The wait is over.
To paraphrase from rapper Eminem, the question "will the real Ole Miss Rebels please stand up?" was finally answered against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
For 60 minutes, the Rebels we had all envisioned and imagined when the 2009 season began came calling. They huffed and they puffed and the Hogs went "wee-wee-wee" all the way home, beaten convincingly and, in this humble opinion, worse than the 30-17 score indicates.
The lopsided statistics tell the tale, but this was way more than numbers.
This was a masterful offensive gameplan that put the hard-charging Arkansas defense on their heels early and kept them at bay all day. The different blocking schemes, the use of screens and misdirections, getting the ball in the most potent players' hands, and getting Jevan Snead out of the blocks quickly were coaching strokes of genius.
This was a maligned offensive line gutting up against a surprisingly improved defense that gave number one Florida more than they wanted just one week ago in the Swamp.
This OL opened big holes for the run game, that amassed 221 rushing yards on the day, and gave QB Jevan Snead enough time to spin his personal best performance against a defense that sacked Tim Tebow six times the week prior.
For all the criticism they have taken, they deserve just as much praise for their effort against the Pigs.
This was also a quarterback that was booed in the Alabama game by some of his own fans gaining some redemption, confidence and new spark in his game. Jevan was one foot short on one pass from being as close to perfect as a quarterback can be.
He hit virtually every open receiver, he bought time in the pocket and, to the delight of his coaches, threw the ball away every time there was nothing to be had.
This was about a running back/wide receiver that showed the world that dynamite does indeed come in small packages. Dexter McCluster, all 168 pounds of him, was a man among boys on the gridiron Saturday. There was nobody on the field in his class, or bigger, period. If he's not the SEC Back of the Week, the award should be eliminated. Dexter blew out a shoe and a thigh pad during the game, but nothing else could even come close to slowing him down.
This was about a receiving corps that had been below their anticipated standards most of this year, but on this day they not only caught the ball extremely well, their blocking - which will go unnoticed by some - was superb. Time and time again, they sealed off the edge and the second level of defenders to spring Dexter or Brandon Bolden on the outside.
This was a defense that had its stiffest test of the year and came out smelling like roses.
DC Tyrone Nix's confounding gameplan of hitting Arkansas from every angle known to man and football, worked - almost - to perfection against an offense that was averaging over 450 yards a game.
Arkansas was totally befuddled most of the game and when they were not, they were running for their lives instead of attacking.
The Rebel defense, save one drive in each half, never allowed the Hog offense to get into any kind of rhythm or comfort zone. A thing of beauty.
It was written prior to the game that the outcome hinged on who could protect their quarterback. They couldn't, the Rebs could. Game, set, match. Call up the dogs, the hunt's over.
This was a group of special teamers who were solid from top to bottom. No mistakes, no execution errors, no quarter given in the field position battle. Plan and simple - winning football.
Besides the obvious 5-2 overall and 2-2 SEC record, where does this leave the Rebs?
The path gets no easier with the likes of Auburn on the road coming up next, but the win over the Razorbacks leaves everyone involved in a good place.
One, Houston Nutt - and all the coaches who came here from Arkansas - gets that very personal game over with for 12 more months and there's nothing sticking in anyone's craw. Don't buy the it's-just-another-game line. It's not. That time will come, but it's not here yet. For another calendar year, he's still got the upper hand. He told us a week ago that if he didn't win, he didn't eat. Eat hardy, my friend, eat well.
Two, nobody needed a shot in the arm against a quality opponent more than the Rebel offense needed that one. Their confidence should be at 2008 levels now and, as we all recall, that does not bode well for the teams remaining on their schedule.
Three, the defense is living the "unsatisfied" motto to the hilt. Week-in and week-out, they have come to play, rarely faltering, yet when the dust clears there is always a we-can-do-better attitude amongst them. Tyrone and the defensive staff are pushing all the right buttons and it shows.
Nobody knows what the future holds for this team. There is only one "bargain" left on the schedule. In this league, anything can happen.
But since the real Ole Miss Rebels have finally stood up tall and straight, I'll take my chances.
The wait, it appears, is over.
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