There is a certain aura that falls over Death Valley when the stars come out in Baton Rouge. An aura of past demolitions of the opposition, an aura that is intwined with the stars of Tiger past, the aura that makes the opponent feel like they are drudgingly digging their owns graves while 92,000 look on. That aura preyed on the Rebels and made them it’s latest kill.
Ole Miss led at halftime, 21-17, they led after the 3rd quater, 28-20, they even regained the lead after an LSU touchdown early in the 4th. It was then that the nightfall collapsed upon Hugh Freeze’s watchful eye. With under ten minutes to play, Jim Broadway annihilated a punt deep into Tiger territory. The problem? It was too deep. It gave Odell Beckham the time to set up blockers and draw up a path for himself, before taking it 89 yards for a score.
After a three-and-out by the Rebs, LSU gave away a fumble, giving Ole Miss the ball at their own 32. After a person foul by LSU and a 37-yard completion to Randall Mackey, the Rebels were in business with a first down at the LSU 16. Then came the unexpected doom that befalls upon Tiger opponents at night. A rush of -2 yards, a sack of 11 yards, and a sack of 7 yards. This brought up a 4th-and-30 where Bryson Rose put a lot of leg behind a 53-yard attempt, but left it right.
LSU, aided by a highly questionable roughing the passer penalty, drove down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds to go. That call and more will be discussed at a later time, but for now let’s focus on the offense.
Quarterback: Bo Wallace played relatively well in a big-game environment. He made some crucial mistakes however. He threw two bad interceptions, with a third being a drop by Donte Moncrief. He also missed two deep balls to Moncrief that could have been touchdowns. His worst mistake however, was holding on to the ball on the second to last possession for Ole Miss, pushing them out of reasonable field goal range.
With time, he will mature and those mistakes will diminish. He did throw for 310 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 completions though. The sophomore also added a pair of touchdown runs, a muscle-aided score from a yard out and a runaway train dash in the first quarter from 58 yards.
A great game can be spoiled by a couple of bone-headed blunders, and that is what happened for Wallace on Saturday, but let us not forget the positive signs that we saw from him.
Running Backs: Jeff Scott and Mackey were relatively non-existent in this game with neither getting many touches. Scott amassed 39 yards on 12 carries while Mackey had 41 yards on 9 carries, including a touchdown. Mackey added three catches for 44 yards, including a the big 37-yarder late in the game. There were some bad keeps on the read-option by Wallace and Barry Brunetti, but the backs did not seem to be big in Freeze’s gameplan.
Tight Ends/ Wide Receivers: Jamal Mosley had a relatively quiet game, recording one catch for 3 yards, while missing a few blocks on the outside on screens and runs. Moncrief made up for his drop-turned-pick by catching six balls for 161 yards and a pair of scores. The sophomore was wide open more often than anticipated and if it were not for a few poor-touch throws by Wallace, his game could have been even bigger. Ja-Mes Logan and Vincent Sanders added 5 catches for 95 yards and are proving to be viable options for next week as well as 2013. The grade for this group would be higher if not for the costly fumble by Korvic Neat on a punt return.
Offensive Line: The line had a tough task, guarding a monstrous group of genetically-altered defenders, allowing just three sacks. Wallace had a lot of time to throw and his interceptions do not fall on the shoulders of the line, neither do the pair of sacks at the end of the game. Patrick Junen saw good playing time for Aaron Morris, a good sign as he will likely fill the void of AJ Hawkins next year. Pierce Burton committed a few dumb penalties that hurt the team, but the group has a lot to be proud of regarding Saturday.
It was a heart-breaking game that speaks to a few games this season. Texas, a highly hyped game, ends in a 35-point rout. Texas A&M, a few questionable play calls and some missed opportunities squander a 4th quarter lead. Georgia was outplayed and outmatched by the Rebels until a touchdown on 3rd-and-25 with three seconds left in the first half buried them. Vanderbilt took the lead late to beat the Rebels by a point, ripping the throats out of the near-sold out Vaught. The promise is there, the effort is there, and the talent is coming along, all-in-all this loss is a lost battle in a war that will swing in Freeze’s favor before anyone in the SEC sees it coming.