Is there such a thing as a good loss?
No, absolutely not.
But if there was, the 30-24 setback Ole Miss suffered at the hands of the number 3 ranked Florida Gators would qualify as one.
Coach O was not happy to lose, but he was proud of his team. OC Dan Werner was not in much of a mood to talk after the game, but he did his best in the face of some extreme disappointment. DC John Thompson flat out said he was trying to be nice in the postgame interview, but he didn't know if he was going to make it or not because he felt the Rebs put themselves in a position to win, they didn't pull it off and winning is what matters. The players were proud of the effort, but not of the final results.
There was not much satisfaction exhibited by the coaches and players postgame. They thought they should have found a way to win, and if they feel that way, I will not argue.
But I saw a lot of good in that game, if that is possible.
If you will indulge me. . .
I saw a team that a lot of folks had given up on and a team who had their backs to the wall come out firing. They asked for no quarter and gave none - and you could see that in Florida's eyes from start to finish. I stalked their sideline a lot and there was nothing "asleep" or "cocky" about them - they knew they were in a street fight.
I saw a team that was not physically beaten by a Gator crew regarded as a powerhouse of college football. From a hitting standpoint, the Rebs gave as good as they got. Florida was - overall - faster than Ole Miss, but they were not any more physical other than a brute of a QB who was hard to bring down.
I saw a team that did not wilt in the fourth quarter or after falling behind 27-9 midway through the third stanza. The Rebs outscored the Gators 16-3 in the final 20 minutes, a time frame in the past when Ole Miss might have faded away. They were as fresh as a very deep Florida team to the bitter end.
I saw an offense move the ball effectively and basically stop themselves with some killer penalties. I did not see an offense that Florida was stuffing, in the least.
I saw a defense that had been getting gouged this year essentially stymie the Gator offense in the fourth quarter that had been averaging 55 points a game. They bent, but they did not break. I know 30 points is more than you want to give up, but this same Gator offense hung 59 on Tennessee just a week ago. They did not come into this game limping or sputtering, but the Ole Miss defense gave them fits to the final gun.
I saw improvement in the special teams play. Yes, Florida had a couple of good kickoff returns, but so did the Rebs. The differential in field position was much less than it's been in previous games.
I saw a Rebel quarterback that showed a lot of poise and didn't make many mistakes even though he was under heavy pressure part of the day and was coming into the game with a bum shoulder.
I saw the receivers continue to improve and become more and more of a threat as each week clicks by. Can anyone run with Mike Wallace? I don't think so. Is Shay Hodge going to be an incredible possession-type receiver? I think so.
I saw a secondary deny Florida one of their chief weapons - the long ball. It did not exist today for the Gators.
I saw a team bow their necks and a coaching staff push all the right buttons in building their confidence in tough circumstances heading into the game and keeping them focused throughout the contest.
I saw a lot of things to build on.
I saw what I thought these Rebels would be in August - a football team capable of winning.
Sure, I also saw some negatives. Key penalties, not being able to stop Tim Tebow, who is a QB who runs like a fast FB, some more missed tackles - credit Florida for a lot of those, not being able to get off the field effectively enough in third down situations, and not being able to punch the ball in a couple of times in the Red Zone, but we were playing Florida, the defending national champs. Everything was not going to be super smooth. Florida was going to make plays against us and will continue to against every team they play this year.
In short, I saw a team we can hang our hats on if they continue on this path. If they play like they did today every week, the wins will start to come, I have no doubt.
It is difficult to find positives in any loss. A loss is a loss. But if there was such a thing as a good loss, I think I'd have to put the game with Florida in that category.
It just might prove to be the springboard they need to start gathering up some victories.
There's no reason the players should not gain confidence and belief from this outing.
The coaches and players hurt today, but I'd be willing to bet when they analyze the film in the next two days the hurt will go away and they will gain momentum from this showing.
Coach O said the task at hand right now is to use this game as a building block and to keep going forward. And this was definitely a step in the right direction.
If they succeed in doing that, it won't be long now before the wins follow.
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