Ugly As It Gets

OXFORD, Miss. -- Alabama is the best team in college football. There, I said it. The gap between the Crimson Tide and Ole Miss was obvious, even when the score was tied at 7-7.

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However, Ole Miss fans have the right to be upset. Not because of the predictably lopsided score. Not because Alabama, one of the top teams in the country at running the ball, ran all over one of the worst run-stopping defenses.

But because Ole Miss was embarrassed. At home. After a bye week. The final score read 52-7 when the clock mercifully struck zero Saturday night. By that point, Alabama fans outnumbered Ole Miss fans in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium 2-1. Those fans clad in red and blue had left midway through the third quarter.

Saturday's 45-point loss was the worst loss to Alabama since 1981.

"You don't like to get beat. Not like this," head coach Houston Nutt said postgame. "We got to do a great job of coaches to keep everything together, ‘cause if they listen to the guy next door at their apartment or duplex, they may be saying some things that may not be too good for them."

Ole Miss was going to lose this game. The Rebels were 28-point underdogs. They hadn't come close to winning either of their first two Southeastern Conference games. The only question was what the final score would be, not if there was going to be an out-of-the-blue upset.

Trent Richardson did this a lot Saturday, en route to 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns
Associated Press

But Nutt and staff had two weeks to prepare for Alabama. Ole Miss faithful showed up in droves despite the team's 2-3 record, which included a blowout loss to Vanderbilt and another to a mediocre BYU team in the season opener.

Ole Miss announced the fourth-largest crowd in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium history; a crowd of 61,792.

"We had a talk. We still as one," freshman wide receiver Tobias Singleton said. "Alabama is over. They've got a pretty good team. We're moving on to Arkansas now."

Ole Miss couldn't have played a better first quarter. There's the positive. The Rebels were in the position they'd hoped to be in. They had a chance to make a game of it. Really, they did.

From there, though, Ole Miss fell apart; not just on offense, mind you, but on defense as well. Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, had his way against a totally overmatched Ole Miss defense, and the defense got no help from an offense that gained zero (yes, ZERO) yards in the first half following a five-play, 72-yard scoring drive to open the game.

Actually, with 2:08 left in the third quarter, Ole Miss had gained a grand total of minus-3 yards since its opening drive. The Rebels trailed 45-7. The game only got worse from there. Alabama's third-string offense, led by some running back named Jalston Fowler, did damage against this defense, too. Even worse, Ole Miss still had the majority of its first stringers in.

For perspective: With 10:08 remaining in the game, Alabama held its final, 52-7 lead. Fowler had scored on a 69-yard run to cap a five-play, 98-yard drive. Men against boys. Nothing, at all, for the Rebels to hang their hat on.

Randall Mackey ran for his life. The running game never got going. It didn't have a chance to, honestly. Yes, Jeff Scott is fast. But Alabama is collectively faster defensively, and Ole Miss' much-maligned offensive line hasn't blocked much of anyone all season. Brandon Bolden was suspended.

Brassell had 101 receiving yards in the loss, including this 59-yard reception
Associated Press

Again, Ole Miss fans have a right to be upset. Ole Miss and Alabama are in totally different stratospheres. The Crimson Tide is barreling towards a national championship. Ole Miss is barreling towards a potentially disastrous season.

Arkansas rolls into Oxford next week with a potent offense. The Razorbacks are no Alabama on the ground, sure, but their passing attack is deadly, and Ole Miss just lost senior cornerback Marcus Temple for the year to a fractured ankle. Safety Charles Sawyer was hurt in the fourth quarter, though the severity of his injury is unknown.

The potential league wins left on the schedule -- Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State -- are all on the road. Vanderbilt, remember, beat Ole Miss 30-7 in its first conference road trip of the season. The wins just aren't there, especially when considering the humiliation Saturday.

"Right now, we're just going to move forward," Mackey said. "We're just going to put this game behind us and move forward."

There have to be changes made to this program at some point. Days like Saturday can't continue.

I would have loved to be near Pete Boone and Dan Jones in the third quarter. You know, when the stadium was emptying. If they weren't sweating before the game, they have to be sweating now. Nutt isn't alone in all of this. He deserves every bit of the heat he's receiving, but Boone and Jones deserve the same.

Ole Miss used to at least be a respectable program. Now it's the cellar-dwellar of the SEC. Vanderbilt is better. Mississippi State, right now, is better. There shouldn't be a planet-sized gap between Ole Miss and Alabama.

But there is.

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