What I saw

After three weeks of playing relatively bad football, the Ole Miss Rebels bowed their necks and scared the thinning hair off Georgia Coach Mark Richt's head, only to fall 14-9. No, it wasn't a win, but it was a victory in many ways. Read about it inside.

Not many people outside the confines of the Ole Miss Indoor Practice Facility gave Ole Miss a plug nickel's chance of beating 10th-ranked Georgia last night in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

They were right, Ole Miss didn't "win" the game. They lost 14-9.

But there were victories for all of the 57,000-plus to see.

Here's how I viewed it, for what it's worth.

Last week, most Rebs bemoaned a lack of intensity and effort by the team. All were correct. Even Coach Ed Orgeron said it "wasn't acceptable." This week, after some up-tempo practices the players called "fun," the Rebels played for 60 minutes with everything they had.

I have stated repeatedly since the Wake Forest slumber party that all-out effort is all I wanted. If I saw that, I'd be happy. I will stick with that declaration. I can wait on more talent to arrive. I can wait on the wins.

Last night was the first time since the Memphis game I have seen swarm tackling, the first time I have seen the team swagger a little, the first time I have seen a concentration and focus level that made me believe they wanted it as much as you and I and Coach O and his staff do. Folks, those intangibles are required to survive in the SEC. Through Coach O and the staff's efforts in practice last week, the players now see that.

That's a victory.

It's also a victory when a team with several key injuries playing more freshmen than the law should allow gets in a gravel dance with the 10th-ranked team in the country and bloodies the opponent's nose and blacks both eyes.

Underneath Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, on the visitor's side, photographers have a work room near the opponent's locker room. I was standing there when Georgia Coach Mark Richt - heavily guarded by a horde of Georgia highway patrolmen - walked by after the game. Richt's a good guy, so I stuck out my hand to tell him good game. He slowed down for a minute.

"We were lucky," he said, with a pale hue to his face. "I feel like we escaped from a trap."

I'm not sure luck was a major factor, but I understood where he was coming from. He was not expecting a toe-to-toe, we-ain't-backing-down effort from the Rebs. His team got that - and more.

I know, I know. Stats are for losers. But the Rebs - statistically - were right there with the Bulldogs in every area.

When you consider all the variables, that's a victory.

What variables? Try these on for size and it's little wonder the Rebs were an 18-point dog via the bookmakers.

DT Peria Jerry, two RTs (Darryl Harris and David Traxler), and DT Jeremy Garrett didn't play due to injury. Frosh DE Kentrell Lockett and DE Lamark Armour were also sidelined. DT Hayward Howard dressed out but was held out of the game for "not doing right."

That forced two major changes on the OL and DL. On offense, Andrew Wicker, who has never played OT in his life, was moved to RT from LG. The Rebs were still able to rush the ball, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis rumbling for 135 yards.

On the defensive front, frosh DE Marcus Tillman - all 260 pounds of him - was moved inside to DT. The Rebs were still able to hold Georgia to under 250 yards of total offense.

At one point during crunch time late in the game, the Rebs had four true freshmen on defense - SS Jamal Harvey (due to Jamarca Sanford and B. Brown both going down to injury), WLB Jonathan Cornell (in his first action), the ever-improving Greg Hardy at DE and Tillman at DT. Throw in JUCO transfer Rory Johnson getting his first Division I start and the defensive effort becomes even more remarkable.

Another victory.

Add in a true freshman - Cassius Vaughn - blocked a punt, a true freshman - Dexter McCluster - caught a long TD pass and a true freshman - John Jerry - was a pulling battering ram in the Rebs' successful heavy sets, and you can clearly see yet another, well, victory in the building process.

I'd also like to give a pseudo-victory to the coaches.

One, they took a team that was heading down and flipped them psychologically. I listened intently to the players after the game saying they never lost confidence and so on. I'm not buying it. They were as low as my checking account after the Wake game. The coaches instilled a belief and a fire in them in five short days.

Two, they gameplanned Georgia beautifully. The Bulldogs looked baffled at the unbalanced line the Rebs ran to spring BenJarvus. They looked confused at the defensive staff moving LBs out on their WRs to get a good bump on them before they released into their patterns. They seemed mixed up with the coverage disguises and befuddled why they couldn't pound the ball down the throat of a team that had previously been run on and run over. They used TE Robert Lane in various positions - FB, wingback, wideout (once or twice, I noticed), slot - and that freed him up to not only get the ball in his hands a couple of times, but to be more effective in his blocking game.

Three, they maintained all along they weren't giving up and their team wasn't giving up and they backed up the banter with results.

Those are victories, my friends.

Having said all that, it wasn't a win. And wins are what you play for.

The Rebels had major problems in pass protection. They had trouble with outside containment of the Georgia backs at crunch time and they gave up a long pass to set up Georgia's winning score.

But those things are identifiable and correctable, personnel permitting.

Nope, the Rebels didn't get the "W."

But if they keep getting these little victories, the wins will follow.

And while the mindset of the team definitely has to be uplifted, I think there's no question the mindset of the fan base got a needed boost with this effort.

We need our victories too. We can wait on the wins.

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