Commentary: Positive loss no moral victory

When Robert Lane fell yards short on fourth down and Tim Tebow barreled across the line to ice the game, the now-commonplace term of moral victory began bouncing around the Ole Miss campus.

Sorry, Saturday wasn't such. Moral victory was last year's signature catch phrase and is no longer applicable. Let me term the 30-24 Gator win a positive loss for the Rebels. Ole Miss has shown the ability to get close and make a game of it with the SEC heavyweights. The only thing left is the knockout.

Coach Ed Orgeron described the past week as a trying one, and who is to argue? A double-digit loss to Vanderbilt with the defending national champions next up wouldn't create comfort for any team. Orgeron says the squad reunited amid negative criticism and abundant media talk of getting blown out by the Gators.

Ole Miss definitely played inspired football. The only thing Florida chomped was its fingernails for most of the contest. The stadium stayed packed, and the atmosphere was electric throughout the sixty minutes. That is why it is a positive loss. There wasn't a three-touchdown deficit at halftime or wide-open Gator receivers running under bombs.

It was a hard-fought SEC battle between two teams in front of a television audience. Ole Miss stood toe-to-toe with No. 3 Florida and was mere plays from pulling off the upset. There were mistakes and missed assignments, but the Rebels were right there.

Recruits were on hand and witnessed progress. Orgeron can point to the game and be accurate with the sales pitch that one player could have made the difference. It was that close. And while not good enough, confidence should be high entering Athens next Saturday.

To truly be a positive defeat, Ole Miss must build off the good showing and string together similar efforts. Playing to the competition has plagued the Rebels during the post-Eli era. In this period of transition, momentum needs to remain steady or increase each week. Laying an egg ‘tween the hedges will discount much of what was accomplished against the Gators, which was a good type of exposure.

Warts are still visible on the Rebels, but unlike against Vanderbilt, there was nothing to apologize for versus Florida. The running game slumped and tackles continue to be missed (give some credit to Florida), but Ole Miss converted big plays and demonstrated grit on both sides of the ball.

The offense can put up enough points to keep pace with high-scoring teams, and the defense penetrated the backfield more effectively than any other time besides the first half at Memphis.

Now, consistency becomes the thing to watch. Glimpses of talented, winning football has to become complete games. Wins ultimately dictate success, and the time has arrived for them to occur. That is what Saturday showed. Competing isn't the problem. Completing the deal is all that matters.

Moral victory? Those ended in Baton Rouge but building off the game with the Gators can be a stepping-stone to the next level.

Of that, I am positive.

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