Jimmy, Crack Corn

I'm not a good loser. Never have been, never will be. I pout like a second-grader getting recess taken away when the Rebs lose, but, boys and girls, I'm not pouting this morning.

It sounds lame, I know, goodness help me, I know, when someone says, "there's more to athletics than winning."

On the lame scale, it's about a 9.9, especially after you lose.

The soul-gnawing, the replaying, the tossing and turning in the night, the countless what-ifs, the would've-could've-should've laments - they all take a piece of your competitive heart when you put everything you've got into something and come up short.

But when the hurt dissipates a hair, what's left can be, if you let it, uplifting.

That's the route I will take this week after watching our Rebels battle tooth-and-nail against a Top 10 opponent in LSU only to fall 41-35 in the last minute.

Even though the end result was the same, this one didn't feel like the loss to Vanderbilt just a week before. We lost the game to the Dores; LSU took this one from a team that had enough in the tank to go toe-to-toe with them for 58 minutes but just didn't have the juice the last two.

The Tigers - until the end - didn't receive any quarter. They could not impose their will on the Rebels. If anything, for most of the game, the Rebels imposed their will on them.

Looking back, it was a strange week leading up to the game.

Some fans were intimating the beat up, bruised and tired Rebels should save the hobbled and gear up for the Egg Bowl. After all, they were 20-point dogs to the mighty Tigers and they couldn't pull that off anyway, right? Hell, the thought crossed my mind a time or two, to be honest.

The coaches and players were having none of that.

They went into Baton Rouge short of manpower, but not of heart and character.

They went into one of the most hostile football environments in the country with one thing on their minds - winning.

In the end, they just did not have enough ammo, but they had plenty of desire, plenty of belief and plenty of guts.

The leader of the pack - Hugh Freeze - showed steel all night - going for, and making, a couple of game-changing fourth downs; never taking his foot off the accelerator, even when conventional wisdom might have suggested otherwise; and showing a vaunted Tiger defense the Rebs were going to attack to the tune of 35 points and 463 yards, the most LSU has given up all year. (22 points allowed was their previous high.)

The offense was led by a quarterback, one Bo Wallace, playing with half a wing and the courage of a hyena pilfering a meal from a lion. Bo's numbers were not real good, but he made plays, big plays. As a teammate, if you can't follow that kid, you have no pulse. Guts beget guts.

For most of the night, the injury-riddled defense had answers too. It's easy to forget that a couple of Rebel turnovers gave the Tigers short fields that only produced field goals because our defense knuckled down. It's easy to forget the defense forced three turnovers, one a pick in the Rebel end zone. It's easy to forget that DE C.J. Johnson, S Trae Elston, DT Issac Gross, CB Charles Sawyer, CB Senquez Golson, CB Wesley Pendleton and more were either sidelined or playing at about 80% of full capacity.

It's easy to forget the catch 22 the coaches are in with special teams. How many snaps can a kid stand? Who can fill in here and not get us beat? Can we do it this way and not deplete our offense or defense? Can we give up skill for being fresh? With limited depth, those decisions become a crap shoot and often there are no answers.

It's easy to forget, but shouldn't be.

So let's get to the lick log. Let's air this out.

Here's my bottom line, take it or leave it.

I couldn't be prouder of a coaching staff or team than I am right now.

To be disappointed is the right reaction; to be mad is overkill.

All I have ever asked of any Rebel team is to give what you've got, all of what you've got.

This team has only failed to do that once all year - the Texas game, a game they were just not far enough along to handle in many ways.

In 10 other outings, they have given us every ounce they have. There have been good decisions, bad decisions, good plays, bad plays, smart plays, bonehead plays, great calls and questionable calls.

But there has never been a lack of effort. There has never been a lack of heart. There has never been a question of character and want-to. There has never been a hint of "bad moves" in Freeze's process he talks about.

And all of that was on display in Baton Rouge yesterday. Just ask the LSU Tigers - they'll tell you.

If you can't embrace this team, then there is little hope for us in the future, a future that is as promising as I could have imagined nearly a year ago when Freeze was hired to start clearing this path.

Yep, it's lame as lame can be to say there is more to athletics than winning, but sometimes it's true.

Yesterday was one of those times.

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