Last season Ole Miss went to Fayetteville needing to win a game for a lot of reasons. Its head coach was from there and had only been gone 10 months. The Rebels wanted to get to a bowl for the first time in five seasons, and a win would even their season's mark at 4-4.
Those were good enough reasons. No more were really needed.
The Rebels got the win, 23-21 over the Razorbacks. For themselves. For their head coach. And, unbeknownst at the time, to start a six-game win streak that would include a Cotton Bowl victory.
The program's win streak reached eight, until a 16-10 loss at South Carolina. Even in lopsided wins over Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana, there were questions about the offense.
A 23-7 win at Vanderbilt didn't answer many of them, although the first half was good enough, and most hoped the Rebels had gone into shutdown mode in the second half since production was next to nil.
Then came Alabama. Offensive production? Nil, at least in the first half. And by then a Crimson Tide team ranked third and with Rose Bowl on its mind was cruising 16-0. It felt like 28-0.
In actuality, if Ole Miss could have gotten anything going in the third quarter and put a touchdown on the board to cut it to 16-7, who knows? Those same type questions were asked after the Rebels stammered and stumbled offensively at South Carolina when Brandon Bolden's touchdown run was called back, and USC punter Spencer Lanning got just enough of a hand on the leg of Marshay Green to keep him from taking it to the house.
Neither drive eventually resulted in a touchdown, and the Gamecocks were able to hold on.
The questions about the offense have been many. The line. The receivers. The play of Jevan Snead.
They are asked of the coaches, and the answers are mainly that success breeds success. The Rebels just need to have some more of it.
I'll agree with their assessment. We'd all like to have seen what might have been at Carolina had the Rebels just gotten a touchdown on the board early with the way their defense was playing then and is turning out to be.
And against Alabama, just make something happen – i.e. a touchdown – at some point when it was needed most.
Of course that would have been most helpful had it come in the first half, a half when Ole Miss gained 19 total net yards, five by the rush and 14 by the pass, and a grand total of one first down.
You might beat some teams with stats like that. But not many, and certainly not Alabama.
So back to the drawing board they head. Turnovers have to be cut out or at least cut down. The Rebels have to take advantage of at least some of their offensive opportunies. Most opinions appear to be that the offensive line play was improved against the Crimson Tide.
After five games, the college football world is waiting for Jevan Snead to be Jevan Snead again. The one who wowed people the last half of last season, who looked by far the better of the two quarterbacks when playing against Texas Tech and Graham Harrell. The one who was mentioned by many as a Heisman hopeful and a probable first-rounder next April.
Hold the presses. Maybe Jevan needs to stop pressing, which it appears he is. Maybe he has to take a figurative step back and remember he is the same guy who led an Ole Miss offense to as much productivity as any team in college football the last month of last year.
Something's just not right. The Rebels lost some key players for sure. And Alabama's defense might give some NFL offenses fits.
But somehow things have to become more productive on that side of the ball, or the Rebels will have a tough time of it as they already have. It's too much to expect the defense, as well as it is playing, to carry this team.
So Arkansas becomes the next big game - again. Yes, there is the matter of playing UAB next Saturday night in the homecoming affair.
And it isn't OK to take the 2-3 Blazers lightly either. At first glance, maybe. But Southern Miss found out the hard way and lost 30-17 on Oct. 1. UAB is in the midst of a 17-day break between games until arriving in Oxford to face the Rebels.
So the Blazers have plenty of time to prepare. Ole Miss, meanwhile, has some things to figure out before they get here.
If the defense can get some help, the Rebels have a chance the rest of the way. Improvement will be anticipated this Saturday against UAB.
And just like last year, Arkansas may prove to be the make or break game. It will indeed be a big one again. Heading to Auburn for a Halloween contest with no momentum would be a scary thought indeed.
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