COLUMN: Unexpected Carryover?

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Three weeks including a 48-0 win over Presbyterian, an open date and another week of preparation for Arkansas. It was almost as if the surreal moment that was the end of the loss to Auburn on Nov. 1 had some carryover. Extended carryover. Massive carryover.

Perhaps that’s a stretch, but my goodness, the first quarter, the first half, the third quarter, of Ole Miss’ lopsided loss to the Razorbacks here surely felt like an extension of that bitter instant for the Rebels.

They just could do no right. The Razorbacks seemingly no wrong.

Bo Wallace was sent to the locker room with an injured ankle, although he returned before halftime. Even with the missed time to check out the injury, he had four turnovers before the end of the third quarter.

Wallace is a proven winner, having led Ole Miss to three bowl seasons. But he will want to forever forget about this one.

Arkansas lost its starting quarterback, Brandon Allen, to injury after he had led his team to a 17-0 lead. Allen would not return to the game. Ultimately there was no need. Arkansas just let Brandon’s little brother, Austin, take over the rest of the way.

Three first-half turnovers by the Rebels. Terrible field position until they were down 17-0. That was actually the score by the end of the first quarter.

So now two consecutive conference losses after a perceived shot at advancing to Atlanta for the title game and maybe more. To this ugly, ugly loss at Razorback Stadium.

Giving thanks this week by Ole Miss people will have to be for something other than recent football.

This doesn’t change the ultimate goal of the Battle for the Golden Egg, which is winning the game. But it basically changes everything else for Ole Miss.

What was once both Mississippi teams trying for ultimate gridiron glory and a championship season is now reserved for only Mississippi State.

The Rebels, who could still wind up with a special season themselves by winning it and finishing 9-3, are in the role of spoiler now. They’ll be trying to keep the Bulldogs from making the four-team national playoff.

If they don’t beat State, their arch-rival is likely in.

So there is a lot for the Rebels to play for Saturday afternoon and evening. Like a better bowl opportunity with nine wins than eight.

And to get the Golden Egg back.

It’s best to remember a few things right now. For Ole Miss, even if the Rebels lose to MSU, it will be Hugh Freeze’s best regular season to date. Six wins in 2012, seven wins in 2013, and eight this season. A win over State and it’s nine.

Keep that in mind today and tomorrow and this week, as well as the fact that recruiting continues to go extremely well, the depth for the program is returning, and another bowl game is a certainty. Three years ago, the Rebels were living an absolute nightmare.

There’s no denying Saturday at Arkansas was also a nightmare. It was a lopsided loss that was unexpected in the way it played out from the start.

But nearly every Ole Miss fan I talked to last week, for the past month, and since the summer said Arkansas was one of the games that concerned them the most.

Now it’s over, and all it’s all about MSU. The Rebels know what’s left to play for.

And there's no room for carryover.


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