Egg Laid

The second decade of the 21st century didn't start out well for the Ole Miss Rebels, to say the least. A 49-48 double-overtime loss to upstart Jacksonville State wasn't what the doctor ordered. Read about it inside.

The rollercoaster that has been Ole Miss football for the past week unfortunately continued, this time with the down side, way down.

I have to admit, never in my wildest dreams did I see this one - a 49-48 double-overtime loss to Jacksonville State - coming, especially not after the day before receiving what we all thought was program-changing good news with QB Jeremiah Masoli being cleared to play and DE Kentrell Lockett being deemed healthy enough to come back next week.

Nathan Stanley

No, it was not a way to start a new decade of Ole Miss football.

That it - an upset of huge proportions - happened was not as puzzling, to me, as how it happened. Upsets, major upsets, happen every week in college football, but this one had its own bewildering stamp on it.

Like Forrest Gump, I'm not a bright man, but someone please explain how a team dominates an inferior opponent for one half and then all but falls apart in the second half, allowing said inferior team - on paper - to march away with a victory on home turf? You are brighter than me if you can answer that one.

Unexpected? No, this goes beyond that realm. The residual damage from Hurricane Katrina was unexpected. Me having a beautiful wife was unexpected. The crash of the economy was unexpected. This was unimaginable.

The Rebels ripped, rolled and frolicked in the opening 30 minutes. It was easy, maybe too easy.

"I think we let out guard down," said Tailback Enrique Davis. "We didn't intend to. We intended to keep hammering them, but you could feel it.

"It was like a train you could see coming, but you couldn't get off the track."

We all witnessed a crisp, confident and happy Rebel team in the first half. Everything, almost, was going their/our way.

Somehow, someway, the light was flipped off at intermission. The Rebels, scarily and suddenly, became complacent, unfocused, careless and almost lethargic.

Meanwhile, nothing-to-lose Jacksonville State saw an opening and pounced on it like lion on a crippled gazelle.

Suddenly, a defensive unit - expected to be the pride of the team - that had held the Gamecocks to 70 first-half yards and a piddling field goal, couldn't make a meaningful or significant play. They had chances, but always seemed a step slow or had their minds wandering. Simply put, they flat out got outplayed.

Suddenly, an offense that had put up 31 first-half points could muster only a late field goal in regulation. Two key turnovers seemed to shake them to the core and take away all their aggressiveness and composure.

What was smooth and well-oiled in one breath became labored and sputtering the next.

If one is looking for a reason, here it is.

This Rebel team, for whatever unexplainable reason, committed the cardinal sin of football. In coaching circles, the unforgivable.

They thought they had the game won. They let off the gas a little, lost their focus a little, lost their intensity a little and that let up came back to slap them in their collective faces.

Not a good way to open a new decade of Ole Miss football

It's an old saying, but old sayings become such because they are true. Football is a four-quarter game.

It's not just a fast start. It's not cruising into halftime with a big lead. It's not about getting satisfied midway through the third quarter.

It's about finishing. It's about playing every down like it's the last of your career no matter what the score is.

This Reb team did not heed that warning and fell victim to the age old trap of getting satisfied before satisfaction was warranted.

As a result, they got bitten, hard.

As Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix said postgame, there will be some character checking going on now.

The new decade of Ole Miss football started with a fizzle, one that will be felt for a while inside and outside the program. With due respect to Jacksonville State, our Rebels laid an egg.

There's only one way for redemption. Learn from this major oops and put it behind them.

Already, with the season and the decade just one game old, it's gut-check time, make no mistake about it.

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