The Ole Miss Rebels ran into a buzzsaw at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday: the Crimson Tide D.
On the heels of a 25-0 shutout at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Hugh Freeze's club must quickly forget about what happened in Tuscaloosa and look ahead. Post-Alabama, the Rebels must now address a few key areas of concern before entering a grueling SEC West stretch comprised of tilts with Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU in as many weeks.
With 'Bama now in the rear-view mirror, the Rebels must fix some mistakes and look ahead despite the outcome last night in Tuscaloosa.
Get the Offense Back on Track
Kirby Smart and the Tide D flat out dominated Ole Miss on offense.
In fact, last night was the first time the Rebels have been shut out since 1998 (Arkansas).
Entering the contest, the Rebels were averaging 490 yards of offense. Against Alabama, Ole Miss was only able to produce 205 total yards of offense. Even worse, the Rebel run game only accounted for 46 of those yards. It was tough sledding all the way around, as the Rebels only got off 57 plays.
Make no mistake about it, the 'Bama D will be the toughest defensive unit QB Bo Wallace and the Rebels will face for the rest of the season. This week, Wallace, RB Jeff Scott and the entire offense must get back in sync to produce the type of offensive output they had shown through the first three games.
They may have been shut out last night, but they remain an explosive group nonetheless.
Responding to Adversity
Having picked up road wins at both Vandy and Texas within the first three weeks of the year, the Rebels were flying high. Well, that all changed following the shutout loss in Tuscaloosa.
The 2013 Ole Miss squad has now been hit with a stout dose of adversity.
With a roster that includes multiple true freshman playmakers, some of whom haven't lost a ballgame in years, it'll be interesting to see how the young kids respond to adversity for the first time.
If they can come back strong this coming weekend at Auburn, eight or nine regular season wins remains entirely in the cards for the 2013 Rebels. However, a second consecutive loss with Texas A&M and LSU on deck next could quickly curb the Rebels' enthusiasm.
Halting the Big Play
The Rebel D bent but didn't break in the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Ole Miss only trailed by nine at the break. It was a half that could have gone a lot worse for the Rebels.
However, less than a minute into the second half, RB T.J. Yeldon ripped off a 68-yard TD scamper.
Had the Rebel defense not yielded Alabama seven points to start the second half, who knows what may have happened the rest of the night? Maybe not a whole lot, but it would have at least taken a little pressure off of an anemic offense to try to force plays.
Leading 16-0 in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide took down Wallace in the end zone for a safety. Before the blink of an eye, RB Kenyan Drake then broke loose for a 50-yard touchdown score.
To be able to contend late with the likes of A&M and LSU, the Rebels must prevent big scoring plays.
Yeldon's big play to open the second half really took the wind out of Ole Miss' sails.
Time to Move On
Besides a Rebel D that held Alabama in check for the most part last night, there's not a lot of positive for Ole Miss to take away from the game against the nation's top-ranked team.
Now, an all-important SEC West matchup with the 3-1 Auburn Tigers awaits the Rebels on Saturday.
Not only will two 3-1 clubs square off to jockey for position entering the halfway point of the season, but so too will two good friends (Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn).
After a tough loss in T-Town, it'll be crucial the Rebels get back on track this weekend against Auburn.
If they can do that, 2013 remains as bright as ever. If not, things could take a bad turn.