auburn team this Saturday in Oxford. A split in the two home games would put the Rebels in position for a winning season.
In that regard, the path to bowl-eligibililty is still on the table.
But the Rebels face the dangerous question this morning of how they will respond this week. Freeze has talked “wilderness” since his hiring, and as Matt wrote below, Freeze and the Rebels took a step back toward the woods last night. How does the loss, different than so many of the previous 15, affect confidence that was growing but no doubt fragile after a 3-2 start.
On the field, the effort was there again, no doubt. The focus and game plan were in place. Ball-protection was improved, but Wallace’s picks show that just one turnover is too many. Take away the pick six, and the Rebels win, no doubt. Take away the second interception, and they win maybe.
Wallace said he felt like he played his best game last night were it not for the turnovers. I would agree. He was accurate and had zip on the ball. He showed why he’s the best choice for quarterback when he’s on top of his game.
But he also showed it only takes a play or two of not being on top of your game to be the difference in winning and losing.
After a week of competition between Wallace and Barry Brunetti, Freeze and Dan Werner were non-committal on the status of the quarterback situation moving forward. The reality, though, is that Ole Miss had a chance to win, because Wallace involves the receivers.
Donte Moncrief was a factor last night, Vince Sanders continued his trend of growth. Ja-Mes Logan figured in too.
On the ground, the Rebels continued to show they can run the ball against good defenses. Jeff Scott averaged 5.1 yards a carry with 108 yards on 21 attempts. Wallace had the 14-yard touchdown run.
But there comes a time when you have to mash, and while Freeze might have liked that zone read play at the end because he’d had some success with it, I suspect part of making that call was because he doesn’t have a line built to move people off the ball.
So, another almost game for Ole Miss, another solid effort, but this one doesn’t have the positive vibe that the Alabama game had.
Hopefully for the Rebels there will be no negative lingering effects.