Gut Shot, Again

Contrary to popular belief, lightning does strike twice in the same place. For the second time this season, the Rebels had an opponent down late, late, late in the game only to lose. Texas A&M was the first one. Then a bolt from nowhere with Vandy pulling out a 27-26 victory on their last possession after trailing the whole game.

Once again, Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner and Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack showed up in the pres room after the 27-26 loss to Vanderbilt with an "I-can't-believe-that-just-happened-again" look on their faces.

They had felt this before, losing a late lead and the game to Texas A&M and now Vandy had done it to them again.

The Rebels won every statistical category - total yardage, time of possession, turnovers, third-down conversion, first downs - but lost the game.

Crushing.

"In the first half, we got of the field on a lot of third downs. In the second half, it didn't seem like we could get off the field on third downs for anything," said Wommack, visibly shaken. "This is a very disappointing game, and our execution on their last drive to win it was poor.

"A blown coverage for a touchdown killed us. We we called a three-by-one read coverage and the corner played cover two instead of thirds."

In the second half, WR Jordan Mathews became the virtually unstoppable thorn in the Rebs' side, ending with 9 catches for 153 yards and a TD after a relatively quiet first half.

"We knew they were going to throw to him and we had him double covered a different times. He beat us on double coverage twice," Dave stated. "That should not happen.

"We didn't execute well in the second half and they did. They made us pay when our execution got sloppy."

It's about making plays and the Rebs did not make them when it counted most.

"On their last drive, we had their QB trapped in the backfield on a fourth down and let him wiggle loose for the first down," said Dave. "We have to get to the point where if a play is there to be made, we have to make them.

"It's just disappointing because we missed a great opportunity to win out sixth game and get bowl eligible."

Wommack did not feel Vanderbilt did anything different in the second half.

"They just executed better and we didn't. We should have been off the field several times and just got outplayed," he continued. "We got burned on a switch route at the start of the second half that went for a TD against a new corner (Louis Covington).

"We've struggled in our secondary here lately. A few weeks ago, we had the secondary put together the best we could and then we had a few injuries that set us back, but I don't want to take anything away from Vandy."

Back to the drawing board.


Denzel Nkemdiche
Bruce Newman

"What is so disappointing is that these kids work so hard and this staff and these players want it so badly - maybe too badly, I don't know," he closed. "I know they won't quit. They will keep battling and they will keep learning.

"We will get back on the horse tomorrow and find a way to win these last two games. We've had two gut shots on this field this year, but we will find a way to overcome it and get it right. I believe that."

Werner seemed just as befuddled as Wommack.

"You can't swap sevens for threes that much. At halftime, we were concerned about getting down there and having to settle for field goals and it cost us as the end of the game when we could not punch it in," said Werner. "It came back to bite us.

"They were blitzing and we weren't doing a good job setting our protections the right way. That's on me."

The Rebels drove the ball into the Vandy Red Zone six times and had to settle for four field goals.

"We weren't having much success running the ball, but we were able to throw it pretty well, but that doesn't do you any good when you drive the ball deep down there and can't punch it in," he noted. "We have to figure out a way to run the ball more effectively.

"Vandy was run-blitzing most of the game and we just could not find a seam."

Werner's melancholy was warranted. The Rebs threw for over 400 yards and had no turnovers, but lost.

"Usually, when you have those kinds of stats you lose. That is what is depressing, but it was a depressing game," Dan said. "Our wideouts were making plays and Bo threw the ball well when he had time and in the scramble game, but it wasn't enough when you have to settle for three-pointers."

Werner believes the Rebels will bounce back, even though this is the second golden opportunity that has slipped through their grasp at home this year.

"They will come back and get after it tomorrow. It all filters down from the top and Coach Freeze is as good as I have ever been around when it comes to dealing with things like this," he closed. "He will get them going tomorrow and we, as a staff, will get them going.

"They will bounce back. They have too much character and work too hard not to."

But the second bolt of lightning in one year has to leave a mark.

The Rebs now have their hands full with no breathing room to get bowl eligible.

With two games left, one in Baton Rouge and one the Egg Bowl in Oxford, it's now or never for this team in the next two weeks.


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