Explaining the Unexplainable

The team meeting room of Ole Miss' indoor practice facility was a dismal scene late Saturday afternoon. Unsurprising, of course, considering the Rebels had just dropped an unthinkable loss to Jacksonville State moments earlier.

Requested players filed in only because they had to.

"That was a heart-breaker. Definitely," senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli , the first to show, said. "It's just tough. We have to learn from it. We can't let it happen again."

One by one, from quarterback Nathan Stanley to safety Johnny Brown, they took their respective seats. These are the days when postgame media sessions are all but obligatory, when answering questions is a tedious process.

Attempting to explain the unexplainable is, obviously, a difficult task.

"It's a tough one. You definitely want to win your home opener," Stanley said, an icepack calming soreness in his throwing shoulder. "It's a tough pill to swallow, but we can't dwell on it. We have to move on, put it behind us, stay together and get ready for next week."

Nathan Stanley

Every adjective in the book – shocking, stunning, unbelievable – were used. Losing to Jacksonville State, and in such a spectacular way, was incomprehensible.

Ole Miss led, 31-10, at halftime. But as Jekyll turned to Hyde, a stagnant second-half offense gave away two turnovers while scoring only three points. The defense bordered on complete ineptitude, yielding 285 yards of total offense and 39 points in the final four frames.

"I felt like the defense was going to stop them," sophomore wide receiver Melvin Harris said. "But you win some, you lose some. They just did what they had to do to win."

The Rebels' inexperienced secondary was picked on at will in the second half.

Brown, the only returning starter in the bunch, saw his unit allow 252 combined passing yards to Marques Ivory and Coty Blanchard. Amazingly, each JSU quarterback threw for 126 yards. They evenly dominated a defense expected to rank in the top-tier of Southeastern Conference defenses.

"We have a real young team," Brown, a senior and team captain, said. "We've got to learn how to finish games. That's all."

If only it were that easy.

Junior running back Enrique Davis said of the loss: "It was like a train you could see coming, but you couldn't get off the track."

Well, this train was barreling full steam on a non-stop course to an upset, upending what was once an encouraging opening to 2010, before colliding head-on for the greatest of all stomach punches to some 55,000 fans in attendance.

JSU methodically chipped away as Ole Miss proved comatose. First was the second of two field goal conversions of plus-40 yards by JSU kicker James Esco. Then three touchdowns spread over the third and fourth quarters.

As time expired in regulation, the score was tied. But Jacksonville State held all momentum. Ole Miss, meanwhile, stood on edge, flustered of what had transpired right in from of them. All the Rebels could do was watch in amazement.

They had done it to themselves, as Stanley admitted afterwards.

"We've got to mature as a team and just come out and be focused," Stanley said. "Can't let up. I felt like we kind of let up. We definitely should have taken these guys a little more serious than we did in the second half."

Complacency breeds humility, especially when said complacency leads to a loss. At least to Melvin Harris it does. Jacksonville State shocked a nation inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday but, somehow, Harris believes Ole Miss can rebound.

"You've just got to be optimistic about it. Maybe this was the wake-up call we needed," he said. "Tomorrow, we've just got to come back and work even harder. Once we've got the clamp on somebody's throat, we've just got to keep pressing. We can't let up."


OM Spirit Top Stories