I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the outcome of yesterday’s debacle in Oxford, Mississippi. The good: We never quit competing. The bad: Those of you who think this is on the coaches. It ain’t. The reality: We are going to have to recruit our way out of this hole. It’s happening, but it’ll take a while.
Let’s just cut to the chase here. It’s all pretty gloomy. No fancy pictures, no celebratory gifs of game-saving 4th down touchdown passes or drunken fans destroying body parts. Just the facts, Jack.
1. Ole Miss was the better team with better talent at nearly every position. To suggest otherwise is not paying attention to the unbalance we currently have and the only way to fix this is through recruiting, which is happening. But this is going to take some time, folks.
2. We are losing the first half scoring this season and getting behind early and often. Against better competition, this will get you whipped. The edge right now is 45 points for us, 68 points for them.
3. I don’t know if our field-goal kicking can get any worse, but we are 3 of 8 on the season and the majority of these kicks are short-to-medium range attempts.
4. Jacob Eason had some classic freshman quarterbacking moments, most notably forcing a throw into coverage where Derrick Jones promptly returned the pick for 6, following by a kick by a dude named Wunderlich. Okay, that was (most of) my humor for the day...
5. ...but Eason’s offense, particularly his receivers and pass protection, let him down time and time again. We dropped 2 touchdowns and a plethora of other drive-killing, momentum changing failures to execute in the passing game. When Eason was able to stand in the pocket, he generally delivered...especially after he settled down. Ole Miss really took Isaiah McKenzie out of the down-field game.
6. We need help immediately at receiver, and Georgia is poised to sign some players in 2017, but that ain’t helping today or next week. Ole Miss has an unfair roster of pro-ready wide outs that created mis-matches all day. We have nothing of the sort at present. Dropping passes is unacceptable.
7. False start penalties are drive killers. We had 8 penalties for 52 yards in the game, and by my count 5 of them were of the crippling, behind the chain 5 yard variety that turn 1st and 10 into 1st and 15 and force a struggling offense on the road to play behind the chains in a game of catch-up.
7A. Here’s a worthless stat: We possessed the ball for 35:42 minutes vs. Ole Miss’ 24:12. Hoo-ray.
8. Funny how the toss sweep seemed to gain net yardage whenever we ran it. Running between the tackles is still pretty much a necessary evil, but largely ineffective. Despite Nick Chubb’s ankle injury (no update as of this writing), running back isn’t the concern today. Brien Herrien led the way with 11 rushes/78 yards (7.1 average) with our two touchdowns and is a tough runner. Sony Michel quietly had 66 yards on 11 carries and Elijah Holyfield made his debut, largely against Mississippi’s 2nd and 3rd stringers, with 4 carries for 27 yards.
8A. Nick Chubb was a lunging leg-tackle away from breaking a nice, long touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Maybe that changes the final score a bit, but not the outcome. It is sad to watch him run into a mass of bodies for minimal gain.
9. The remedy for point 8A? Toss sweeps! Screens! Punt on first down!
10. I saw Greg Pyke dive at the feet of the end he was blocking, who merely hop-scotched over him and had a clear path to a crushing sack of Jacob Eason. I threw my bowl of chips at my other bowl of chips.
11. Lorenzo Carter needs to borrow Rodrigo Blankenship’s glasses. Yeah, he was getting held. A lot. But he also had a clearly bead on Chad Kelly who side-stepped Carter’s bad angle and promptly lofted a 55-yard TD. That wasn’t Carter’s only missed TFL of the day, but the most glaring. Carter is an enigma. The guy has all the tools, but he simply isn’t finishing. D’Andre Walker played well. Chad Kelly is a very good quarterback with the best overall skill set of anyone we’ll face this season. Josh Dobbs, although easily as athletic if not more, doesn’t throw nearly as well. Kelly played a flawless game.
12. Roquan Smith is getting better and better.
13. If you are going to get flagged for PI, make sure you get your money’s worth, Juwuan Briscoe. I mean, what the hell? Put your guy in the turf. He’s struggling. I’d like to see Mecole Hardman get a look at corner. Yeah, it’s a tough position, but throw the kid into the fire.
14. Bright spot on special teams? No punt receiver interference. And the sample size was pretty large. Marshall Long kicked 7 times, for a 39.4 yard average and a long of 47 yards. Rodrigo Blankenship - despite his missed 36 yard field goal attempt early in the 2nd quarter, does seem to have the stronger leg over William Ham. We’ll probably see him again on Saturday against Tennessee.
15. There is too much fail to really continue. I saw it, you saw it and next week doesn’t get any easier with a sky-high Tennessee squad coming in who overcame their own demons in their 2nd half domination of Florida. We will see a better effort than we did yesterday in Oxford, but our problems are systemic and are going to require coaching for now, recruiting for now and the future, and patience from a largely impatient fan-base that, hopefully, realizes that we are a team with an unbalanced amount of talent; a wealth of riches at some positions, and a dearth at others that will take another 2, maybe 3 recruiting cycles to fully fix. Is there hope? Yes. Help is on the way, but temper your expectation this season. We’re walking uphill a bit at the moment.
Some Bonus Thoughts:
- I really hope the NCAA knocks the Mississippi program back into the 80’s. I’ve got nothing against Ole Miss, per se. I quite enjoyed watching them struggle with Vanderbilt at noon on Jefferson-Pilot for most of my life. But any team that has been a traditionally middlin’ since the 60’s and suddenly becomes one of the better overall units virtually overnight (how did they lose to FSU again?) is practicing some sort of voodoo or got touched directly by the hand of Excessivus. None of that happened. Simply put, it’s dirty pool. Even Auburn has taken a back-seat to this program. Hugh Freeze and his buck-ass-beaver-toothed face can gnaw on a pine plank marinated in creosote. I hope they get their just-desserts sooner than later.
- Tennessee is going to be coming in here next week on an emotional high that was 12 years in the making. This often makes a team vulnerable...at least for a while. We are going to have to play our best game of the past 2 seasons to get a win. As bad as we looked yesterday, this is why Kirby & Co. was brought in. Pooping in the Vols collective Wheaties would make me hap-hap-happy.
- What I want to see next week, of course, is a win. What we really need to see is improvement. I just don’t think we’ve seen that going back to week 1 and this is a huge worry. Some butts need to get kicked, some lights need to be lit. We shall see.
Have a great day, y’all. Patience is a virtue.