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The road in the SEC is brutal without sharp play

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Most everyone in the free world knew if Ole Miss was going to beat Arkansas in Fayetteville, they would have to play a good, solid game of football. That wasn't to be, as mediocrity prevailed and the Rebs fell 34-30.

The Ole Miss defense played a pretty good second half, limiting the Arkansas offense to two scores.

But in the first half, they were a mediocre outfit, giving up cheap points and cheap yards.

The Ole Miss offense rallied back to tie the score at halftime 20-20, and even managed to take a 30-27 lead in the fourth quarter.

But they too had too many mediocre, out of character moments, with dropped passes, bad passes, bad communication and so on to win the game.

Folks, in this league, on the road, mediocre will not get it done, hence the 34-30 setback at the hands of the Razorbacks on their home turf in front of 73,000-plus fans.

For the third year in a row, inexplicably, a solid, but not scary, Arkansas team has left the Rebels with a whelp on their backs.

"We played better in the second half, but that doesn't really matter when you don't win," said Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack. "In the first half, we didn't attack the way we needed to and I thought they knocked us off the ball and ran the ball effectively when they needed it the most. When we needed stops the most, we didn't get them.

"It's disappointing. We have to learn, as coaches and players, to get better each week because if you don't do that in this league, you will end up with a lot of losses on your scorecard. In games like this, we have to overcome a hostile environment, we have to execute and make plays. We did some of the time, but you can't play in spurts against a quality offense like Arkansas."

Wommack said there were no surprises.

"We prepared for everything they did, but at times it did not look like it," he said. "For instance, we were zone-blitzing a lot and a linebacker was supposed to read out and take care of the back side, but we just didn't fit it like we worked on it. They gashed us when we didn't. Again, the second half was better, we did some different things, but in the end, they still ran it on us during the winning drive."

There was obvious angst in Dave's eyes, disbelief too. He expected more, especially right out of the box when Hog QB Austin Allen threw a 51-yard TD to get the scoring going.

"We taught inside technique all week with our corners. He was supposed to be playing over the top, but he played outside technique and it was an easy throw and catch," Wommack explained. "We just continue to do things that are hard to fathom."

So where do the Rebs go from here, we asked Dave.

"You have to take it personal, as a man,": he said. "Hey, I am going to find a way to make this team better - as individual players and individual coaches - and I will not be the reason we don't get off the field. The competition level in the SEC is so high, but it seems like we don't get that at times.

"We have too many lapses into mediocrity and that doesn't get it. You have to practice like it means something to you and you have to play the same way, but one of the main things is to realize that everyone else in this league wants it badly too and you have to match or surpass their desire. 

"They made one more play than we did tonight. They did that last year too. We have to learn to make one more than them."

Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner looked dumbfounded after the game.

"You can't win making as many mistakes as we did tonight," he said bluntly. "There were mental errors, miscommunications, players not being on the same page, physical errors and coaching errors. We stopped ourselves. They didn't do anything we hadn't prepared for, I thought our plan was good, but we just were not sharp.

"We did not play like the Ole Miss offense and when you don't play with some degree of sharpness, this is what happens in this league."

Hugh Freeze cited "a lot of errors on offense" in his meeting with the press, but he took it a step further.

"We had our chances to win the game, even not playing well, but we didn't make critical plays at critical times. We had uncharacteristic drops, missed protections, bad passes at the worst possible times. As ragged as we played, we still had our chances and sometimes you have to find a way to win when you don't have your best stuff going. We didn't find a way to win - we found a way to lose."

So here the Rebs sit, 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the SEC - not what anyone was anticipating, and certainly not the way it has gone down.

The Rebels could just as easily be 6-0, but they aren't.

And they have nobody to point a finger at but themselves.

You can't play in spurts, you can't play mediocre. That's just not good enough.

Not in the SEC.

Until they learn that and change it, and they are more than capable of doing so, there will be more disappointments.

The ball is in their court. 

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