I’ve written a couple of these and intended for them to be a running weekly thing but more than anything they were a way for me to figure out what was going on. And there was a lot to figure out with both the Arkansas and Missississippi State losses and then, even more, to figure out after we beat Bama.
Once we got past Mizzou I thought we had a pretty decent identity so there wasn't much to work through. South Carolina and Auburn went about the way we expected them to.
But this one...this one was a little bit surprising. And much of it is due to excellent game planning from Ole Miss defensive coordinator DJ Durkin. He knew what he was doing and did it quite well. But the game brought up a whole host of questions about our team, so let’s process them together.
WHITHER THE RPO
I’m not a true Xs and Os guy so you smarter than me people please weigh in in the comments, but against Arkansas when asked why we didn't run the ball more, Jimbo responded that the play call was an RPO, and he’d have to go back to look and see what Calzada was looking at to see if it was the right call. I believe we saw a lot of that this weekend, and it was fairly successful a lot of the time. Ole Miss would load the box and we’d go out to 81 or 1 for a 7 yard gain putting us at second and short. Not a bad situation.
Two problems with this from my view: it sets us up to be predictable. 2nd and 3 is a tough down to call...you want to run it by they know you want to run it. If you miss it then in the exact same spot.
My main beef here is that last set of plays when the game was still in doubt. We’re down 2 with 7:08 left in the game. Goal should be to eat clock and just move the ball efficiently down the field. First play is an RPO—that same one that had been picking up 7 yards a pop, but the ball is batted. The second is a designed out to Demas, and we all know what happened then.
The game was on the line and we passed it twice. I caught some flack for saying this game wasn't on Zach, and I 100% still believe it. If you ask Zach to attempt 41 passes you’re opening yourself up to a wide amount of variation. Much of that comes down to those RPOs. Our offense hasn't been all that productive against SEC foes aside from either Bama or South Carolina (what a variation). I don't know what to do about that.
Demas caught 5 balls for 43 yards. He too has gotten some flack for missing a couple of balls, and he deserves some of it. But beyond that, I saw Demas taking a huge lick and coming back to make some tough grabs.
He’s got all the talent in the world and is slowly rounding into form as a dog/gamer kind of guy. I was encouraged by his performance last night.
Isaiah Spiller is the heart and soul of this team. He has done everything we’ve asked him to. His patience is unworldly and his ability to burst when he sees the hole has gotten us out of a lot of binds this year.
Ole Miss schemed well this game. They ran 8 man fronts, they ran 6 man fronts with another dude creeping with his eyes in the backfield. Their goal was to stop the run by being disciplined and clogging the gaps. They won the line of scrimmage.
When you go back and watch that safety play you see 85 getting blown up, you also see 58 getting blown up But you see a hesitation step from Isaiah when he could have (again I’m saying this as a dude who knows nothing about football) burst forward just to get 1 yard and get out of the endzone.
Many of Achane’s yards came in situations where they didn't expect him to run, but he still got 9.2 yards a pop. Achane was that guy on Saturday—the guy that we should have put all our hopes into. I dont know why we didn't.
None of this is the defense's fault. The bend but don't break philosophy worked well enough to put us in a position to win the game and it seems absolutely ridiculous to even nitpick them slightly when we held an elite Ole Miss Team to 15 points halfway through the fourth.
But in our losses against Arkansas, Miss St, and now Ole Miss we have given up 307, 248, and then a whopping 408 yards in the first half.
Yes we clamped down in the second...but we have gone into half of those games behind the 8 ball on both offense and defense. It’s a points hole that we should have been able to dig our way out, but still something to be concerned with.
When Haynes went down I didn't know what to expect. After we beat Bama, I thought that the most realistic scenario would be to split Ole Miss and Auburn and position ourselves for 10 wins. We’re still on track to get there.
Expectations are a tough thing to get a handle on especially with the volatility of this year. We’ve gotten beat by some good teams who I think we beat with a different starting QB. But we didn't have that.
We lost a few of our post-season possibilities this weekend by there is so much left to play for.
Clean stuff up, figure stuff out, and go BTHO prairie view.