Memphis takes advantage of Rebel mistakes for big win

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - After opening up with a 14-0 lead, the Ole Miss Rebels did everything humanly possible the wrong way, resulting in 31 straight points by Memphis and, ultimately, one of the biggest wins in the history of Tiger football. Meanwhile, the Rebs are left licking their wounds.

With 9:44 to go in the first quarter of the Ole Miss-Memphis game, the Rebels led the undefeated Tigers by two scores, 14-0.

With 121:31 to go in the third quarter, the Rebs found themselves down by a bunch after Memphis had scored 31 straight points to essentially build a lead the Rebels would not overcome in a stunning 37-24 loss.

The killer flurry, however, happened in the waning moments of the 2nd quarter when the Rebs basically gave the Tigers the game on a silver platter with poor play and questionable strategy. In the final 3:49 seconds of the second quarter, Memphis stuffed the Rebels on two fourth-and-short offensive plays, picked off a pass and scored 17 points as the Rebel defense suddenly seemed to forget how to tackle a ballcarrier.

"All credit to Memphis, but we did not play very well at all," noted Coach Hugh Freeze in an understatement. "It starts with me, all facets of it, on me. We were about as bad as we could be in getting off the field on third downs and at times on converting third downs when we were on offense. Ole Miss fans deserved better today."

Freeze knew the next questions as he faced the press glumly. . . . the going for it on fourth down decisions and the tackling, or lack that of.

"I don't have an adjective for the poor tackling. It was as bad as I have ever seen. Again, that starts with me and our coaching," he continued. "On the fourth down on our end right before the half, it was a poor decision on my part. I was trying to change the momentum and get some late points, but we could not get a half a foot. It was obviously a bad decision.

"The one going in, I didn't fel so badly about it. I thought it was a good call and they just made a great play."

Freeze watched as his secondary was decimated by Memphis QB Paxton Lynch. 

"Paxton is an excellent QB who can make all the throws, but we have to do some different things on some coverages to give our guys a chance. We have to evaluate everything we are doing in the secondary, obviously," he stated. 

On the inability to run the ball and conmvert short yardage for first downs, Freexze has no answers right now, obviously.

"We just haven't been able to run it and that has to change," he stated. "We have to evaluate everything from top to bottom. We have a lot to play for in our conference, but our character will be tested.

"The bottom line is that we have to coach them better, we have to get more leadership out of our locker room and we have to gre off the field on third downs and convert more third downs on offense. On defense, we struggled so much in the secondary, way more than I would have imagined."

Freeze mentioned a lack of energy and focus, but he took a deep breath while he tried to explain it.

"There is something missing since the Alabama game and it isn't all about injuries. Again, it's on me. We are obviously not totally locked in and it surprises me because I thought we had a good week of preparation," Hugh said. "There is one thing for sure - we are going to be tested down deep now with the teams we have left on our schedule."

So there you have it.

A harsh column was warranted. The Rebels did not coach or play the way anyone anticipated after they took a relatively easy 14-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.

There were questionable coaching decisions, a lack of efficiency in tackling and coverage and the usual inability to get much of a run game going, especially in short yardage situations.

But there is no point in us saying those things.

Freeze said them all.

Saying them and fixing them are two different things.

He was correct in his brutal assessment of the game and he is correct about the Rebels moving forward.

These Rebs are about to get a major gut check and we all are going to find out if they are up to the task or not.

Based on today's performance, one has to seriously wonder. . . . 


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