Sept 15, 2012; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Randall Mackey (1) changes direction and loses his footing while being defended by Texas Longhorns linebacker Dalton Santos (55) during the game at Vaught Hemingway Stadium. Texas Longhorns defeated the Mississippi Rebels 66-31. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Famed author Charles Dickens once wrote a book called A Tale Of Two Cities. A major theme of the novel was “Darkness vs. Light”, something that greatly resembles the Ole Miss offense’s performance against #14 Texas in Saturday’s 66-31 defeat. The “Darkness” was an offensive that alloted five sacks and was picked off three times. The “Light” is the fact that the Rebels averaged 5.0 YPC and scored 31 points on a top 30 defense.
The game proved that while Hugh Freeze’s system may work, the Rebels just do not have the talent to compete with the elite. The Longhorn defense seemed to pick and choose when they wanted to blow by the offensive line, a concerning reality for the coaching staff. Texas just seemed to be faster, stronger, and more athletic. Blaming the game plan, hustle, or effort would be negligent. Texas is simply better than Ole Miss, and it showed.
Quarterback: Bo Wallace went from the talk of the town to the goat of the town in a week’s time. Wallace was lauded for his decision making and maturity after last week’s game against UTEP. After his showing against Texas, he was the prelude to every swear word that can be imagined. Wallace was 13-24 for 178 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. All three Wallace interceptions turned into Texas touchdowns, including a 22 yard pick-six to give Texas the 7-0 lead. With 3:01 to play in the 1st quarter, Wallace had as many interceptions as he had passing yards, one. Coming into the week as the SEC’s leader in rushing yards for a quarterback, Wallace ran for just 8 yards on 12 carries. To be fair, playing one of the most storied programs in the country for your third start is a tough task. What is even tougher is doing it while running for your life.
Running Backs: One bright spot for Ole Miss was the play of the running backs, who rushed for 137 yards on 18 carries. Jeff Scott led the way with 95 yards, following up his stellar performance against UTEP with another great game. Randall Mackey added 22 yards, assimilating into a smaller role now that Scott is healthy. Scott and Mackey were shifty and cut back well against the defense, recording a touchdown apiece. Freshmen I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton combined for 20 yards, but it was the upper-classmen who stole the show out of the backfield. After a suspect Week 1, it is good to see the unit continuing it’s production.
Tight Ends/Receivers: Despite their best effort, Donte Moncrief was able to have his way with the UT secondary. The sophomore caught seven passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, his third in as many games. Moncrief ran a variety of routes and had precise cuts all night. He was the primary receiver for Wallace and made a couple of key plays along the sideline. Korvic Neat had an up-and-down day with the “up” being a 30 yard receptions across the middle to put Ole Miss deep in Texas territory and the “down” being a pair of drops. As is customary, the rest of the corp proved to be pedantic, catching just six balls for 28 yards. It has long been yesterday’s news, but someone else has to step up in the passing game.
Offensive Line: I hate to be the one who makes “offense looks offensive” jokes, so I will move on. The offensive line was abysmal. Reigning SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week AJ Hawkins had a false start and personal foul penalty. Evan Swindall had a personal foul penalty of his own to bring the total to 35 penalty yards off the Rebel “o-line”. Alex Okafor beat Pierce Burton for a pair of sacks, two of the five that Ole Miss allowed on the day. Wallace was running for his life and never really had time in the pocket. Texas brought good heat off the outside and changed up their blitzing schemes, baffling the line most of the night. It is quite possible that fans were able to see “14” imprinted into the ground from as far up as the cheap seats.
There was a lot of post game griping in the Grove, replacing new-found-swagger with old-news-self-degradation. That is utter disrespect for what this football team did on the field. They played hard, they grinded it out, and unlike years past, they did not give up when they were taking a beating.
Freeze and his team love their fans and it is time that their fans give their everlasting love in return. Is it hard to exonerate them from this 35-point-defeat? For some, yes. The problem with that is the “woe is me” attitude is what helped lose 18 games over the last two seasons. Chin up Rebel fans, things are moving in the right direction. The sun will shine, the band will play, and the ghosts of blowouts past will whither away. With the kind of effort the team is putting forth and the effectiveness of Freeze’s offense, today’s A Tale of Two Cities will be tomorrow’s Great Expectations.