Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin tried gallantly to hide his displeasure with the performance of the Reb offense against Vanderbilt.
He couldn't do it.
"There is no way to win a game against anyone making the mistakes - fumbles, interceptions and penalties - we did tonight," Austin began. "I will give credit where credit is due - Vandy plays hard and they have a good defense, but whether they forced the errors or we made unforced errors, it does not matter. You will not win with that kind of performance in this league. It's not going to happen."
Sophomore Quarterback Jevan Snead threw four interceptions, following up a two-pick night against Samford a week earlier.
"We went through his thought process against Samford on the bad decisions and he had a very good week of practice correcting those issues. Vandy did nothing schematically we have not seen," Kent continued, "but Jevan still made some poor decisions. Most of his interceptions the past two weeks have been from poor decisions."
Kent said there are some things he will pinpoint for Snead to work on.
"First of all, you can't play that position without first understanding to protect the football and he's getting an education right now," Austin stated. "Secondly, you can't try to make too much happen. If a play is not there, throw it away and live to play another play. You have to know when to call it a day on a bad play.
"I have to teach him to know when to be conservative and when to be aggressive. He's got to understand the flow and complexion of the game and react accordingly. We had a 10-0 lead and get a turnover in Vandy's end. We called a pass play to the field side that was open and he throws to the boundary to a receiver who was blanketed and it goes the other way for a score. Those things will kill you. We have to play with more poise in the head."
Austin was quick to point out his statements about Jevan are not an indictment of his signal-caller. They are a self-criticism as well.
"I am responsible for his play," Austin said bluntly. "I have to teach him to make better decisions. I have to bring him around the corner. It is my job to do those things and I didn't get it done tonight.
"Together, we will correct these things and get them right. We won't just focus on the negative either. Jevan made some big plays tonight and put together some good drives, but at the end of the day, we didn't get it done. He was part of that equation, I was part of it and the fumbles and penalties were part of it. This is an 11-man game and we failed to get it done as a team."
The Rebel ground game took another stride, statistically, gaining roughly 200 yards on the ground, but Austin wasn't pleased with the end result.
"We ran for a couple of hundred yards, but twice we didn't get it in the end zone from short range and one time we fumbled it away at the most critical time," he assessed. "We will not turn the corner and learn how to win until we learn how to finish drives. Once again, we left points out there.
"We were on the one and couldn't get over on two cracks. On the fourth down, I would have rather the back try to mash the line and bowl over, but he tried to jump the pile and came up short. That's an example of the little things we have to fix and, again, it is my responsibility to fix them. We had a reverse set up for a big gain and we fumbled the ball. Things like that are why we lost."
Rebel Defensive Coordinator Tryone Nix gave it his best shot at trying to find some positives in a very fine defensive showing.
He couldn't do it - much - either.
"We just don't know how to win yet. It's a process that we have to keep teaching every day until we get it right. Winning is contagious just like losing is and right now we are finding ways to lose," Nix said. "We work hard every day in practice to get better and respond in the games the right way. Tonight, we didn't respond when we had to."
Nix's unit didn't give up but a couple of hundred yards all night, but that did not appease him much.
"This is not an individual sport. It takes all three phases playing well to win. For the most part, we carried our end of the bargain until the very end and then we didn't, so we lost the game too," Tyrone explained. "We should have bowed up on that last Vandy drive."
Tyrone did see a difference in the defensive play and he thinks he knows why.
"We challenged our kids to make a commitment and I think they did that. Our gameplan was good and our kids matched up against Vandy well. They played hard and did a lot of good things, but we faltered at the end," he noted. "We faltered at the end at Wake as well, so we obviously have to do some more teaching and more coaching."
Nix liberally substituted the front seven during the game and the backups responded well, stopping Vandy a few times with the starters on the bench in key situations.
"Those kids have earned the right to play. They have practiced hard and played well when they got their chance," Nix said. "Jerrell Powe, Tony Fein, Greg Hardy, Emmanuel Stephens all made plays that I noticed. It looks as if we are developing some depth and have some quality backups.
"It's a plus when you can roll guys in there like that."
The postgame locker room was not a pleasant place, according to Nix. Nor should it have been.
"There was a lot of disappointment in there, players and coaches alike. Our character will be challenged. We have to stay together and really have one heartbeat," Nix closed. "I was kind of encouraged to see the locker room like that because it tells me these kids care and it tells me they know they can play much better than we did. We can win some games if we will keep this attitude. I have no doubt about that, but it will take all of us and it will demand that we stick together."
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