By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The game dubbed the “Hot Seat Bowl” by some did nothing to address the future of Ole Miss football, but served as a reminder that the present is painful and the immediate outlook bleak.
Georgia moved up and down the field and totaled 475 yards in a 27-13 win before 58,042 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
It was more than enough offense to counter the meager production of an Ole Miss unit that once again struggled to find the end zone.
Five days after Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone stood at the weekly football press conference and called for more “fire” from the Rebels, they managed just 183 yards and only one touchdown from the line of scrimmage.
Running back Jeff Scott had two touchdowns called back, one a 66-yard run with a lateral on the Rebels’ third play, the other a 70-yard punt return in the final minutes. Both were negated by illegal block penalties.
“We came out ready to play and played hard, but we’re not good enough to overcome when a touchdown is called back like that,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “We have a hard enough time trying to stay in rhythm.”
Georgia (2-2, 1-1 SEC) rushed for 207 yards, 147 of them from freshman Isaiah Crowell. His biggest run was a 29-yard gain off the right side when Ole Miss had the Bulldogs facing third-and-9 from their own 2.
Georgia went on to complete a 99-yard drive to lead 17-0 with 6 minutes, 1 second left in the first half.
Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked three times.
“We did some really big things on both sides of the ball,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I thought the defense finished extremely well. It was an outstanding SEC road victory.”
The Ole Miss offense was held to one TD for the second straight week.
The Rebels got a little life on an 81-yard punt return by Nick Brassell, who broke free along the Georgia sideline after taking the handoff from Scott.
But from set offensive plays the Rebels could get only a 38-yard touchdown catch from Donte Moncrief.
The play came with 5 minutes left in the second quarter from the Wildcat formation. Scott took the shotgun snap, gave it to Philander Moore coming across, and Moore flipped to Randall Mackey who hit Moncrief downfield.
The Rebels (1-3, 0-2 SEC) have scored four touchdowns this year against FBS teams, three of them by freshmen. Only two of them have come from the offense – both on passes to Moncrief.
That being said, Nutt and offensive coordinator David Lee said they saw improvement. There were more running lanes, though the backs didn’t always hit them in a timely manner. Pass protection was better, they said, in spite of four sacks by Georgia.
“We played better than we played last week, so we improved. Did we win the game, nope, and that’s the objective,” Lee said.
There were still major concerns. Lee said three-and-out possessions are “killing” the Rebels’ defense, and he wants to make sure his players stay with the season 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,” he said.
Ole Miss QB Zack Stoudt completed just 9-of-23 passes. He was sacked twice and threw an interception.
The numbers are ugly, the results disappointing, but Stoudt thinks Ole Miss can turn things around.
“We’re going through a lot of crap right now and did last year. I know I’m new to it. The talk people do outside of this place about us is really negative, and I think that’s brought us really close,” he said. “Today was a huge improvement. We lost, and we did some stupid things, but we did a lot of things much better than we did last week. We’re getting close.”