There are a hundred things from last night to point at and call horrible. In the interest of our own sanity, we’ve chosen to focus on just the third quarter. That bumbling, inept, shitshow of a third quarter where we allowed Ole Miss to hang around and did absolutely nothing to salt the game away despite having so many chances. Sure, the fourth quarter was bad too, but if we’d done anything at all in the third, it may not have mattered.
DRIVE 1: 6 plays, 21 yards, turnover on downs.
Was this our only foray into Ole Miss territory during the third quarter? You bet it was. It was also the longest drive in terms of number of plays and yardage in the entire quarter. Six plays. 21 yards. Roughly half of the yardage we amassed in the third quarter.
Ole Miss came out of halftime and tried the onside kick. Riley Garner recovered at the A&M 48. We’re up 21-6 with the ball at midfield and all the momentum. A nice Ford run and a Hubenak scramble get us to the Ole Miss 40. After a failed trick play (pass from Kirk to Noil was just a bit overthrown) a Trayveon Williams nine-yard run set up third and one from the Ole Miss 31.
We couldn’t get one fucking yard on two tries. Turnover on downs. That set the tone for the entire rest of the game: we weren’t tough enough to generate three feet of offense on two plays, so we sure as hell weren’t tough enough to keep a scrappy team like Ole Miss from getting back into the game.
DRIVE 2: 3 plays, 5 yards, punt.
We got the ball back on our own 18 thanks to a nice interception by Larry Pryor, who was filling in for the injured Armani Watts. First play was a two yard run by Keith Ford but OH WAIT! Holding on one of our senior tackles. Half the distance to the goal. The ball is backed up to the 9 yard-line. First and 18. Hubenak completes a 14 yard pass to Reynolds to set up a 2nd and 5. Not bad. EXCEPT: the QB fumbles the next snap. Ford is right there to jump on it. Loss of 2, 3rd and 7. Hubenak is forced to scramble and only picks up 2 yards. PUNT.
Notice the pattern? Every time something good happens, the offense bungles something to counteract it immediately. Interception by the defense? How about a holding penalty to get us inside our own 10. Log pass play to get into a 2nd and medium? Can’t have that; let’s fumble a snap. It’s sloppy play that should not be happening in week 11. It’s a lack of focus. Whatever it is, it’s something that is not getting fixed.
DRIVE 3: 4 plays, 15 yards, punt.
The Ags get the ball in an almost identical situation: after Ole Miss drives into the red zone, Zaycoven Henderson has a huge sack/strip and gets the ball back for the offense at the 18.
On first down, Trayveon has a great 14-yard run out to the 32. Next play, he gets a nice six-yard pickup. 2nd and 4 from the 38. Next play, one-yard run by Williams again. 3rd and 3 from the 39.
What followed was one of the more baffling plays of the evening, and that’s saying a lot. The offense runs a lot of obtuse, stubborn, predictable things, but this play was just beyond imagining. It was Fran-esque in its design and no amount of flawless execution could have saved it. Not only had Ole Miss been stuffing any sort of WR screen all game long, we went ahead and gave them another advantage by throwing to a flaring running back running parallel to the line of scrimmage (well behind it, of course) on a side of the field that had fewer blockers than defenders. Williams was immediately tackled the instant he caught it for a loss of six yards. SIX! How do you lose six yards on a pass play on 3rd and 3? It’s phenomenal. I don’t know if Hubenak was supposed to go somewhere else or if every single player missed their assignment, but what an achievement. This offense continues to find ways to thoroughly defy all expectation for disappointment. Punt.
Drive 4: 3 plays, 2 yards, punt. Less than a minute taken off the clock.
Welp, we were all the way into the shitswamp by now. The wheels were locked and this train was careening over the precipice. The offensive players were rattled, they had no confidence, Ole Miss was fired up because they were hanging around, and all that remained was for the Aggies to shit the bed, as usual. After the defense forced a rare 3-and-out, the O trotted out and strung together this beauty of a drive:
- incomplete pass
- 2-yard run
- incomplete pass
and that’s all she wrote. Ole Miss got the ball back with over 3 minutes left in the third quarter and put together a methodical, gut-kick of a drive that resulted in a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Total offense in the 3rd quarter: 43 yards on 16 plays. 2.68 yards per play.
Why are we doing this to ourselves; re-living this macabre scenario again today in the harsh sunlight of reality? Because it’s bad. Because it’s broken and we need to stare at it, pick at it, stew over it, and hate it. Because it shouldn’t be happening, yet it does over and over again. We’re not here to postulate on solutions, we’re just here to peel off the scab and remind ourselves just how painful this reality is: this team once again imploded and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Look at those Aggies, another late-season collapse.
Here’s one last number: 8-4. That’s not necessarily a bad number on the surface. Many people would have been happy with that at the beginning of the year. But if you look at how we arrived there, and how stilted and sideways it feels, it seems pretty fucking awful.