Vanderbilt-Ole Miss Post-Mortem

Six fumbles, four lost fumbles, a botched punt, and an interception: it's happened before, and it will happen again. Don't listen to me; listen to some of the legendary SEC coaches of all time. General Robert Neyland, Bear Bryant, Vince Dooley, Charlie McClendon, Bobby Dodd, and Red Sanders all commented about the breaks of the game.

They believed the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins.  As a corollary to that statement, they believed in teaching their teams to force the opponents' into making mistakes.


He may have coached Vandy's chief rival, but former Tennessee football coach General Neyland deserves as much credit to making SEC football what it is today as Adolph Rupp did for basketball.  Let's look at General Neyland's Seven Maxims Of Football.  I kept a copy of these when I coached football and used it to get the point across to my players.


  1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
  2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.
  3. If at first the game-or the breaks-go against you, don't let up; put on more steam.
  4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
  5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle, for this is the winning edge.
  6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
  7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.


That, my friends, is how Ole Miss won this game Saturday; Vanderbilt didn't just give the game to the Rebels.  Ole Miss should be given some credit here.


1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. 


Vanderbilt surely made many more mistakes in the game than Ole Miss, but I think Rori Johnson, Patrick Willis, and company had something to do with it.  Johnson managed 16 tackles, forced three of the fumbles, and recovered two fumbles.  Johnson clearly played a major part in causing the fumbles.  Dick Butkus and Doug Atkins caused a lot of fumbles with the Chicago Bears because they hit the daylights out of the man with the ball, and they concentrated on trying to dislodge the ball while fracturing a few enemy ribs in the process.


2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way—score.


The Rebels made those breaks just as much as Vandy broke down.  Give credit to Ole Miss special teams coach Chris Rippon.  He produced several great special teams at Syracuse.  When the Rebels ploughed over the Vanderbilt punting team's front wall, that was not just a Commodore mistake.  That was a clever plan that the Ole Miss coach implemented after watching the game films.  Getting knocked flat on the buttocks isn't as much a mistake as it is getting schooled by better players.


When Ole Miss made those breaks, they capitalized on them.  Brent Schaeffer completed two passes to Vanderbilt players and only three to his teammates.  However, when Ole Miss forced Brett Upson to eat the football rather than punt it, Schaeffer threw his best pass of the day and maybe best of the season when he connected with Michael Hicks for an 18 yard gain that brought the Rebels to the Vandy one yard line.


When Ole Miss recovered the fumble at the Vandy 44 yard line, it took only two running plays to cover 42 of those yards. 


3. If at first the game-or the breaks-go against you, don't let up… put on more steam.


Ole Miss was delivered quite a blow on the opening play of the game.  When Vanderbilt's Chris Johnson forced Ole Miss kick returner Dexter McCluster to take a nap, the Rebels lost their starting flanker and leading receiver.  The Rebels couldn't move the ball early in the game.  When Jonathan Goff stopped BenJarvus Green-Ellis for non gain on 3rd and one early in the game, it looked like Ole Miss was in for a long day.  That's when the Rebels kicked it up a notch and began forcing mistakes.


4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.


Vanderbilt couldn't protect Upson.  Ole Miss gave Rob Park ample protection.

Once Ole Miss got the lead, the defense kept coming up with big plays late in the game to protect that lead.


5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the winning edge.


"Oskie" was the term used when Neyland's defense gained possession of the ball, alerting the defensive players to become blockers.  Pursuit and gang tackling were prevalent by the cardinal and navy.  Johnson and Willis registered 28 total tackles.  Wherever the ball went, those two were there.


6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.


There's not much need to expand on this one.  The tackling of Upson was the biggest break of the game yesterday.


7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.


The Ole Miss offense really couldn't move the ball against Vanderbilt.  Vandy's offense had some bright moments, especially in the last 20 minutes.  Ole Miss kept fighting and coming up with the plays when they had to.  They fought the full 60 minutes and certainly deserved to be rewarded with the victory.


A Quick Look At The Nation


As the halfway point of the season has approached for many teams, it's time to start looking at the conference races.  Let's examine the conferences:


Big East


Louisville and West Virginia remain undefeated, and their game on Thursday, November 2nd should decide which team earns the BCS bowl bid.  If the loser can go 11-1, there is an outside chance for garnering an at-large bid to a BCS bowl.


Rutgers is also undefeated, but they appear to be a little weaker than the big two.  Pittsburgh is undefeated in conference play and should easily become bowl eligible, as early as Friday night when they play Central Florida.  South Florida is 4-2 and definitely has enough winnable games remaining to get bowl eligible.




Georgia Tech and Clemson appear to be the two top teams and headed to the ACC Championship game.  Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami are down but not out.  Expect to see all three in bowl games.  Wake Forest had Clemson all but beaten yesterday, and then the Tigers struck for three touchdowns in the blink of an eye.  The Demon Deacons should win one or two more times and be rewarded with a bowl game.  Boston College and North Carolina State should be the other two bowl participants.




Notre Dame and Navy will both make it to the post-season.  The Irish have three or four tough games left and should win 10 games, receiving an at-large BCS Bowl bid.




Florida has moved to the head of the class after this weekend.  Arkansas may still lose twice, giving Auburn a chance to regain the West Division lead, but don't automatically discount the Razorbacks.  While they could still lose two SEC games, Auburn could easily lose one or two more as well.  LSU with two conference losses could still back in to the West crown by winning out, but games at Tennessee and at Arkansas could easily go the other way.  Alabama will win at least seven games, and some bowl will grab them up.


Georgia and Tennessee still hold slight hopes of winning the East.  The Vols need Florida to lose twice.  It would have to happen the next two games.  If the Gators beat Auburn and Georgia, they could run the table.


South Carolina and Kentucky should both gain bowl eligibility.  The Gamecocks need two more wins, and they have Vanderbilt and MTSU on the schedule.  The Wildcats need three more wins, and they have Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana Monroe yet to play.


This means nine teams could be bowl eligible for eight bowl allotments.  Don't assume all bowl eligible teams will get invites.  Ole Miss went 7-4 in 2001 and didn't get the call.


Conference USA


C-USA has five bowl allotments, and five teams appear to be headed for six or more wins.  Houston looked like the class of the league until they lost to UL-Lafayette Saturday.  Tulsa could repeat as league champs.  UTEP is going to finish above .500, but they need to play better than they have to make it to the C-USA title game.  Southern Miss. and UAB are fighting it out in the East Division.




Three teams appear to be the co-leaders for the New Orleans Bowl berth.  Louisiana Lafayette picked up a big win this past weekend.  MTSU and Arkansas State appear to be the chief rivals, but don't count Troy out just yet. 




Kent State has emerged from out of nowhere as a force to be reckoned with in the MAC.  After losing to Army to start 0-2, the Golden Flashes have ridden roughshod over Miami (O), Bowling Green, and Akron.  Ohio U is still in contention for the East Division title.


In the West, Central Michigan is in the lead, but Northern Illinois is breathing down the Chippewa's' necks.  The two teams face off in Dekalb, IL on Friday, November 17th.


Big 10


Can it happen?  Can there be a repeat of 1970 and 1973?  Ohio State and Michigan are dismissing opponents quickly every week.  The Buckeyes should run the table until they face the Wolverines.  Michigan has a tough road game at Penn State to get by and then a feisty Iowa team at home.  They two could square off at the "Shoe" on November 18th as the number one and number two teams in the nation and in the BCS polls.  A close win in this game could possibly force them to play again in Arizona.


Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State appear to be on their way to bowl games.  Purdue still has some work to do, but they have enough winnable games on their schedule to become bowl eligible.  The seventh team could be Michigan State if they can rally around Coach Smith.


Big 12


Missouri is the only undefeated team left in this league, and the Tigers find themselves well down in the polls.  Texas has lost only to Ohio State, and the Longhorns could be headed back to a BCS bowl.  Nebraska is starting to look like a double-digit winning team.  Oklahoma will still win eight or nine games this season.  Texas Tech and Texas A&M will win seven or more games and get bowl bids.  Kansas State and Baylor both have chances to get to six wins, but Iowa State and Oklahoma State appear to be on the outside looking in.


Mountain West


What has happened to TCU?  After beating Texas Tech, they have fallen apart at the seams losing their last two games.  Utah, Brigham Young, Air Force, and Colorado State are unbeaten in league play.  All four should become bowl eligible.  TCU will recover and win eight or nine games and make it five.  Somebody will be one of the few bowl eligible teams not to get a bid.




Boise State could be 11-0 when they close the regular season at Nevada on November 25th.  The fifth BCS Bowl game was set up for circumstances like this, and if the Broncos win that 12th game, they will deserve to get that at-large bid.  Deserve it yes, get it maybe not.  The schedule will not have included an out-of-conference win over a quality opponent.


Nevada and Hawaii should get bowl bids, but Fresno State is going to be left out unless they can upset Boise State on the blue field.  The Bulldogs lost at Utah State Saturday night.


Dennis Erickson has given Idaho a fighting chance to win seven games this year.  That may not be enough to get a bowl bid.  Now, if the Vandals can upset Boise State at home in two weeks, they could get in the picture.




Will Southern Cal finally lose a regular season game?  The two Washington teams took the Trojans to the limit.  It looks like the Trojans could stub their toes at least once in the final four games.  They must play Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame, and UCLA to close out the season, but they won't have to leave Los Angeles County during that four game stretch.  If they run this table, they will face the Michigan-Ohio State winner for the National Championship.


California, Oregon, UCLA, and Washington should earn bowl bids, while Washington State and Arizona State fight it out for bowl bids.  If the Sun Devils fail to make it, Coach Dirk Koetter's seat could be quite hot. Top Stories