Ole Miss led Vanderbilt 10-0 with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter.
It looked as if it was going to be another hum-drum Ole Miss-Vandy game, with the rejuvenated Rebels, winners of two in a row, ready to steamroll the Dores. And then. . . .
. . . the bottom fell out for the Rebels.
"We got outcoached, we got outplayed and they wanted it more than we did," said Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze postgame in a frank, factual and concise statement.
He could not have been more correct as the Rebels, seeking to become bowl eligible, looked unprepared, unmotivated and, consequently, unsuccessful.
"I told the kids after the game that I did not have them ready to play. This one is on me and my staff, no doubt about it," Freeze noted, falling on the sword for his beaten down squad, now 5-6 on the year and needing a win over Mississippi State to become bowl eligible for the fifth year in a row.
And while Freeze's remarks may be on the money, this one couldn't have been much uglier between the hashmarks either. Was all of it coaching, as Freeze suggested? Well, who are we to disagree with him, but, for goodness sake, the players have to do something right as well.
From the time the Rebels went up early in the game until the end, it was a comedy of errors on the field.
From, as Freeze said, "at least 10 drops" by the usually sure-handed receivers to a fumble on a routine handoff to missed blocks to a freshman quarterback running for his football life to procedure calls to overturned replays against the Rebs to missed throws and bad reads to a 3-man rush getting pressure, it was an offensive showing that was so uncharacteristic of the Rebels that it defies explanation.
On defense, well, it was more of the same that Rebel Nation has witnessed most of the year, only this time against a Vandy offense that was averaging only 19.9 points a game and was 120th in the nation in total offense.
Explosive plays, again, haunted the suddenly toothless Landsharks. Missed tackles were the norm as Vandy's run game amassed over 200 yards. The Rebels gave up an astounding 273 yards through the air to Kyle Shurmur, a QB hardly known for his aerial prowess. Assignment busts, which have plagued the Rebels from the first game through number 11, were plentiful and there was even a targeting called on MLB DeMarquis Gates by the replay official that the refs on the field did not call when it happened. When it rains, it pours and this was the mother of all storms on this night defensively.
And we could go on and on, but what's the point? It was a total and complete collapse in what one would have thought was an important game for the squad as they had advancement in the bowl pecking order to fight for. Now they will be fighting just to get to a bowl and wouldn't Mississippi State, who has nothing to play for but state pride, like nothing better than to be the spoiler in that scenario?
Oh, and by the way, Gates can't play for a half due to the targeting penalty and Stringfellow, Evan Engram and Demarkus Lodge all left the game with injuries. (Their status, for now, is unknown.)
Freeze said after the game that when he is asked by a young person about getting into coaching, that he tells them to be ready for the highest highs and the lowest lows.
Last week, the Rebs hit a high against Texas A&M.
Today, Freeze hit one of those lows.
With all due respect to Vanderbilt, way low.
Can they come out of the depths for the Egg Bowl?
After the game in Nashville, one certainly has to wonder.
It was Vandy, yes, Vandy, and yes, the score was 38-17 in favor of the Dores.
SMH in disbelief.