Horrendous Half ... And More

GAINESVILLE, FL - The Rebels needed something good to happen early to get the 95,000-plus fans out of the game. Just the opposite took place as they gift-wrapped a key SEC game to the Gators early and often.

Let's see. . .

The first half went like this, in a nutshell.

A long TD pass over the middle by the Gators opened up a can of worms the Rebels were not ready for. 7-0 Gators.

The Rebs followed that up with a short-field fumble from a bad handoff exchange between QB Chad Kelly and RB Jaylen Walton. Five plays later, and the No. 3 Rebels were down 13-0, thanks to a missed extra point. The crowd was rocking.

The next Ole Miss offensive series saw a high center snap for a 19-yard loss, a down-and-distance the Rebs could not make up.

Ole Miss then put together a nice march, driving from its 8 to the Gator 12. OK, take the points and settle down, right? Usually reliable PK Gary Wundrelich missed the chip shot. Still 13-0 early in the second quarter.

The next time the vaunted Rebel offense had the ball, Kelly was sacked twice with a four-man rush by the Florida DL. Protection nada.

The defense looked like it might be finding a rhythm, but with 6:45 to go in the half, with the Gators facing a 3rd-and-6, the Rebs sent two extra defenders on a blitz, Florida picked it up and hit on a 77-yard catch-and-run TD. Live and die by the sword, so to speak. 19-0, thanks to the Gators failing on the two-point conversion.

And to add insult, and embarrassment, to injury, the Gators closed out the half with a methodical 94-yard drive for yet another score. Thankfully another failed two-point conversion left the score at 25-0 at the end of the half. (Excuse the sarcasm.)

When the dust had cleared, the heralded Rebel defense had given up 296 yards of offense and the aforementioned, almost unbelievable, 25 points in one half. One half. Let that sink in.

Meanwhile, the once-explosive offense could only manage 151 yards, was a paltry 1-6 on third down conversions and had a goose egg on the board.

All in all, a horrendous half. . .

. . . and realistically, too much to overcome in a hostile environment playing uncharacteristically sloppy and careless.

The Rebs were able to take care of Alabama on the road because they didn't beat themselves and they made Alabama turn the ball over.

This time, especially in the first half, the shoe was on the other foot. The Rebs did very little right and the Gators took advantage of the miscues - a fumble, poor tackling, sacks by UF, holes in the Reb secondary, and on and on.

It was no way to keep the raucous crowd at bay, as was done in Tuscaloosa, and no way to play an important SEC football game.

The second half was played fairly evenly for a while, but it was far too little, far too late. The damage was done early and then late in the game the piling on began.

And to give you another glimpse of how the night went, the Rebs took the opening kickoff of the second half and kept the ball for nearly eight minutes, only to sputter in the Red Zone after gaining a 1st-and-goal at the Gator 1. They had to settle for a field goal, which was indicative of the ineptitude of the night. One yard, one lousy yard, could not be mustered.

Now it gets real interesting.

Is this Rebel team like Bama - willing to gut it up and play better after a loss as the Tide did by mauling Georgia today - or are they going to start doubting themselves and make this the norm?

It's real early in the season and there is so much more football to play, but dare we say this team is at a crossroads if "championship" is going to remain in their vocabulary?

It is character check time if the aspirations are still as high as before the Florida game.

If they hope for Atlanta, their backs are against the proverbial wall and a much better performance, from this point on, will be required than the one they gave here.

Adversity has struck.

We will get a glimpse of how this 2015 team handles that bump early.

Meanwhile, they will have to live for seven days with the taste of a horrendous half - well, game - in their mouths.

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