"I give us a C-," a relieved, but concerned-looking Dan Werner, the Rebel OC, said after the Rebs defeated Memphis 23-21 in a game that was a tale of two halfs.
"I thought we did some good things in the first half and didn't get the job done in the second half."
The number one concern coming into the contest was how QB Seth Adams, getting his first career start as a Reb, would do.
"Like the whole team, I thought he did a nice job in the first half, going 12-16 for 150 yards and no picks - that is big, no picks," Werner continued. "But in the second half, we struggled a little and I think we started pressing. I'm not happy with the way we finished the game, but I thought Seth was in control most of the way, which is what we wanted from him."
Dan said Memphis did not do anything differently defensively in the second half, but some failed drives kind of wilted his group's confidence.
"We fumbled on one drive, we had a penalty on another and it seemed like it kind of wore on us. We have to be tougher mentally than that," he continued. "It wasn't them stopping us, it was us, and we have to be able to work through that in order to keep the momentum of moving the football going. We just didn't do it."
Dan did not think the Rebels, with a 23-0 lead, let their guards down or got complacent.
"We've been talking about finishing since spring training and we talked about that at halftime. Our plan was good, but we didn't make it click in the second half," he commented. "I was very disappointed in the running game. We felt that would be the strength of our team, and it will be, and they (Memphis) did bring a lot of people in there to dare us to throw and stop our running game, but we have to do better than we did.
"I think had we not had a couple of key drops and a couple of key turnovers, our running game would have gotten on track a little better, but we still have to do a better job there. The passing game was good enough to move the ball, but we have to finish drives and be more physical."
The Rebs put together a beautiful 92-yard drive on their opening possession, capped by an Adams to Greg Hardy TD pass.
"We had the first 16 plays scripted, then we worked off what they were giving us from there. Some of the plays we came back to, some of them we didn't, and we expanded from there. That was a nice drive to get things going and to give Seth some confidence," Werner explained.
Werner said the absence of Dexter McCluster did not help, but some other guys have to step up and take up the slack.
"For the most part, I thought his replacements did a good job, but you miss his dynamic play when he's not out there. That's a huge weapon not to have," Dan stated.
The talk all camp has been that the Rebs would find a way to get the ball to the tight ends. Robert Lane had four catches for 32 yards and dropped a catchable ball, Lane said, on another attempt.
"We said we wanted to do it and we did. If defenses want to keep locking him up on linebackers, we'll take advantage of it," Dan noted.
Overall, as was stated. Werner gave the Rebel offense a C-.
"We had a good first half, but didn't follow that up. If the running game had been clicking, teh second half would have been a breeze, but we didn't get it done," he closed. "It was obvious Memphis was going to make us beat them in the air, which we were able to do for the most part, but we have to do a better job in the run game, obviously.
"The bottom line, though, is that it's a W and I'm never going to complain about that. I will complain about the way we got there in evaluating ourselves, but not the end result."
Defensive Coordinator John Thompson looked as if he had not only coached, but played, the 96 snaps the Memphis offense ended up accumulating.
"I thought we had Memphis off-balance in the first half and then they turned the tables on us in the second half. They started running the ball more and throwing the ball underneath and it worked for them," J.T. began. "I was just proud of our guys for hanging in there and making the final play to win.
"We were geared more to the pass, both the players and I, and when Memphis started hitting it up in the middle for solid gains on the ground, it gave them some momentum and had us guessing more than we wanted to."
Thompson marveled at the fact the Rebel defense was on the field for 96 plays.
"I don't think I've ever been in a game where the opposing offense had 96 plays, much less won it," he smiled. "The turnovers were the difference. We had five or six and that's a great start to our goal for the year.
"Dustin Mouzon did a fantastic job of knocking the ball loose, intercepting the ball twice. We took the ball away from them a lot, which was a huge key to this game and something we worked on hard. I don't know if we got many sacks, but we hit Hankins a lot and that was the plan going in. We knew we had to pressure him and hit him to get him out of his rhythm and maybe force some hurried throws we could get to. It worked - four picks is very good."
The Red Zone defense in the first half was as good as it gets. The Rebs caused three turnovers in the Red Zone and held a 20-0 halftime lead. In the second half, Memphis got the best of the Rebel D in the Red Zone.
"We executed and made some plays in the first half, but in the second half we didn't make those plays. We had some guys who were into it. We played hard. I know we got tired, but we hung in there. We had some guys playing beat up late - that's a testament to their toughness," he added.
When the game came down to the final play - a two-point try by Memphis to tie the contest and send it to overtime, most likely, the Rebs had all options covered well.
"I was expecting the fade to their tall kid, who we had a hard time with all day, but they went the other way and we had it covered," he said.
Overall, J.T. had a similar assessment of the game as Werner did - two distinct halfs.
"I'm excited about a lot of things we did in this game. We can build off this effort and correct what we did wrong," John closed. "Today, we played superb in the first half and not very good in the fourth quarter, but we'll get it straight. I liked enough of what I saw to know we can improve and keep going forward."
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