By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – First-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin rejects the Commodores’ past and talks only about the future.
After a dismal first-half performance in which it avoided a shutout loss only with a late meaningless touchdown, Ole Miss may be in future mode, too – the kind where you play more of your young players and get them ready for next year.
Whatever good will and hope was created in playing well against a quality opponent at home on Sept. 3 was squandered by missed tackles, poor offensive line play and turnovers as the Commodores took over in the second quarter.
Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt – who did not throw an interception in his first 43 attempts over two games – threw five, with one returned for a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Randall Mackey got in for one unproductive series in the half which basically served to support the theory that even most mobile quarterbacks have to have blocking. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a thigh bruise.
If there was to be healing from the debacle of 2010 there needed to be the hope of postseason. Six wins is what it takes, and you’re at least eligible for one of 10 SEC bowl tie-ins.
Ole Miss, at 1-2, is not mathematically eliminated, of course. But the Rebels are establishing a body of work, and it’s not one of consistency through most of the 60 minutes or of fighting through the tough times.
Six wins for Ole Miss was never going to be easy, but for a team that has stumbled backward since opening day, it’s hard to believe there are five more out there unless there’s rapid improvement.
That in itself is the problem.
There’s been no improvement since BYU. From that solid effort in the first game, the Rebels had a chance to come here and show things were getting better.
Instead, concerns that appeared in small ways against Southern Illinois appeared en masse against Vanderbilt and returned the Rebels to the past they’re trying to forget.
Sometimes, teams look very different in October and November than in September.
Forget a bowl game. After their worst loss to Vanderbilt since 1930, the program desperately needs some positive energy. Remember, a $150 million capital campaign already faces the challenge of a bad economy. Bad football won’t help, nor will a fan base divided over the future of its coach.
The administration rebuffed “hot seat” talk for Houston Nutt in the summer. It has been supportive, but sometimes future considerations change things.
Parrish Alford covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at NEMS360.com.