COLUMN: What's The Problem?

The Ole Miss Rebels just completed another year of improvement, another successful step in "the journey" back toward the dream/goal of being among the elite in college football in the third year of a program steadily moving up. So, what's the problem?

Big picture time.

Let's get the bad out of the way first.

The Rebels ended the 2014 season by getting their doors blown off in the Peach Bowl. They got, as the old movie title suggests, turned "every which way but loose" by the Horned Frogs of TCU. There's just no other way to put it.

Even though it's true, we won't insult you by tooting TCU's horn, deserved or not. Theya re a very good team, but this column is about Ole Miss.

Even though the Peach Bowl was a failure, along the way to the New Year's Six bowl appearance the Rebels shot a lot of bullets that hit the mark, which earned them the right for the trip to Atlanta.

Lest anyone has forgotten, the Rebels beat a Boise team and a Memphis team that notched double-digit wins and won their respective conferences. Then the Rebs hosted Game Day and defeated number one Alabama, also a conference champion, the goalposts came down in one of the most exciting and fulfilling game these eyes have seen in five decades of Rebel watching.

They followed up by taking care of business on the road in what many considered a trap game by handily whipping Texas A&M before 110,000 Aggies. While A&M didn't end up being a great team, at the time they were ranked and did go bowling in the end.

An improving Tennessee was no match for the Rebels and a high national ranking with a 7-0 worksheet followed.

A tough loss to LSU, who the Rebels had matchup problems with and just weren't quite as sharp as they had been, in Death Valley followed, but that didn't pop the bubble too badly. It stung, for sure, but the Rebs' "mojo" was still present.

The next game - Auburn - was a cruel blow that left the Rebs reeling, physically and mentally. The way that game ended was as brutal as it gets, with star WR Laquon Treadwell having his best game as a Rebel only to see it come crashing down with a broken ankle and a fumble on the half-yard line, and it carried over. There was no way to gauge the damage against Presbyterian - me and 22 healthy Ole Miss Spirit subscribers could have given them a run. . .

. . . but it surfaced in all its unholy glory at Arkansas.

Use whatever reason you choose for the no-show and it would probably have some degree of truth, but whatever the real reason was, the Rebels just didn't have the magic that they had played with all year that night. They tried, but it wasn't there.

Fortunately, they had enough pride and moxie to regain their adrenaline for the Egg Bowl and they successfully beat the Bulldogs by two touchdowns to regain the Golden Egg and knock Mississippi State off their fleeting lofty perch. It was a character test and the Rebs showed they have it.

While there was no way to predict it at the time, that was the last bullet the Rebels had in the chamber for 2014.

The toll the season had taken on them - with key injuries mounting and just the wear and tear of the year - turned out to be major, as much as we all wanted to deny it.

Thus, the Peach Bowl and what can only be called an awful performance.

And while that leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, including coaches and players, and deserves one-game criticism, let's not overlook the big picture - a fine, fun, rewarding season full of great accomplishments.

So where does that leave things?

The coaches, players and reasonable fans have a sense of accomplishment with an asterisk.

Could have been better, could have been worse, like most any season.

Coach Hugh Freeze will do what he, and every head coach, does at the end of every season - evaluate, address the concerns, make decisions and move on to the next cycle. There will be hard evaluations and hard decisions, but they will all be made with the good of the program at the forefront.

The bottom line is crystal clear.

The Rebels were ready for prime time, but they weren't ready to be in the "elite," and to expect that now is a bit on the unrealistic side anyway. They made a gallant run at elite status and knocked on the door for much of the season, putting Ole Miss back in the national spotlight and on the tips of the tongues of every talking wag and on the fingertips of every hack, for an extended period of time, but in the end, being elite wasn't in the cards - yet.

So how do we, as Rebel Nation supporters, handle the outcome?

It's real easy to forget what transpired for most of four pretty glorious months because of the letdown at the end. Easy to vent, easy to point fingers, easy to lay blame at the feet of a few individuals.

But when you look at the big picture, the season as a whole and the prospects for the future with as many returning players as the Rebs have, that's a self-defeating stance to take at this juncture.

Big picture, folks, big picture.

There are issues to be dealt with, and recruiting doesn't solve them all, but me thinks this head coach and his staff, this administration and this group of athletes have all earned the right to be trusted to solve those issues with our backing.

The Rebs have a great shot at winning big again in 2015.

So, what's the problem?

OM Spirit Top Stories