AUBURN, Ala. – The Rebels, said Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Luke and Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack, had a game of misses Saturday night, falling to Auburn 30-22 in SC play.
That was the story line of Ole Miss’ 30-22 loss to Auburn here Saturday night.
According to the Reb coordinators, missed tackles on defense and missed opportunities, coupled with missed one-on-ones in protection, spelled Ole Miss’ doom in this SEC contest.
“I felt we executed the defense decently,” said Wommack, “but I’m pretty sure when we put on the film tomorrow, we are going to see way too many missed tackles.
“To me, that was the story of the game from a defensive standpoint. For the most part, we were in the right places at the right times, but we didn’t make the plays we were in position to make.”
In the first half, Auburn QB Nick Marshall and TB Tre Mason left Rebels sprawled out and grasping for air, it seemed, all over the Jordan-Hare Stadium field.
“We’d have them in our sights, but just didn’t do a good job of bringing them down,” Wommack continued.
In the first half, Auburn’s offense wasn’t exactly crushing the Reb defense, but they did put together two 80-yard drives for scores that bookend a Bo Wallace pick six.
“They were running a cruiser series and our safeties had their eyes in the wrong place. We adjusted that right before half and played much better in the second half,” Wommack stated. “We only gave up one drive and one shirt-field field goal in the second half and contained them pretty well.
“We were also able to generate two turnovers. We knocked the ball loose twice and covered it both times, so that was satisfying.”
The bottom line for Wommack was poor tackling.
“We worked on everything they do all week long and they gave us very little we hadn’t worked on,” he added.
“They ran some different formations and were creative in how they showed their stuff, but our keys were the same and our kids knew that. We were able to adjust to those different looks easily.
“I’m telling you, we just didn’t tackle well, especially in the first half, and that was disappointing.”
The Rebs were playing without DE C.J. Johnson, one of the better defensive players on the team, but Wommack did not use that as an excuse.
“C.J. is really good, but we created a new package, a 3-3, and hadDenzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant on the field at the same time. We wanted our best players out there and went with that a lot,” he explained. “We missed C.J. but that’s not an excuse.
“We were in position to make plays and didn’t make enough of them in the first half.”
Wommack was asked if the Rebels are road weary.
“I don’t think anyone in our league had to play their first three conference games on the road, but that’s the hand we were dealt and we have to deal with it,” he closed. “I think it is more a matter of us still going through some growing pains and playing some young guys and being a little beat up.
“But, again, I was not pleased with the tackling.”
After the defense adjusted to Auburn and started giving the Rebel offense more opportunities to win the game, the offense could not get it done.
In the first half, it was the inability to score touchdowns in the Red Zone and a pick six.
In the second half, it was another pick, the inability to protect QB Bo Wallace, poor communication between QBs and WRs, and six dropped passes.
“Anytime you give up that many sacks, it comes down to two things – being in third and long too much and not doing a good job in one-on-one situations in protection,” said Luke. “It was disappointing. We had our chances and just didn’t get it done.”
The Rebels seemed to have trouble all night on first down, forcing them to go for it on fourth down five times. They made three.
“When you are on the road in the SEC and things aren’t exactly clicking, you have to roll the dice some on fourth down to try to make something happen and create a spark,” Luke explained. “I think that is the right call for our team.We have to be aggressive in our approach, and will be. That’s just us. That’s our style and I think our kids feed off that.
“When we got behind the chains so much, though, they could just tee off and we did not handle our one-on-ones as well as we would like. They ended up with six QB sacks – that’s way too many.”
The Rebels did gain 464 yards and had the ball five more minutes than Auburn, but they were not as efficient as they needed to be.
“That’s two weeks in a row we have struggled in the Red Zone. If we had been better in the Red Zone, we could have won both games, but we weren’t and that is disappointing,” Luke added. “Historically, we have been very good in the Red Zone, but we haven’t been the past two weeks and we have to get that edge back.”
Luke thinks the cure is to just keep working, stay focused and stay confident and things will come around.
“I think we have good rotations going and I think we know what our personnel is capable of and what we can do effectively,” he closed. “We just have to take advantage of our opportunities, which we have done in the past but did not do the last two weeks.
“It’s on us. We had a lot of opportunities to win but didn’t get it done. I think this one is going to hurt a lot when we turn the tape on and the kids see the chances they had to win. We’ll fix what’s broken, go back to work and get it done. I think finally being back at home is going to help us get this bad taste out of our mouths.”
. . . and eliminate the misses.
— Chuck Rounsaville, OMSpirit.com Publisher