As bad as it gets?

If you coach football at Ole Miss, the things you need to do to make most happy are fairly clear.

After all, there hasn't been an SEC title since 1963 or a Sugar Bowl since 1970 and never a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

Sure, there have been several head coaches through the years. But the list to make it here is fairly short. Winning seasons, bowl games, compete and play hard, have a decent shot at winning the SEC West, things like that.

However, here's what you can't do: lose to Mississippi State and lose to a I-AA team. In the last two regular season games here, that's what's happened.

Other than those two games, it's mostly been good around here in the current era. Everybody loves beating LSU two years running. Tennessee? Ran the Big Orange back to east Tennessee faster than a Dexter McCluster zig-zag run across the turf for another score. Arkansas? Oh yeah, those last two years have been special, beating Houston Nutt and staff's old program. And those two Cotton Bowls? Who hasn't had fun on those last two trips to Texas?

But you can't lose to Mississippi State and Division I-AA teams (or FCS teams or even lower BCS teams like Monroe, LaTech, MTSU, Arkansas State) and people stay the course.

Markeith Summers

The double overtime loss to Jacksonville State was a kick in the gut for this fan base. Somebody told me Ole Miss hadn't lost to a non-Division I team since 1945. I don't know if that's right or not and don't care. I'll just trust them on that.

Then came Sept. 4, 2010. Undoubtedly a lot of Ole Miss fans skipped church today. All of them are thankful for a Monday holiday.

You can't lose to I-AA teams or to Mississippi State. It's too hard on your fan base. Not after the positives of Friday, Sept. 3. The roller coaster ride is just too much.

Not even probation hurts the average fan as bad. Yes, it does the program and the administration and the finances. But a couple of wins over Mississippi State back during a couple of different probations the last century helped fans at least survive.

Don't get me wrong, please. I am in no way saying winning those two type scenarios - MSU and FCS, lower tier games - are all supporters want. Ole Miss folks long for a trip to Atlanta to play for an SEC Championship, and they desperately want to get back to the Sugar Bowl.

True story. There's an Ole Miss family living in the Delta. Their young son wants to go to the 1970 Sugar Bowl with his parents. The Rebs have been to eight Sugar Bowls in the previous 18 seasons.

Son: "Mom, I want to go."

Mom: "Son, not this year. Maybe next time. We go almost every year."

The Rebels have never been back.

Saturday in and of itself was as low a point as this program has had in non-probation years that I can recall. I can't remember a more dramatic loss to an inferior program since the 1970 loss in Oxford to Southern Miss when the Rebels were ranked No. 4 and had a potential national championship team, and USM was still basically a small-college nobody.

Jesse Grandy

Unfortunately now Ole Miss fans know how Mississippi State fans felt after losing to Troy State and Maine a few years back. The jokes will have to stop now.

JSU head coach Jack Crowe knows what it means for an SEC team to lose to a Division I-AA team. When he was head coach at Arkansas, in its first SEC year ever, and his team opened the 1992 season with a loss to I-AA The Citadel, Crowe was handed his walking papers immediately following the contest.

Jacksonville State is a good football team that played superbly Saturday. Think about it. They really played an outstanding football game.

But with Ole Miss up 14-0 early and 31-10 at halftime, you don't lose that game. Not at home. Not in the season opener. Not if you're an SEC school.

The immediate bright side of this one? Tulane, which beat Southeastern Louisiana 27-21, is up next and is probably not as good as Jacksonville State.

I went back to see what I wrote on Thursday as things to watch in the JSU game.

Ole Miss wins if... the Rebels play like they are supposed to play. They can't just show up and expect an easy contest, not against a team picked to win its league and has anticipated this opener against an SEC team for months. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has said he doesn't feel his defenders will have to carry this team, that there is much talent on the other side of the ball. But early on, and while the offense gets itself together, the defense will likely lead the way.

Jacksonville State pulls the upset if... the Rebels don't play like they are supposed to play. While this one could be close for a while (remember, JSU is picked as OVC champs and certainly has some talent and a veteran coaching staff), time is on Ole Miss' side. Depth should show in the third and fourth quarters. But lay it on the ground three times and throw a couple of interceptions (remember Vandy two years ago?) and JSU could be in it fairly late.

So here's what happened. Ole Miss turned it over three times to JSU's none. The Rebel defense couldn't stop the Gamecocks from scoring in the second half as JSU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Rebel offense scored three points in the third and fourth quarters combined.

And Jacksonville State players simply made every key play in the fourth quarter and in the two overtimes, some of them by improvising and snatching success from the jaws of disaster.

It was just one game, but for Ole Miss football it was one very bad game.

Check that list above. There are just a few don'ts on there. But we've been witnessing those too often lately.

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