Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner was happy to look at the scoreboard and see 38 points staring back at him, but after jumping to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, things weren't all that "sweet" in his postgame analysis.
"It looks nice on the scoreboard, for sure, but we had 17 points and 222 yards in the first quarter and then we hit a lull which was disappointing," said Werner. "Not only that, we hit the lull and we never did really get restarted again and that is what disappointments me.
"We got a needed win and we put up enough points to get the job done, but there's no doubt in my mind we should have done a lot better. We had too many three-and-outs, too many poor plays on third down, and after that kind of fast start it was discouraging."
The Rebs jumped out of the starting gate strong, getting a 41-yard run for a score from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been injured and ill (stomach virus) most of the week; a field goal from Josh Shene and a 25-yard TD run from BJGE, but in the second quarter, the magic disappeared.
And it didn't get much better in the third quarter until QB Brent Schaeffer found Shay Hodge with a fade route for a short TD at the 6-minute mark.
"We've really got to take a look at what was happening during that quarter and a half where we got stagnant. Northwestern State didn't do anything differently, we just seemed to drop our guard and we didn't put them away after such a good start," he explained.
The coaches opted to go with Schaeffer most of the second half and things didn't get much better. Brent was only 3-13 through the air.
"We have to evaluate what was going on, but we put Brent in there to try to rev things up a little bit - and we did score pretty quickly with him in there, but then we got erratic," he said. "We have to be more consistent, which has been our issue all year.
"The fact we can score so quickly at times, and put up good numbers in spurts, but can't sustain anything bothers me."
Dan said he was very frustrated at the play of the QBs, who combined for only 10 completions in 28 attempts and one interception.
"It's my job to make sure we are moving along at every position, and QB is directly under me," he continued. "I have said before, nobody outworks us, and it's about time we start seeing more from that effort. We did score 38 points and we did win, so those are good things, but we have to play better. All we can do is keep on working until we get it right."
While Dan was not overjoyed with the overall play of the offense due to them being so sporadic, he championed the performance of BJGE.
"That young man is just so physical and so driven. He was hurt and sick all week and you wouldn't even know anything was wrong with him today," Dan praised. "After the first quarter, I thought we were going to be able to take him out and let him rest, but it didn't work out that way. When it got close, we had to get him back in there."
At first, the run game was clicking.
"Our one-back stuff was really effective early on. Ben had a couple of TD runs where he wasn't touched that I saw. Then we started messing up the little things - simple, normal checks or blocking assignments or route-running. Just like last week against Auburn, we had too many drive-killers, too many momentum killers. It doesn't matter who you play, you have to execute," he closed. "And, for the most part, we did not execute the way we are capable of executing or the way we did in the first quarter."
Like Coach Ed Orgeron, Dan said it's an opportune time for the open week.
"We've been grinding really hard since August 1. The players need time to get their legs back before the final two games and some of them can get healthy for the stretch run," he said. "It will be good for them. They will get rested and come back strong for the last two games. I know they will."
Defensive Coordinator John Thompson seemed more perplexed than Werner.
His outfit pitched a shutout in the first half and then gave up 31 points in the second half. NW State rang up 499 yards and had the ball roughly 38 minutes.
"We won the game and that's the purpose. We held them to less points than we scored. Everything else was not very positive, but we are not going to lose sight of that fact," said J.T. "We started out real good with three three-and-outs and keeping them off balance throughout most of the first half.
"In the second half, NW State got clicking and our guys could not click the switch back on for some reason. They hurt us with the run and the pass. We did a very poor job of everything in the pass defense game - coverage, pressure, everything. They were able to do what they wanted to do. Thanks goodness our offense did a good job and thank goodness we got the kickoff return from Mike Wallace. Great job by them."
Thompson was asked if he thought playing a lesser opponent and having a successful first half caused a letdown.
"I certainly hope not, but we didn't have a spark, that's for sure. We emphasize the start of the second half as being a major key to any game and we were terrible in that period and in the whole second half for that matter," he assessed. "They hit us for chunks to start the second half and we went flat. I'm not going to get in a funk about it because, as I said, we won, but the second half was very disturbing that we could not turn it back on after halftime."
Thompson was playing without two of his defensive spark plugs and playmakers - DE Greg Hardy and LB Ashlee Palmer, who were both suspended for the game.
"I think we missed them a lot. Ashlee is one of the leading tacklers in the SEC and he is one of our guys who makes plays and creates the sparks we were missing today. Brandon Thomas played good in his place, but we got hit a few times there and we didn't have any guys making big plays today. We didn't do a good job on their tight end in the second half," he said. "But I need to put it in the proper perspective - it wasn't all just those two being out by any stretch of the imagination. Other guys have to make plays and other guys have to step up. It made a difference, but it wasn't all just those two positions.
"I talked about flipping the switch, and those are two guys capable of doing that, but they weren't there and someone has to step up and get it done. Make a play."
Thompson said all last week he respected the Demons' scheme and how well they were coached, but he did not see anything in the game that should have fooled the Rebel defense.
"I felt we were prepared for everything they ran> They had real good plays and a good plan, but we were prepared. We just didn't execute. We did not cover and we did not execute," John added. "We didn't cover and we didn't pressure. You have to do one of the two and we didn't handle it."
J.T. agreed with the sentiment of the open week being vital.
"We can get some guys back and we can get fresh legs and fresh minds. These kids deserve a couple of days off - they have worked hard and given us the effort we asked of them," he closed. "They will bounce back. I know that. They always do."
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