OXFORD, MS - The Ole Miss Rebels (3-6/ 1-5 SEC) let an opportunity to remain bowl eligible slip away with the drop of one yellow handkerchief late in the third quarter and the Rebels leading Arkansas (3-6/1-5) 17-7. That penalty didn't beat Ole Miss by itself, but it gave Arkansas renewed hope or momentum that the Rebels could not swing back in their favor even with the help of the home crowd. From that point late in the third quarter, Arkansas ran off 21 unanswered points to win going away 28-17.
The lesson of this
game is that mediocre or below teams have no margin for error when playing
an equal or better opponent. Yesterday was a prime example of how one mistake or
penalty can affect the outcome of the game. It didn't appear the penalty was
a flagrant foul worthy of a penalty but when the men in stripped shirts
throw it, usually good things don't come from it when the penalty is not in
You have to give Arkansas some credit, they were playing with
their backs against the wall, but they refused to lose even on the road
where they had not won this year.
Ethan Flatt, starting for the first time all season, played well enough to
win, but he was under such a heavy pass rush, he hardly had time to find his
primary receiver, much less his secondary receiver and never his third
option. Arkansas learned early on they could control the line of scrimmage
and stop the Rebels' running game with their front four.
When you look at
the stats, it is easy to see a team cannot win with only 10 total yards when
rushing the football 34 times and having possession of the football 32
minutes and 42 seconds of the game. The Hogs did what any team facing the Rebs should do.
Arkansas' defensive coordinator Reggie Herring sent guys after Flatt from
every angle imaginable, getting four sacks, two interceptions and some
hurries. Flatt threw for 309 yards, first time that's been done by an Ole
Miss player since Eli threw for 391 against South Carolina in 2003. But it
was not good enough, a one dimensional football team seldom wins football
games against an equal or better opponent. Losing Mico McSwain to injury
early on certainly took away the one important running threat the Rebels
The Rebels dominated Arkansas the first twenty minutes statistically in all
areas except the most important one, the score (14-7 Rebs). The Rebels had
possession of the football over 20 of the first 30 minutes, that should
produce more than two touchdowns. It didn't and my old coaching instincts
sensed the Rebels were in trouble at halftime, especially if Arkansas could
get their offense untracked. Again the Rebels' 172 yards of total offense to
51 by Arkansas in the first half should produce more than 14 points, but it
Struggling teams have trouble finding ways to win football games,
they generally finds ways to lose. To add insult to injury, Arkansas didn't
earn their first seven points, an ill-conceived Flatt pass produced a gift in the
form of seven points after the interception/return. There are times when the quarterback must recognize
the best play is throwing the ball away rather than trying to force in a
completion. Those instincts come from playing a lot. That was one of the
lessons Eli struggled with his junior season.
Arkansas made some terrific adjustments offensively in the second half.
Their coaches probably realized in the first half they could go to their
H-back/fullback/tight end in short yardage situations, but they probably
saved it until the second half. Four times they threw the football to Peyton Hillis,
three times it produced a first down and the fourth got the Hogs their go- ahead touchdown. Arkansas used the old coaching principle, "if it's not
broke, don't fix it," to help secure a victory.
Arkansas converted five
third down situations in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. Trumaine McBride just missed an interception on the completion to Monk that turned
into the final Hog touchdown.
Robert Lane played well in his multi-function role, catching four passes for
116 yards. I would suggest Lane be used some at running back as well as
receiver for the final two games. Robert is a gamer, he hates to lose, too
bad more players don't feel that way. My hats off to Patrick Willis for
playing hard and playing well on a bad foot. Nine tackles is a good day when
you are healthy, but nine tackles when hampered with a flat tire is
exceptional. I thought Michael Bozeman, Jamarca Sanford, Nate Banks, Kelvin Robinson and Jayme Mitchell played well. Holding the fifth best running team
in the nation, that came in averaging 251.9 yards per game, to only 89
rushing yards on 40 carries is an outstanding accomplishment. To the Rebels'
disdain, the Hogs freshman quarterback, Casey Dick, grew up in the second half,
completing 12-of-13 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Let's hope
the Rebels can find one who can do that in 2006 and beyond.
Special teams play in the kickoff and punt return game was not effective
yesterday. The Rebels returned four kickoffs and only got one past the touchback
line, that was to the 21 yard line. On the other three, the Rebels started
at their own 15, 14 and 17 yard line. The Hogs punter averaged 45.3 on six
punts but didn't have to punt in the second half. The Rebels' punter
averaged 37.7 yards on six punts. Arkansas had a slight advantage in the
average starting field position for drives. On average the Hogs started at
their own 28, the Rebels at their own 22. Both teams got the ball twice in
their opponent's territory. Ole Miss scored a touchdown and field goal on
their good fortune, Arkansas got a touchdown and fumbled once on theirs.
Turnovers were equal, Arkansas lost two fumbles, the Rebels had two
interceptions. The Hogs' three scoring drives averaged 66 yards, the Rebels'
two averaged 55 yards. Again the Rebels were one-of-two in field goals.
Yesterday's loss was a bitter pill to swallow. The Rebels have two games left
with our most hated rivals, LSU and Mississippi State. Any player who cannot
get up and give their best effort for those two games should seriously
consider giving up playing football. I don't think that will be a problem. Records don't matter in these two
My view. . .
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