I gotta be honest - I was grasping for a description of the narrow win over Arkansas State today as I waited on the coaches and players to enter the interview area.
Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach strolled in, still appearing a little red-faced and frustrated after his group had given up 381 yards to the Indians, and summarzied my feelings beautifully.
"Look, I'm very happy to get a win - any win - right now," he said, "but it's like being an artist. It's not about selling the painting, it's about putting something good on canvas. Somebody bought our painting today, but right now I don't like what I see on the canvas."
Some people may have a better description of that frustrating showing, but I haven't heard it.
Arkansas State? An "OK" football team, about like Wyoming or Memphis, in my opinion.
The Rebels? Continues to play below their capabilities. Why? I wish I knew. There's certainly enough opinions going around. One faction of fans believes it's all coaching. Some suggest it's lack of talent. Some think it's the post-Eli syndrome. Some think it's my fault, David Kellum's fault, the cat in the alley's fault. Right now, I could care less what anyone thinks - I just want my Rebels back. I want the playmakers making plays instead of giving them up. I want some confidence and unity and leadership and fire breathing. I realize they are grasping at straws right now, doing everything they can to get on track, and a win was the most critical element of the day, but it was hardly convincing in regard to what faces them the next two months.
True, we took care of the ball better today than we did last week. That, in itself, is a minor victory. True, we scored three times in the Red Zone. Not terribly good, but not terrible either. True, we made two big defensive plays and a huge special teams play in the second half that turned the game around, but this was still an abstract work of art that will not be ready for the meat grinder that faces them the next five games, starting just seven short days from now in Columbia, SC, when the Rebs face a very physical South Carolina Gamecock team.
To call anybody out on the heels of a win would be wrong to all concerned and involved, but this Rebel team still has problems, win or lose.
Today gave me some hope, but it was certainly no reason for a celebration.
I gained hope with TB Vashon Pearson's third straight 100-yard rushing game, but held off on the celebration when A-State went 80-plus yards on two running plays for a score early in the game.
I gained hope when QB Ethan Flatt found FB Lorenzo Townsend twice for short scores in the Red Zone, but stopped shy of celebrating when A-State came right back to cut the score to 28-21 on a 59-yard pass play late in the game when it should have been all over but the shouting.
I gained hope when DE Jayme Mitchell intercepted a screen pass and rumbled down deep into Indian territory, but I stopped short of doing a jig when we couldn't convert but 3-13 third downs into first downs, two or three in short yardage situations.
I gained hope when Flatt completed 75% of his passes, but saved my enthusiasm with all the Indian receivers who were running around wide open, including a deep WR on the next-to-last play of the game who didn't have a Rebel within 10 yards of him. Thank goodness for an overthrow.
I gained hope when the clock ran out, but came back to earth when I saw the final stats - 381 yards for ASU, 379 for the Rebs. Sorry if I can't muster a lot of A-State-is-good sentiment. I just didn't see it. Scrappy, yes. Good, hardly.
I want so badly to write a glowing piece about these Rebs. They are quality people from top to bottom. People I am proud to call my friends. But this is about football and not whether or not they are good citizens or good ambassadors of the university.
Right now, I see a team that wants to do well, but hasn't figured it out. I see coaches who are working their tails off and trying to do the right things, but aren't getting the results they labor for or expect.
Right now, I see a team that at times appears to be playing not to lose instead of a team playing to win.
The Rebs have been through the easy part of their schedule and stand at 2-3 with a 1-1 mark in the SEC. We have enough ability and enough of everything we need to turn it around. I believe that.
But today was no indication they have turned the corner. They are still playing like they are driving into the sun.
Here's a toast I will drink to. "Chuck, you were wrong in August. Here's to you being wrong now."
Get out the paint. There has to be a masterpiece in there somewhere. If not, nobody left on our schedule is going to buy our works of art.
Commentary: A masterpiece of art it wasn't
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