FOOTBALL: Day After Observations

A few notes and observations from Ole Miss’ 31-24 loss to South Carolina.

That six straight SEC losses at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium if you’re scoring at home. It’s getting quite a familiar scene there in the southeast corner where opposing players come over, stop in front of their band, hug with their fans, sway to the fight song and alma mater and then go get cleaned up.

I thought Steve Spurrier and his offensive staff made the necessary adjustments to protect Chris Smelley as the game wore on. Sometimes that was with max protection, meaning Smelley had fewer targets, but they got open and he found them any way.

The South Carolina offensive line had previously struggled with protection.

Ole Miss’ vaunted defensive line didn’t get the pass pressure it must have to carry a suspect secondary. Rebels coach Houston Nutt was not pleased with some timely runs the Gamecocks were able to pull off, but the defense held South Carolina to 111 rushing yards before the sack yardage was figured in. After sacks, the Gamecocks had 78 yards on 35 attempts for 2.2 yards per carry.

Half-way through the season, pass coverage is what it is. There are no tricks in the bag for Tryone Nix, no players to come off the bench and get it done. Perhaps that will be Ohio State transfer James Scott next year. For now, Nix says all he can do is coach his players and try to get better in practice.

It wasn’t such a matter of Ole Miss not handling South Carolina’s defensive adjustments in the second half as it was lack of Ole Miss execution. On the Rebels’ first possession they ran six plays before Dexter McCluster fumbled at the 6, and it was returned to the Ole Miss 42. On their second possession they drove across mid-field and punted. The third possession, the last of any consequence, resulted in a field goal. The problem in the second half was the inability to take the ball from South Carolina which held the ball for 17 minutes, 26 seconds of quarters 3 and 4.

It’s an unusual situation the Rebels face right now of having their best offensive players also be their worst ball-protectors. Jevan Snead is good for at least a turnover a game. You might be able to overcome that until you add in the fact that McCluster is good for at least a turnover a game as well.

I remind myself that Snead is in his first year of extensive play. Basically, so is McCluster, who was hurt the vast majority of his freshman season and much of his early sophomore season. In neither season did he have an offense so innovative as to get him the touches he’s getting right now.

That at doesn’t give them an excuse for turnovers. Young players are frequently called on to be major contributors and manage to do so without fumbling or throwing picks.

The irony in the turnover deal is that the backs have handled it pretty well. Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden haven’t laid it on the carpet much, I think maybe once for Eason.

In August I counted the South Carolina game as a must-win for Ole Miss’ bowl considerations. That’s less the case now, because I’ve seen an offense that can move the ball and score against the SEC’s best defenses. Florida and South Carolina are not only among the league’s best but the nation’s best, and the Rebels have had success on offense.

Ole Miss may only win another game or two, however, if it doesn’t get a handle on this turnover problem.

— PA


4 Responses to “FOOTBALL: Day After Observations”

  1. rebnutt Says:

    The dropped pass in the 2nd half cost a TD as well. One area I was surprised in though was on our drive that resulted in our FG in the 4th Q–why were we not in some type of hurry-up offense? It was pitiful to watch us eat up so much of the clock, when we obviously had to score twice. Folks in the stands were hollering,”Hurry up!”, but we ate up somewhere near 4 minutes or more. To me, that’s a coaching error. Finally, when we’re inside the 10 from now on, hopefully they will not try Dexter up the middle–I know he got us there, but Bolden or someone else are more able to take the big inside hits or strips.

  2. djrebel Says:

    Yeah, it looked like they could have been faster at that time. I’ll have to ask on that. I agree on Dexter. I’d be careful before giving it to him inside the 10 in the near future, though yesterday’s fumble was a pass reception inside the 10 on a play that began at the 16.

    — PA

  3. oxfordrebel Says:

    All you have to do is run a bootleg out of the I-form within the 10. I have faith enough in Jevan to deliver in that situation. No need to risk the run so much when we’re having these turnover issues.

  4. PBeez Says:

    I am so glad I didn’t pay to see to these game on GamePlan. I want us to be good so badly, and every time I get my hopes up . . .
    This goes double for my first love, NC State. So between the school of my youth and the school of my degrees (Ole Miss) I am having one heart break of a year. All I can hope for is that both these new coaches get things turned around.
    And for goodness sakes, we pull the up set in T-town. Oh, how sweet that would be. I take us loosing the rest of the year if we beat Bama.

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