FOOTBALL: Day After Observations

Looks like we’ve had some technical difficulties on the website end. I’ll try to get our print edition coverage posted later today.

As he did with his first open date, Houston Nutt is having his Monday presser today. I’ll have some notes posted in the afternoon.

In the meantime, here are a few day-after observations as Ole Miss fans awaken to the surreal feeling that their team is in bowl contention for the first time since Eli was a senior.

Speaking of quarterbacks: Jevan Snead was not on top of his game yesterday but was outstanding in one key area — He did not throw an interception. First time that’s happened since the opener against Memphis. Snead also did not fumble, which he’s done a couple of times, but that hasn’t been nearly the problem the picks have.

Snead was only 15-for-30 and missed some open receivers that could have resulted in big gains. But through the course of the day he also was good on some key passes. The potential for a big play with Snead, or for him to work himself out of a slump, is far better than it’s been with recent quarterback play.

With two touchdown passes and no interceptions, Snead is finally moving his season touchdown total slightly ahead of his season picks. He’s got 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions for the season.

Winning with one hand tied behind your back: It’s not easy to win in the SEC when you’re not playing your best. The fact that Ole Miss won with an average day from Snead is further testament to how far this team has come.

It’s also further testament to what a team can accomplish when it wins the turnover battle. A plus-3 margin in a game was a season-high for Ole Miss.

I don’t think the Rebels would have won, however, if they’d have played sub-par on the defensive line. I thought in August the DL would be the strength of this team. It has played out that way, and that bunch is getting great leadership from Peria Jerry.

Ole Miss controlled Auburn with its defensive front. What a monster first half from Kentrell Lockett. He finished with seven tackles, and it seemed like he got short-changed on his 2 1/2 tackles for loss. That helped to overcome an average secondary and helped that secondary make plays with three interceptions.

Run game coming on: The Rebels have had a finesse offensive line this season, but they’ve really begun to be more physical the last several weeks. There were signs in the Alabama game and even more signs last week at Arkansas, but to run for 233 yards against a pretty good Auburn front was really impressive.

This was done basically without the assistance of the Wild Rebel, which has been deemphasized in the last two games.

The Wild Rebel was really why the Rebels had decent rush numbers over the first half of the season. Now they’re getting it done at the line of scrimmage.

Nice game for junior tailback Cordera Eason, who had his first 100-yard game with 104 yards on 14 carries. He’s protected the ball really well this season, and that was a knock against him in August. Eason has now rushed for 185 yards on 33 carries over his last two games.

Eason has really come on of late. He’d have come on earlier if he’d have been properly managed by the previous administration.

No one thought redshirt sophomore Derrick Davis, a teammate of Eason’s at Meridian High, would figure into the run game much once the freshmen arrived, and that has proven true, but what a huge catch for Davis on the 3-yard touchdown late to provide much-needed breathing room.

Credit Nutt and Kent Austin for that call and execution. They trusted a guy with some ability enough to create a play for him, guessing correctly that because he’d been used so little, he’d be overlooked when he went into the game. When the motion went left, Davis was wide open releasing to the right.

What’s up now? It’s not a bad time for an open date. Some guys who are playing hurt have time to heal, and the Rebels follow the open date with my alma mater, La.-Monroe. It’s a game they should win, but it was a game Alabama should have won in Tuscaloosa but didn’t last year.

No team should be taken for granted, and Ole Miss is certainly capable of losing that game if it reverts to old ball-handling habits.

This team, though, should become eligible with its sixth win against the Indian/Warhawks.

That would have Ole Miss going for its seventh win in Baton Rouge. Maybe by that time Greg Hardy’s foot will be strong enough for him to have a presence. Hardy didn’t play yesterday and was the first Ole Miss player off the field, skipping a live, raucous postgame celebration that most of his teammates — maybe all of them — hung around for.

Ole Miss has shown it can compete and win in tough road environments this year.

If the Rebels become bowl eligible against ULM, then get a win at LSU, they’ll be moving up the bowl ladder and at that point would be playing themselves into Cotton Bowl contention.

— PA

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