These pieces have become increasingly difficult to get excited about this season. The games have become a beating to watch: rife with self-inflicted wounds creating needless hurdles that the team continuously struggles to overcome, if they even do. It’s a very dull brand of football, and eking out these marginal wins over what is supposed to be the bottom tier of the division sure makes it feel like we’re on equal footing to the opposition (SPOILER: we are).
The following are the offensive categories in which Ole Miss outperformed us:
- Rushing yards (250 to 165)
- First downs (22 to 20)
- Total offense (405 to 337)
- Yards per play (5.4 to 5.1)
- Fourth down conversions (they were a perfect 3/3)
This is more an indictment of our own offense. They aren’t outrageous numbers, and while the defense gave up inexcusable chunk plays, they also managed to keep us in it with a couple of key turnovers and a healthy third-down stop rate.
Last week, Missouri put up 562 yards of offense on this Ole Miss defense. Then they turned around and lost to Vanderbilt yesterday. A few weeks ago, FCS Southeast Louisiana put up more yards (375) and points (29) against Ole Miss than we did. (This is not one of those playoff FCS teams, they are a .500 team mired in the middle tier of the Southland Conference). Even Arkansas managed 300 passing yards against the Landshark D.
This entire season seems to have been us as fans collectively waiting for the offense to “click” or to “gel” or to “magically come together and play a complete and consistent game, establishing control of the line of scrimmage and making exciting plays in open space” but alas, that seems to be a pipe dream now. There’s only one more game left in October. Folks, we’re stuck with what we’ve got right now: an offensive line that can’t generate a push in the run game and also cannot protect Kellen Mond in the pocket, a dinged-up and unproven stable of running backs, a very talented but raw tight end, a bevy of very talented and very inconsistent wide receivers, and an experienced QB who has yet to show significant strides of improvement over last year just trying to keep it all together somehow. It’s an adventure, we have to give Coach Fisher that.
Enough of the Sunday morning ennui for now. We won an SEC game on the road last night, so let’s talk positives.
Surprise, surprise. The Ray Guy Award winner didn’t have any forced fumbles this week, but he did trot out there and flip the field consistently.
- 5 punts for 261 yards
- 51.0 net average
- 4/5 punts were over 50 yards
- 1 inside the 20
It would be difficult to calibrate a punting machine that could perform with this level of consistency. It is also absolutely terrifying to think of how this team would look without Mann to bail the offense out and set the defense up in advantageous situations. Even just an average punter would have been giving Ole Miss an extra 10 yards to start out each drive. We’ve needed every single punt yard he’s been able to wring out this season. Mann is leading the nation yet again in yards per punt by nearly a full yard over the second-place punter.
It was fun to watch an Aggie linebacker play all-out, all over the field last night. Double-digit tackles again, and of course the game winner:
- 10 tackles
- 1 TFL
- 1 FR
- 62-yard defensive touchdown
Buddy Johnson is leading the Aggies in tackles in 2019, and is the co-leader in tackles for loss along with Justin Madubuike. Linebacker depth is still worrisome, but there is definitely a strong foundation in place.
Johnson’s fumble return for a touchdown was over twice as long as any Aggie offensive play last night. In fact, you have to go all the way back to Isaiah Spiller’s 85-yard run on opening night to find any Aggie offensive play that netted more yardage this season. The Aggies have only had three plays go for 40+ yards in 2019: the Spiller run and a couple of Ausbon catches. This embodies the complete absence of our offense’s explosiveness in a nutshell.
We’re over halfway through this season. It’s probably best at this point if we stop expecting any big plays from our offense, that way we’re pleasantly surprised if they do happen. That is not part of the makeup of this offense, for whatever reason. In the meantime, it’s apparently up to the punter and defensive playmakers to win games for us. Enjoy it when it happens, because it’s a lot more fun than the alternative.