Notes and thoughts from the week of Ole Miss football and a 27-13 loss to Georgia. ...
For Ole Miss football in the wake of a 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt, last week began with the Forward Rebels' ads ripping the administration, then moved to Ole Miss AD Pete Boone taking charge of the football story with his comments at the weekly presser.
Houston Nutt of course spoke too, then on Tuesday Nutt gave a more forceful speech following practice in which he took responsibility for the team, saying it was his and no one else's.
The off-field issues never died down, as the alumni group and former players weighed in on Friday and Saturday with the theme of unity within the Ole Miss family.
Clearly it's a divided family right now.
Following Saturday afternoon's 27-13 loss to Georgia, Twitter was alive Saturday night with rumors of Boone's resignation announcement to come soon.
The theme of Nutt's postgame presser was improvement, coaches on offense and defense saying the Rebels are getting better.
There may have been some improvement, but you have to really look hard to find it. You have to be able to read between the lines and watch the video to see it.
There was not improvement that was evident in results. Nutt talked about running lanes there against Georgia that were not there against Vanderbilt, but what use are the running lanes if the backs don't hit them, and you don't make plays.
There needs to be more tangible improvement, hope that is more easily viewed, if Nutt is going to rally the fan base behind him in the difficult weeks ahead.
A little frustration seemed to bubble over from defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix when he was asked about the distractions with the assistant coaches' meeting with Boone earlier in the week.
Nix downplayed the meeting, saying it was a “normal” week of preparation.
“It's normal. He talked a little bit about his expectations and the things that he wanted to see done, but that's not different from us as coaches. We have those same expectations every week, and we strive for those results. It's obvious we don't get them every time. We didn't get them today, but we made improvement. At the end of the year you make your decision on how much improvement you made, but I feel like right now we're a hell of a lot better than we were a year ago. We're not where we need to be, but we're headed in that direction.”
Offensive coordinator David Lee hit on an interesting theme when he discussed his concern about losing the team mentally.
“At this point when you look at coming off this season and the lack of success last season you worry about your players say, 'Oh boy, here we go again.' That's the attitude that cannot set into your team. I went up to each player in the locker room and touched on that and told them to just keep fighting.”
On offense, the Rebels' top playmakers are freshmen. Ole Miss has scored four touchdowns against FBS opposition this season, one by Charles Sawyer, one by Nick Brassell, two by Donte Moncrief.
If running lanes are there, they're small and not open long. A healthy Brandon Bolden might be able to hit one and bounce outside, but other backs are not able to do that.
Offense is painful to watch right now, a burst of production here, a few plays there, but nothing that resembles a touchdown drive.
Against FBS foes this season Ole Miss has four touchdowns, one on defense from Charles Sawyer, one on special teams from Nick Brassell and two on offense from Donte Moncrief. Moncrief's touchdowns were 47 yards against Vanderbilt, 38 yards against Georgia.
There were a lot of trick plays and attacking of the perimeter on offense, and Nutt said that would continue, that he'll “pull out all the stops” and do whatever he can to put his players in position to win. He said he asked Lee to “pull out all the stops.”
Ultimately, though, games come back to blocking and tackling, and you have to be able to function from traditional sets, and the Rebels aren't able to do that right now.
I agree with Nix that the defense is better. It's much better in the secondary but just average in the front seven, and there's a lot of improvement still on the table for that side of the ball.
The Rebels have a long road trip this week to Fresno State, and I'm sure fans who follow along noticed that the Rebels' remaining non-conference opponent after Fresno – Louisiana Tech – took Mississippi State to overtime last night in Starkville.
There's a lot of improvement left to make on both sides of the ball if the Rebels are going to win another game this year.