Many people have approached me with the opinion that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was too critical of freshman receiver Donte Moncrief for his drop of a great pass from Randall
Mackey, a deep ball that would have put the Rebels down around the Arkansas 15 in a game that was tied at 17 in the third quarter.
I have mixed opinions there. I thought Nutt lingered too long on the subject, even came back to it a second time. You’re just not going to catch every ball.
I’m also a proponent of responsibility for players, guys who are old enough for military service.
Here’s Nutt in his opening statement: “I wish Donte would have caught one more ball. He made some great catches today, but I wish he’d have caught one more ball. I think that would have put us over the edge right there. We needed something in the third quarter to give us the confidence to go ahead and finish it,” Nutt said.
Later in response to a question about the third quarter Nutt said, “We got off rhythm a little bit. We dropped some balls, illegal procedure, too many penalties, then you drop a ball like that that changes the end of the field. Man, all we needed was one score. I really feel like all we needed was one score to get that confidence where you say, ‘Hey, we’re going to win now.’”
I don’t have the audio file saved, but it seems like Nutt had less to say about Nick Brassell’s end zone drop against BYU. Circumstances gave that one a better chance of being the difference in winning and losing in that game than Moncrief’s drop – a very big drop – did against Arkansas.
Moncrief had five other catches for 73 yards in the game. He had two touchdown catches, neither of which were easy.
The critical line is a fine one to walk in public for coaches, and different coaches handle it differently. Offensive coordinator David Lee, who has an extensive background coaching NFL players, has done pretty well this season with holding players accountable for performance, but he had little to say about Moncrief’s drop.
“Listen, Donte’s a really good player, a really good player. A freshman who’s played way past what I thought would happen when he came in here. You’re not going to catch every ball. It sure would have helped. We were down on the 12, I think, or the 15. I thought he played well, and I’m not going to put anything on his plate for that play.”
Some will say Nutt was trying to deflect attention away from the coaching. I don’t think that’s the case. He was genuinely bothered by the play that got away, one he truly believed would have been the difference-maker for Ole Miss.