Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone has been in the topsy-turvy coaching profession long enough to know you never take a win for granted. You celebrate and move forward.
That's exactly what he intended to do after the Rebels secured a 10-6 win over Memphis yesterday in the Bluff City, but. . .
"Ten points is not enough, usually, but it was today, so I'll take it," Mazzone noted postgame. "Sometimes you get in games like this - defensive struggles - and you just do the best you can on offense. I credit our defense for taking control of this game.
"I also congratulate Memphis' defense, and Joe Lee Dunn, for having a plan that kept us at bay most of the day."
Noel said he was sure he'd grade the film and get sick to his stomach from the should-haves and ifs he'll see.
"Without looking at the film, I know there were plays out there we should have made that would have changed this game," he continued. "And I'm sure when I watch the film I will see more. When you are playing an aggressive defense like Joe Lee threw at us today, you have to make them pay by making some big plays.
"We never took their aggressivness away from them because we left several opportunities on the table. We were a hair off here and there or we'd have an overthrow or we'd miss something little on some protections at key times. The good thing is that we won and we can take this as a good learning experience."
Mazzone was pleased with senior QB Micheal Spurlock's performance, overall.
"Mike will see where he should have made better throws on two or three big plays, but overall I thought he held up well with a ton of pressure coming after him from Joe Lee's blitzes," Mazzone stated. "We need him to be more consistent, and he will see that on film, but I'm proud of him."
Taking Spurlock out of the game at the end of the first half was not by design, just a gut feeling by Mazzone and Coach Ed Orgeron.
"He had a couple of bad series where he was rushing things, so we took him out to get him to slow down some and get his rhythm back. I think that calmed him down because he came back after the half and performed better," Noel explained.
What he was most impressed with by the Indianola Gentry product was his escapability under pressure.
"Mike made two or three big plays with his feet, which we know he's capable of but wanted to see in a game," noted Noel. "The TD run was sheer speed and presence. The run out of the end zone late in the game was the same. Both of those plays were huge."
In short, Mazzone summed everything up in a tidy fashion.
"We have work to do, but it was a decent enough start since we won," he capsuled. "Sure, there were plays out there to be made that could have made this a more comfortable win, but I feel good that a) they were out there to be made and b) we will make them in the future when they present themselves."
Wide Receivers Coach Matt Lubick is a stickler for perfection. So even though his troops played a respectable game, he's certainly looking for more in future outings.
"For a first game, we didn't make many critical errors or get any penalties, which was good," Lubick began. "We caught the ball OK, for the most part, but we had a couple of big drops that are inexcusable. Mike Espy had one that wasn't like him on a big third down. He won't do that often, but really we should never do that at all."
Asked about Mario Hill's 8-catch, 132-yard effort, Matt smiled broadly.
"That was a tribute to Mario's toughness. He had a bad ankle the last couple of days, but he fought through it and came through today," he noted. "He was very focused and got himself in position to make plays. We needed that type of effort from someone and today was his day."
Secondary Coach Chris Rippon had nothing but kudos for his guys.
"When we watch the film, I'm sure we'll see correctable errors, but right now I'm very pleased," Rip noted. "We only gave up one deep ball we shouldn't have and we had good coverage most of the day. We also got an interception that led to the game-winning TD and did a good job supporting the front seven in containing DeAngelo Williams.
"I am very happy with the outcome for the whole team and am pleased with the effort and performance of the DBs."
Running Backs Coach Frank Wilson had a different set of circumstances to deal with - Hurricane Katrina rocking his family's world with total annihilation of their homes, etc. He said the game was a welcomed "distraction" from the turmoil.
"Just to be playing, and having my family here safe and watching, is very gratifying. We all feel like we got a temporary reprieve from the upheaval in our lives and we are grateful for that," he explained. "It was good for my family to be able to focus on something else for a day before turning their attention back to the nightmare in New Orleans."
From an RB standpoint, Wilson reserved judgment for now.
"I was disappointed in the running game, period. I thought Mico (McSwain) gave us a good change of pace on some plays that were successful, but I was expecting to get more going on the ground," he allowed. "I'll have to watch film before I can get any more specific than that, but certainly the results were not what we were looking for."
Coach O's wife, Kelly, was an innocent bystander, so to speak, until the very end of the game, when she became immersed in the drama.
"Are they all like this here?" she joked. "That one almost did me in. I'm glad the first one is behind us - we needed to get off to a good start. It was important.
"I mean it - are they all like this?"
No, Kelly. . . just most of them.
Mazzone called 1st game 'not bad'
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