Hot Potato

The game was tied. Ole Miss had possession. Just over three minutes remained in the fourth quarter, the Rebels handed a golden opportunity for a season-defining win.

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Nothing. Nada. Zip. Thirty-four seconds, not a single yard gained.

Texas A&M held Ole Miss to a three-and-out in what would be the Rebels' final offensive series on Saturday. After an Ole Miss punt, reigning Heisman winner and current Heisman favorite Johnny Manziel promptly led the Aggies down the field for a game-winning, 33-yard field goal.

Final: Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38. And questions. Oh, the questions. Those final three plays have since been debated ad nauseam on message boards and social media, much of the criticism surrounding play one, a forced pass to freshman tight end Evan Engram.

Critical in the defining drive, however, was a dropped second-down pass by senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan. A catch, had he held on, would have meant a first down. "Should've made the play," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We didn't."

Instead, quarterback Bo Wallace threw three straight incompletions, leaving plenty of time for Manziel and Co. to operate.

Logan's drop was but the latest in what has become a recurring problem for the Ole Miss wideouts. Maybe, collectively, Logan and junior all-league performer Donte Moncrief and junior Vincent Sanders are dealing with a case of the yips.

At least, that's Freeze's theory.

"It's something sort of like if you had a case of the shanks in golf," Freeze, an avid golfer, said. "You don't want to talk about it a lot. That's kind of the same way."

Donte Moncrief has had his share of drops, too
USA TODAY images

In the Rebels' loss to Auburn two weeks ago, Ole Miss wide receivers were credited with at least six drops, including one by Sanders. Sanders rebounded for three catches, 90 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Texas A&M.

"Man, I wish I knew," Freeze said of the drops. "To explain exactly why it's happening, I really don't have the explanation."

"As a receiver, we can't think about a drop because we're only going to drop the next one," Sanders said. "We just put it behind us and make the next catch."

Wallace said the dropped passes haven't affected his confidence when delivering the ball. He doesn't think twice. For him, little or nothing has changed. He has faith in a group that, entering the season, was widely considered the strength of the Ole Miss offense.

"Just got to keep giving them the rock," Wallace said. "I know they're going to come down with it. When they drop the football, I can't get on to them, I've just got to pick them up."

Freeze has experienced such struggles before. In 2007, the final season of Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, he acted as wide receivers coach.

Current Miami Dolphin Mike Wallace was one of his pupils. Wallace finished that year top-10 in the SEC in receiving yards. Freeze also coached Shay Hodge, who later became Ole Miss' first 1,000-yard receiver, and Dexter McCluster, who went on to become the first player in SEC history with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

"My last year here, I was the receivers coach. We had a phenomenal year catching the football until the last game," Freeze said. "All of the sudden, we had three or four critical drops in that game. I can't tell you why. I can't explain it. We hadn't really had any of that all year."

There is no miracle cure for drops, Freeze said. No magical elixir. Just practice, really. Practice.

"You want to work on it," he said, "and we'll get them more on the jugs machine and continue to throw and catch and run routes vs. air. But they've happened at some bad times for us."

Like a possible game-turning, second-down, would-be catch on Saturday.

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