Ole Miss had its chances to knock off No. 8 Missouri on a cold night in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but it was malfunction junction in the Red Zone and, as a consequence, the Tigers left Oxford with a 24-10 win under their belts.
“It doesn’t take a genius to know if we had scored touchdowns when we had the chance, this game comes down to the wire,” said Rebel Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner. “We had it all – everything went wrong that could, it seemed like.
“I made a bad call, we had a bad read, we had a dropped pass, we couldn’t get something communicated one time when one of our players got hurt, we stepped out of bounds on what looked like a score – you name it. We found ways to screw it up.”
And in games against Top 10 opponents, as all have witnessed several times in the past two years, to win, near flawless play is demanded.
“It was disheartening that the only time we scored a touchdown was on a 45-yard run,” Werner continued.
Ole Miss Quarterback Bo Wallace was under the weather somewhat, suffering from flu-like symptoms all day. His availability prior to the kickoff was uncertain, but Werner said – under the circumstances, he thought Wallace played “OK.”
“In the walk-through this morning, he just wasn’t there. He felt bad and messed up a few times. I didn’t know what we’d get out of him tonight, but he played through it,” said Werner. “I thought it was more of a total team failure, especially in the Red Zone.
“As I said, there were a lot of things that went wrong and pinpointing one thing would be wrong.”
Werner also gave credit where credit was due – Missouri.
“They were able to control our run game, other than a couple of big runs, with their four-man front. They stuffed us pretty good and kept us behind the chains a lot. They have a nice scheme, but we felt we were going to be able to throw the ball better than we did,” he explained. “I thought when we did complete passes, they were in the right position to take us down. Their DBs closed quickly.
“There is a reason they have only lost one game. They are a good football team, but we helped them out a lot tonight too. This should have been a nailbiter at the end, but it wasn’t because of our inability to make anything happen in the Red Zone.”
Coach Hugh Freeze and Werner both said postgame they were perplexed why some of their run formations didn’t work. They both delayed expanding on that statement until “we can watch the film.”
“Missouri changed up a couple of things. They changed up a lot of their coverages and used more players in run support than we were anticipating, but some of the plays we called should have done well and Missouri was stuffing them,” Werner stated. “I’m anxious to watch the film and see where we went wrong.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of points and it was pretty disheartening today to come up empty at the most crucial times in the game.” Another key moment for the Rebs came early in the second half. Ole Miss had cut the Missouri lead to 17-10 and S Cody Prewitt gave the Rebs good field position with an interception.
The offense quickly went three-and-out and the momentum being built in stands and on the field seemed to dissipate.
“That was a big series. We were looking at 3rd-and-short and called a play we felt real comfortable with and Missouri stuffed it for a two-yard loss,” noted Werner. “We let that momentum we built from our first drive of the second half get away. That was a key series.”
If you had asked Rebel Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack before the game if he would have been happy with holding Missouri to 24 points, the answer would have been a resounding “yes.”
But with the way the game unfolded, he was not pleased with the overall performance of the Reb defense.
“If we had scored 25 points on offense, I would probably be happy right now, but as it is, I’m not,” he said. “It’s about winning. It was our responsibility to hold Missouri to 9 points.
“I thought we overran a lot of plays, we missed some tackles that would have gotten us off the field and we had some pressure on the QB that was there and we missed on it. He wiggled out of it when we had a bead on him. We also couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter.”
Wommack felt the defensive plan was sound, for the most part.
“We mixed things up a good bit and had them guessing a little bit, but we just didn’t execute when we had our chances to,” Wommack said. “Missouri has a good, balanced offense. They are second in the league in rushing, but we had some opportunities to make some plays to stop drives and just didn’t make them when it counted.”
The balance of the Tigers offense, when all the hard shell is peeled away, is what gave the Rebs fits.
“When we put extra people in the box, those big receivers would make a catch. When we tried to move people to help in the secondary, they ran the ball on us effectively,” he noted. “Some of that was their doing, some of it was our poor play.
“It came down to the fact that we could not stop the run, for whatever reason. I actually thought our secondary did an overall pretty good job. I was pretty proud of the way the corners played, actually, against those big, fast receivers. The bottom line is that we just did not do a good job against their run game.”
Missouri ran some student body left and right that was effective.
“Their line did a nice job on some combination blocks. They deserve credit, but there were times we were slanting right where the runner was going and we would just overrun the play or miss the tackle,” Wommack evaluated. “We worked on it for two weeks, but just didn’t get it done tonight.”
Next up, Mississippi State and the Egg Bowl game in Starkville Thursday night.
“We have them pretty well broken down, but the difficult part will be having to work on what they do with their different quarterbacks. They are more pro-style with Tyler Russell and more option with Dak Prescott and the freshman,” Wommack closed. “We will have to be prepared for all of it and see what happens.”
–Chuck Ronsaville, OMSpirit.com