If Hugh Freeze is going to build Ole Miss into a winning football program, he’ll have to change recent history in one very important category.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the recent decline of the Rebels. Getting to the sheer numbers of it, no category is more striking than turnover margin.
In the best of times, Houston Nutt’s team’s didn’t protect the football well enough or didn’t produce enough turnovers. Usually, a combination.
Even the 2009 team that won nine games and reached a No. 4 ranking in September was just minus .54 in turnover margin.
They both talked about the importance of protecting the football, as all coaches do, but neither Nutt nor his predecessor, Ed Orgeron, had a team finish on the plus side of turnover margin.
Ole Miss hasn’t gained more turnovers than it lost since 2003 when the three-letter guy was quarterback.
That year Eli threw 10 interceptions to go along with 29 touchdowns. His interceptions were off-set by a secondary that picked off 15 passes, four each by Von Hutchins and Travis Johnson.
The offense fumbled an alarming 22 times, but lost nine while the defense recovered 10 fumbles.
The 2003 average of .46 for 11 games in the turnover margin line remains the best figure for the last decade. The best since the turn of the century is a .63 finish in 2000, another David Cutcliffe team that was plus five on interceptions (with Romaro Miller at quarterback) and plus 2 on fumbles.
Nine times in the 21st Century the Rebels have lost more turnovers than they’ve gained including last year when their minus-.67 average ranked No. 100 among FBS teams.