Tale Of Two Halves

OXFORD, Miss. -- The Rebs fell to Arkansas 29-24 after leading at the intermission 17-7 after, arguably, their best first half of the year. What went wrong after halftime? The Reb coordinators give their answers.

Ole Miss controlled the football for nearly 23 minutes, to Arkansas' 7, in the first half.

The offense had the Hogs off-balance and rolled up 250 yards. The defense had only one blemish on their worksheet, a 52 yard TD run on a 3rd-and-13 by the Hogs.

"It was as good as we have played all year," said Offensive Coordinator David Lee. "We had their defense reeling. We were running the ball, which set up a lot of things for us. We were executing. . . . "

His voice trailed off, most likely because his thoughts shifted from the nearly-flawless first half to the second half - most notably the third quarter - when the Rebs, frankly, looked like a different offense.

"Arkansas did a great job of shutting down our running game. We had an excellent flow in the first half because of our run game," he explained. "Arkansas adjusted by running an end up the field and cutting off a play that had worked for us in the first half.

Joel Kight, sans helmet
Bruce Newman

"We were making our adjustments on the fly and really didn't get everything ironed out until we got into the fourth quarter. I should have gotten to teh inside power quicker than I did."

In the fourth quarter, Quarterback Randall Mackey basically put the Rebel offense on his back and started carrying it back into a rhythm.

Macky ended up 18-30 for 219 yards and two TDs with an interception on the next-to-the-last play of the game.

"Randall's in the locker room crying his eyes out right now. He is such a competitor and he plays so hard," noted Lee. "He made some good decisions. The only thing we need him to do is throw the ball away more when he's facing a sack, but that comes from playing and from experience.

"He made some exceptional plays under duress, especially late in the game when we were making a comeback. On our last touchdown before the onside kick, he handled that situation beautifully. We went to the line with two plays both times and he ended up throwing a TD pass to Donte (Moncrief) off a read he made."

After the Rebs covered the ensuing onside kick and completed a pass, there was a great deal of hope on the Rebel sidelines, but then things fell apart.

"We struggled at the end because there were plays I wanted, but I couldn't get the proper personnel in the game," Lee stated. "We had no timeouts and did the best we could with some stuff we call 'last play.' The post drag worked, but the other games didn't."

Even though the Rebs lost, Lee wanted to point out two more players, both freshmen, who had very good days.

"Donte Moncrief caught two TD passes and five passes overall. Nick Brassell caught 8 passes for 70 yards and rushed the ball 5 times for 17 yards. Bot those kids played their hearts out and Nick also did double duty on defense," said Lee. "They are special."

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix had a similar fate as the offense - a poor third quarter which led to 20 unanswered points by the Hogs.

Donte Moncrief stripped
Bruce Newman

"In the first half, we got off the field, except for one run where Arkansas made a great call and we were in the wrong personnel. You certainly expect a pass on 3rd-and-13, but in that game of cat and mouse, they won that one," Nix stated.

But in the second half, or really the third quarter, the roof caved in.

"We had essentially stopped their passing game in the first half so in the third quarter, they went more to the run. We saw it coming, but we didn't do a good job of handling it," Tyrone continued. "Our kids kept competing, but they hit us with a long screen pass that set up a score and let them gain the momentum.

"When they got the momentum, we let them take control and didn't finish. We continued to fight and finally righted the ship somewhat - forcing a turnover deep in our territory and forcing a punt or two, but by then it was 29-17."

There was also the matter of not being able to get to Hog QB Tyler Wilson effectively.

"A couple of times, we had pressure dialed up and didn't get there. That hurt," Nix said. "We had a lot of positives today, mainly that we kept fighting to the end, but we did not do a good job in that third quarter when we let them get into a rhythm and gain the momentum."

On Nix's list of positives was the play of the younger guys who have been thrust into duty due to some injuries.

"C.J. Johnson, Carlos Thompson, Keith Lewis, Senquez Golson, Serderius Bryant, Carlton Martin, Bryon Bennett, Nick Brassell - a lot of our guys who are in their first year of playing, held up well for the most part," he said. "I was very pleased with the way they competed.

"We took some bad angles a couple of times and did some rookie things, but overall I couldn't ask them to play any harder and, for much of the game, they were effective. They are headed in the right direction, they just have to gain some more consistency and do the little things right as they play more and more."

Charles Sawyer switched from safety to corner and gained kudos from Nix.

"I can't remember a ball being caught on his, really. Charles was very good, but where it hurt us is that we didn't have any safety depth," Nix added.

Besides the 52-yard run in the first half, the play that irked Nix the most was the long screen-and-run to Joe Adams that set up a score.

"We were much better on third down (4-13) and the call on the big run in the first half was just a great call, but we should have gotten that screen on the ground quicker," Nix assessed. "That screen was nothing new. We had worked that, but we missed some tackles on that play we shouldn't have.

"Overall, we have to coach better and we have to play better, but we made strides today. I was proud of the kids except. . . "

The exception was part of the tale of two halves.

The exception was the third quarter.

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