Better, But Not Good Enough

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Rebels had their moments - good and bad - against Alabama in Saturday night's 33-14 loss. The Rebel coordinators saw both sides of the coin.

Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner stood stoic in front of a handful of reporters after the 33-14 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa Saturday night.

"I can't argue with the effort our kids gave, but we had way too many negative plays and didn't stay on schedule often enough to win this game," said Werner. "When we were good on first down, we moved the ball against a team nobody drives on.

"When we got in third-and-long, we didn't do a good job. I have to do a better job with our quarterbacks on decision-making and we have to work on our passing game, period."

When the Rebels were in long yardage, particularly in the second quarter, the result was either an interception or an incompletion most of the time.

"Right now, we're not very good throwing the football when everyone knows it's coming. We have to work on that and get better doing that," Werner continued. "Ideally, we need to stay out of third-and-long. When we did tonight, we put together two really good drives against a defense that just doesn't give up many sustained marches.

"The bottom line is that we proved we can do it against anyone, we just have to become more consistent, make better decisions and take care of the ball better."

Once again, the turnover bug - this time three interceptions, all in the second quarter - crippled the Rebs' chances.

"One was a poor decision, one Bo (Wallace) got hit just as he was throwing which is a protection breakdown and the third one was we put Randall Mackey out there and he threw it up to see if a our guy could make a play and it just didn't happen," Werner said. "If we can eliminate some mistakes, we can move the ball. We proved that against Texas and we proved it again tonight with some shining moments. Those two defenses are as good as anyone, but at the same time, they gain so much momentum off your mistakes, you just can't feed the monster like that.

Randall Mackey
Bruce Newman

"Some of this stuff is on us as coaches. We haven't done a good enough job getting some points across."

How will the Rebel coaches attack the turnover issue without turning it into a mental problem to the point where the players lose their aggressiveness?

"We'll teach off it in a positive way, but the problem we've got now is that it's not just one thing. It might be a pass protection problem, or a decision problem or an execution problem, so you don't know what to hone in on other than overall ball security and the emphasis of the value of the ball," he said. "That's on us. We have to make sure we call the right plays to help these guys out too."

Alabama tried to take away WR Donte Moncrief and did a pretty good job of it by limiting him to two catches for 37 yards, but Vince Sanders took up the slack with seven catches for 46 yards.

"Donte got extra attention tonight, but we were able to go to Vincent and Ja-Mes (Logan) and do some good things with them," Werner said.

One area Werner was proud of was how physical the Rebels played against a team whose benchmark is being physical.

"We're getting better with that. I think our guys showed tonight they're ready to stand toe-to-toe with anyone. We won't face a better defense and our guys didn't back down a bit," he added. "We'll watch the film, build and clean things up. If we can gain some consistency, we'll be hard to stop. I know that in my heart."

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack also had some things to say, but it was tempered with some not so good as well.

"We played extremely hard and physical. Alabama didn't run over us and they run over a lot of people. I'm disappointed because our guys are heartbroken," Wommack said. "We've gotten better and I want our kids to walk out of here with their heads held high, but as coaches we have to do some things better as well to give them a better chance on third down.

"We gang-tackled and have improved our tackling. We're doing a better job of seeing things, putting our eyes in the right places and not taking false steps. If we continue to do that, we'll be OK."

The Rebel defense held Alabama to just 305 yards and only 125 yards on the ground, a ground attack that is known for chewing defenses up and spitting them out.

"We did a real good job against a very good run team, but we couldn't get ourselves off the field. We were trying some things with our safeties that didn't work on some short crossing routes that hurt us," he said.

Senquez Golson
US Presswire

"Alabama did a nice job of adjusting to what we were doing, so I give them some credit, but we could have put our guys in better positions at times on third down."

Wommack said two players stood out to him - OLB Denzel Nkemdiche and FS Cody Prewitt.

"They were aggressive and they had their name called a lot tonight. I keep forgetting how young they are because they're starting to play older," he noted.

Wommack said it's hard to say it when you give up 26 points on defense (seven were on a kickoff return), but he felt the Rebel defense got better.

"We were locked in and playing physical. We hit them hard and took the fight to them," he closed. "This is a game we can build on. We were embarrassed by our performance against Texas, but tonight was nothing like that.

"Tonight showed we're getting closer. Our thing is to improve each week and I think we're doing that. The kids are locked in and listening. They're working hard, I'm proud of them and I love them. We'll get there."

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