Ole Miss gets a do-over

Okay. It’s not really a do-over, but after getting beat by Alabama 62-7, this next game against LSU feels like a lot like do-over.

Do you remember do-overs?

When I was a kid, I sought a “do-over” many a time when competing with friends.

For example, when playing HORSE.

If I tried to make a shot backwards and bricked it, I would scream “do-over” and then make up some excuse for why I was entitled to a do-over.

Perhaps the wind was blowing too hard. Or my friend was mouth breathing too loud. Something. Anything for a do-over.

Ole Miss vs. LSU is the Rebels’ chance at a do-over on that Alabama game.

The Tigers are good football team. A Top 5 team according to the latest AP Poll. The defense looked better that stout against both Miami and Auburn.

This is the Rebels’ chance to look like it belongs on the same football field with a Top 10 football team.

Against Alabama, that was not the case.

So, this is the chance for Ole Miss to change the story. For the offense to be dynamic against a premier defense. For the defense to finally clamp down an opposing offense.

The stars will have to align. Lightning will have to strike, too.

But 10 years ago today, Ole Miss pulled off an improbable upset of Florida that nobody saw coming, especially your’s truly proving that anything can happen. Just ask Tim Tebow.

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Ole Miss gets a 38-17 win that didn’t feel that great

Ole Miss improved to 3-1 after a 38–17 win over Kent State, but if ever a 38-17 win felt disheartening it was this one.

It’s hard to find reasons to be optimistic about SEC play after watching a first half that ended with a 7-7 halftime score against a middling MAC opponent. The win doesn’t inspire much confidence heading into a date with LSU.

The Kent State Golden Flashes still gained yards too easily at times, and now the offense seems to be struggling, too, as the Rebels couldn’t get it going in the game’s first two quarters.

Thankfully, Jordan Ta’amu and his receivers finally returned to form in the second half, but the struggles in the first half are worrisome. Kent State’s defense, ranked 108th in Total Defense before the game, isn’t good, and the Rebels couldn’t score for 30 minutes.

Phil Longo’s offense has a hot/cold nature to it that is confusing. How can the same team that at times makes scoring touchdowns look easier than walking to the mailbox be held to two touchdowns over six quarters?

Maybe it was just a lingering hangover from the loss to Alabama, but Ole Miss can’t afford for its offense to be off, even for a half, in SEC play.

On the bright side, the Rebels defense looks like it is still trying to get better, which is a good sign after terrible performances against Southern Illinois and Alabama. The multiple sacks of Kent State’s QB were a positive, as was holding the Flashes to 17 points. The Rebs were not inspiring memories of the Steel Curtain by any means, but the positives are enough to give Matt Luke and Wesley McGriff some small building blocks to work with going forward.

The fear is that Ed Orgeron’s LSU Tigers are going to take those building blocks and smash them into a powder so fine that any net positive from this win over Kent State will evaporate into the Baton Rouge night air.

Unfortunately, I did not see enough from the Ole Miss defense to make me think that won’t happen.

But Ole Miss is 3-1, so I guess that’s good.

Kent State is not a gimme (for Ole Miss)

Be forewarned.

Kent State has a pretty good quarterback. His name is Woody Barrett. He’s a transfer from Auburn, and he passed the ball 41 times against Illinois, connecting on 27 of them for 270 yards. Barrett also rushed for 117 yards.

Having watched the Ole Miss defense play three times now, I can write definitively that you have every right to be very afraid of a quarterback that can run and pass. The Rebels are not good at defending either. See Exhibit 1.

The Illinois defense compares favorably to Ole Miss. The Fighting Illini currently rank 115th in total defense, whereas the Rebels are down deep in the dregs at 126th (out of a possible 129…yeesh).

If Barrett did that to Illinois, the Ole Miss defense is about to give up some yards and points.

Kent State was crushed by Penn State last week, but don’t even think about comparing Ole Miss to Penn State.  In that loss, Barrett passed the ball 38 times.

The moral of this story is that Woody Barrett is going to pass the football around against Ole Miss, and he’s probably going to run, too. So just get ready.

Things to know about Kent State:

  1. Also known as the Golden Flashes.
  2. Defense is currently ranked 108 in NCAA.
  3. Kent State is a member of the MAC (in other words, not an FCS school like say…Southern Illinois).
  4. Kent State is 1-2, with losses to Illinois (31-24) and Penn State (63-10) and a win over Howard (54-14).

It probably goes without saying that this game is not a gimme, but I know there are those who are out there who believe it is. Don’t.

No game is a gimme when your team’s defense is in complete disarray.

All that said, Jordan Ta’amu and NWO should return to form and score some points as Kent State’s defense isn’t very good either.

Brace yourself for a game that looks a lot like the Southern Illinois game. Only this time, you shouldn’t get mad because you know what to expect.

That is all.

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WANTED: A defense

The time to act is now.

Ole Miss got whipped in every phase of the game in a 62-7 loss to Alabama and if you watched then you know the final score would have been much worse if Nick Saban hadn’t taken his pitch fork out of the Rebels’ throats shortly after halftime.

Many people will talk about how good Alabama is, and they would be correct, but the Rebels were embarrassed. The offense was completely shut down save the very first play of the game, and the defense might as well have been holding directional signs to the endzone.

SCORE ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN THIS WAY —->

Matt Luke and Wesley McGriff are really fortunate that Saban isn’t the type to try to humiliate an opposing coach (as if 49 unanswered points in the first half isn’t humiliating enough). Truly, Alabama could have scored 100 if it had wanted to do so, and I almost wish that it had just so the changes that need to be made can get underway without having to hear another coach talk about execution or focus.

Kent State is next. Nobody likes midseason coaching changes, but if ever there was an appropriate time for a midseason switch it’s now. The defense is in a tailspin and McGriff does not have the answers. With nine games to play, Ole Miss owes it to the players to give them a chance to improve.

These next two weeks would be the perfect time to make the transition. Otherwise, prepare for more of the same. LSU will not show any mercy on September 29. I can promise you that.

I’ll be the first to admit that it may be too late to see any improvement this season, but it’s worth a shot. Not doing something would be the equivalent of giving up.

Getting plowed under by every single offense the rest of the season is going to hurt recruiting, attendance and wins. Matt Luke’s tenure may not recover from it. Something has to be done.

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The Matchup to Watch

If you’re looking for a reason to believe the Rebels have a chance against No. 1 Alabama tonight, it’s in the matchup between NWO and the Crimson Tide’s inexperienced defensive backfield.

How legends are born

The scene has been set for the matchup between Ole Miss and No. 1 Alabama this Saturday.

  • Ole Miss’ exciting offense vs Alabama’s ferocious defense.
  • The Crimson Tide’s prodigious Tua Tagovailoa against the Rebels’ extremely penetrable defense.
  • A program still on the back end of probation versus a program trying to win yet another national championship.

Last year, Alabama beat Ole Miss 66-3 as the Rebels reeled from the Hugh Freeze scandal, the black cloud of the NCAA sanctions to come and the discovery that Shea Patterson and his daddy weren’t necessarily a great fit for Phil Longo’s offense.

Cue the scene where Jordan Ta’amu takes the reigns for an injured Patterson in the second half against LSU.

With each game last season, Ta’amu gained more and more confidence driving the turbo-charged machine that is Phil Longo’s offense. Not just anyone can. Just ask Patterson.

A full spring and off-season later, it’s Ta’amu’s team now and he’s got the gas pressed all the way to floor taking Longo’s baby to its absolute limits, demonstrating a long-range accuracy to those multiple rangy, fast-moving sure-handed targets that many consider the best receivers in the country. It’s an offense that that should scare any defense–even Alabama’s.

And yet, Ole Miss doesn’t stand a chance. Or does it?

The game sets up perfectly for the creation of college football legendry.

  • A defense nobody is giving a chance, and an offense that must overcome it.
  • Nick Saban and his robotic national champion algorithm versus a former offensive line coach that wasn’t necessarily at the top of his athletic director’s head coach candidate list before Thanksgiving last year.
  • Bright lights. National television. A home crowd wearing red and blue.

These are the environments that create the opportunity for legends to be born.

And make no mistake, if Ole Miss does knock off Alabama, or even give it a scare, a few guys wearing red and blue will become fixtures in Ole Miss lore.

So on Saturday, I’m not asking for much.

I just want it to be legendary.

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The Good News and Bad News about the Ole Miss Rebels

First, the good news.

The Ole Miss offense is awesome.

Jordan Ta’amu looks like a dang PlayStation QB brought to life. All he does is throw bombs, and all NWO does is catch them. It’s a sight to behold really. I would tune in to watch these guys play all season long.

Thanks to the balance added by Scottie Phillips, this may be the best offense in the country before all is said and done.

Unfortunately, it has to be.

Because the defense is one of the worst in the country…again.

You read that graphic right.

After playing a mediocre Big 12 team and an FCS school, the Ole Miss defense is No. 123 in the country.

These guys are bad.

And you might as well buckle up because they probably aren’t going to get better. There’s not an easy fix to what we witnessed on Saturday.

For Ole Miss to win SEC games this season, the Rebels will have to score 50+ points per game, and let’s just be honest for a second, that’s unlikely against teams like Alabama, LSU and Auburn.

But it might be possible against Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

Who gets the blame for the defense?

Is it really a talent issue?

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Ole Miss doesn’t have good enough talent to be a Top 50 or Top 60 defense. There is something else going on here, and I don’t know what it is, but I’m so tired of hearing about getting “eyes right” and “fitting gaps” and “communicating”.