Hard To Swallow

Ole Miss had this one in their grasp, but could not close the deal. Texas A&M defeated the Rebels 41-38 on a last-second field goal, leaving the Ole Miss coordinators with yet another sinking feeling.

All the Rebels had to do was dot the 'i' and cross the 't', it seemed, and a win over a Top 10 program was in hand.

But it just didn't happen, as a second-half rally, that produced a 38-31 Rebel lead over Texas A&M with just 6:05 remaining in the game, just did not hold up and the Rebs fell 41-38 to the visiting Aggies.

"Coach (Hugh) Freeze talked to the team today and his main message was to get to the fourth quarter with a chance to win," said QBs coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner. "We were right there and had a shot to win it, but it didn't work out the way we had hoped.

"In the end, we didn't make enough plays when they counted the most."

The Rebels did not get into an offensive rhythm in the first half, scoring only 10 points, but in the second half, the Ole Miss offense hit its stride for the first time since the second half of the Texas game.

"We started playing with more confidence. The last two games, some things didn't click for us and we seemed to lose our edge," said Werner. "Tonight, we had some things click and you could tell the guys felt they were going to score every time they touched the ball.

"It was good to see that come back around after two tough offensive weeks against Alabama and Auburn. We needed something good to spark us and got that tonight."

One major spark was provided by backup QB Barry Brunetti, who had a bum shoulder against Auburn the week before and was held out of his usual role.

I'Tavius Mathers
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Brunetti threw for two scores and rushed for 24 more yards on five carries. Mixing him and Bo Wallace at QB turned out to be the catalyst the Rebels were looking for.

"I was so happy for Barry. He's been through a lot since he's been here. We had a nice package for him and he executed it very well," Werner stated. "He ahd two great throws on those TDs and gave us a needed spark."

The Rebels were without starting TB Jeff Scott, who is suffering from a deep thigh bruise. Jeff started the game, but could not go.

"He's our starter, so you lose something, but I thought the other guys stepped in and did a nice job. We were moving the ball, we just did not move it when we needed it most," stated Werner.

When we needed it the most, refers to the Rebs' last possession, a three-and-out with roughly three minutes to go in the game.

The Aggies stacked the box, forcing the pass and the Rebs had three incompletions in a row.

"We felt like we were on a roll and with the defense A&M was playing, we felt like we'd have open receivers. Obviously, it didn't work out," he noted. "We had our chances, it just didn't pan out.

"We made the right decisions, we just did not complete the passes for one reason or another. We've had some crucial drops here in the last couple of games, but those kids are good and Grant Heard does a good job with them. He will get them right. Drops happen, on every level. Ours have just come at the wrong times here lately."

Werner figured the game would come down to whoever had the ball last. He was just hoping it would be the Rebels.

"There's a reason Johnny Manziel is the only freshman to ever win the Heisman. We felt like we had to score on that last possession," he closed. "When we had the 38-31 lead, we had to keep the mindset of scoring more.

"You had to figure he would score again, and he did."

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack felt the defensive plan going in to the game was a good one, but he could not foresee the rash of injuries that would take place.

Johnny Manziel
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"We knew Johnny Manziel was going to make plays. He's the hardest guy I have ever tried to scheme and defend," said Wommack. "We had a good plan going in, but when we lost Mike (Hilton), who was spying on Manziel, and Robert Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant, it just showed us what we knew all along, we don't quite have the depth we need to see ourselves through that kind of situation.

"I think that showed glaringly at times. I hate it for these kids, because they gave us everything they had. I still love them and it hurts really bad, but we just have to keep on keeping on. We have a lot of football left to play."

At the end of the game, with several starters on the bench banged up, Wommack had to shift gears.

"With them on the bench, it took us out of three of our personnel packages, but I don't want to make excuses," Wommack continued. "He is a great player and he made some great plays, no matter who was out there.

"He made all the key plays."

Moving forward, depth, particularly at defensive end, is getting critical.

"We are going to keep competing and fighting, but what we have is what we have," he explained. "We will keep fighting and these kids will keep giving us everything they have, we just need to get some guys well in a hurry.

"We were really good in the spring in stopping the run and were struggling in the secondary, but I think our secondary, overall, has come around some, but now we have some key guys up front hurt," he said. "It's football, it's part of it. We just have to keep going."

Derrick Jones got his first start. Wommack's assessment?

"He made some freshmen mistakes, but he's a competitor and he doesn't back down from anything. He's going to special here," noted Wommack. "He's really progressed and we think we did the right thing by taking the redshirt off. This experience will pay dividends for the rest of the season and down the road."

Back to Manziel.

"It's not your normal passing game with him in there. He can just buy so much time. It is very difficult to plaster to receivers that long and he's really good when he throws on the run," Wommack said. "He's the most difficult guy I have ever tried to defense.

"He stretches and spreads the field so much. If you could double a receiver here and there or play base against him, you might be OK, but you can't. We used three man rush and a spy, four man rush and a spy, and five man rush with a spy and he beat them all when he needed to."

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