FOOTBALL: Day after observations

A few notes and thoughts from Ole Miss’ 24-20 loss at No. 2 Alabama.

Do you sit Dexter McCluster? Maybe you sit him if he’s on your fantasy team, but he won’t be sitting anytime soon for Ole Miss. Rebels coach Houston Nutt said he didn’t see how he could sit him. Said he plays with his heart. Offensive coordinator Kent Austin says the idea is “crazy” and who would you play then? Lionel Breaux I say. Trust the depth and talent you say you have at wide receiver. I think it’s there.

I am not talking about sitting Dexter McCluster for three games. I’m talking about sitting him for a half. Let him see the game and get a feel for it much like you would do a player coming off the bench in basketball. Sometimes that helps, and frankly, Nutt and his staff are out of options in trying to help McCluster get past his turnovers. He has five on the season, three fumbles and two interceptions. The Rebels are 3-0 when he doesn’t turn it over and 0-4 when he does.

McCluster is a great player and a true weapon. He’s become the Rebels’ go-to guy on offense, but there are others you can go to, at least for a half.

You can talk, beg, plead and encourage players to hold on to the ball tighter, change arms when necessary and do the right things from a technique standpoint.

But nothing speaks to players like playing time.

Not much Hardy: I didn’t check Greg Hardy specifically, but the CBS guys were saying that some sort of special shoes he plays with because of the foot injury didn’t make the trip. Don’t know if it’s Hardy’s responsibility or someone else’s to pack the shoes. Most likely it’s not his job. Hardy played early and had a sack on Alabama’s first possession. He was in the game late too and came up from one play limping.

Defensive line play: Given the state of the Rebels’ secondary strong pass rush will always be a must. This bunch was better than it was against South Carolina. Alabama QB John Parker Wilson was sacked twice, and the Rebels were credited with three hurries. There were probably more than that. Peria Jerry was credited with the other sack. He also had seven tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pressure. Ted Laurent had four tackles, half a tackle for loss.

Alabama had its lowest rushing output of the season with 107 net yards. Mark Ingram had 73 on 17 for the Tide and Glen Coffee, the SEC’s second-leading rusher, had 52 on 13. Those aren’t terrible numbers, but it’s less than those two expect. Alabama got in its licks but certainly didn’t control the game on the ground.

Secondary play: Wilson passed for 219 yards and had completions of 40 and 30 yards. The first one was when Marshay Green never turned around. The second was a touchdown to Mike McCoy on a flea flicker when both Kendrick Lewis and Cassius Vaughn were step for step with the Tide receiver. Wilson threw a perfect pass just over the top of both and right into the hands of McCoy. In the third quarter Lewis had an interception, the fourth of the year for the Rebels, on a ball thrown right down the middle of the field by Wilson, one of his few bad passes.

Snead’s day: A good second half for Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead. He was 11-for-21 for 154 yards then with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge.

Snead was really good in the second half, twice escaping pressure for big gains on the final drive. He had a nice pick-up on a quarterback draw on the Rebels’ first possession of the second half.

He also had the interception, at least one a game, and while McCluster’s fumble sticks in your mind because it was recovered by Alabama, Snead had a fumble that was recovered by teammate Darryl Harris.

All in all a good day for a good quarterback who is getting better against a very strong defense, the best the Rebels have seen this year.

— PA

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