Ole Miss took care of business against the Auburn Tigers this week, winning the Rebel’s 2012 Homecoming matchup 41-20, and their first SEC game since 2010.
The last two years have been an exercise in extreme patience for the Rebel fan base as the last SEC win came on October 2, 2010 against Kentucky. Since that time, Rebel fans have endured a coaching change, a mascot change, an athletic director change and many long nights questioning our sanity and maybe even life’s priorities to continue to support this team.
But, oh, how quickly winning solves all ills.
Head coach Hugh Freeze has achieved maximum buy-in from the players and fans with his monumental turn-around. With four wins and five left to play, the Rebels are eyeing a bowl game, and that is something very few people could envision in the first year of a ground-up rebuilding program.
Let’s look at some of the winners and losers from this much needed win in Oxford.
Ole Miss Quarterback Bo Wallace has been the target of much criticism recently. After starting out strong early in the season, Wallace has given up seven interceptions against the stronger opponents (Texas, Alabama and Texas A&M).
It was apparent, if Ole Miss would do anything positive this year, it was up to Bo Wallace to protect the football.
The Sophomore QB responded in a big way by playing an entire game, turnover-free. He also set a new mark for Ole Miss QB’s by scoring touch downs by passing, rushing and receiving for the first time for a Rebel signal caller, in the same game.
Wallace finished 17-22 for 226 yards and accounted for four of Ole Miss’ five touchdowns.
This Rebel team is short on size and depth, but the one apparent difference from last year’s Rebel team is leadership. Jeff Scott has stepped up and become the leader that he had to be for Ole Miss to be successful.
Rushing 21 times for 137 yards, the diminutive running back has proven to everyone he can carry his share of the team against the best defensive lines in the country. Averaging over six yards per carry is difficult in the SEC, but for a team as thin as Ole Miss it just isn’t enough.
It took this amazing run by Scott to close the door. Auburn was within seven points in the fourth quarter before Jeff Scott ripped off this 55-yard touchdown run that has been described as “The Play of the Year.”
Auburn entered Week 7 of the SEC season with several key issues and problems for Head Coach Gene Chizik to work out. One of which is the rushing defense.
Prior to the Saturday morning matchup, Auburn ranked last in the league in rushing defense. Many things has attributed to this, but Coach Chizik mainly attributed the problems to fundamentals.
I thought our tackling was very poor...Any time a team runs for 200 yards on you, that's not very good defense at all.
Ole Miss' fast-paced offense didn't allow Auburn to improve their stats much, as Ole Miss was able to pile up 200 yards on the ground, and 251 through the air, mostly on underneath, safe routes.
Following the upper cut by Jeff Scott’s 55-yard TD run, Mike Marry provided the knock-out blow by intercepting Auburn QB Clint Mosley on the next drive and setting up another Ole Miss touchdown.
The Ole Miss defense had some trouble handling the Auburn renewed focus on running the ball in the first half, giving up over 150 yards, but only gave up five total yards in the last 15 minutes.
Mike Marry also had a hand in a landslide sack that really set the tone early in the third quarter that brought back the “Land Sharks,” a hand motion mimicking a shark fin, that has become a trademark of the Rebel defense when there is “blood in the water.”
Coach Chizik will have a rough week answering questions about his teams precipitous fall from grace. Few fans will accept winning a National Championship and less than two years later, struggling to a 1-5 record.
Questions abound on this Auburn team, from social media gaffes, slow starts, lack of offensive identity and a defense that gives up more yardage and points each week. Ole Miss’ 41 was the most points scored to date against a team that has had to rely on defense.
When a team has turnover and loses key talent at key positions, you at least expect the team to understand the offense and defensive alignments. You expect the team to give maximum effort, even if they don't have maximum talent.
Auburn fans are not getting either this year and while Coach Chizik has proven he can take you to the mountaintop, he will also take you through the valleys.