So much hype surrounded the Ole Miss, LSU game regarding the difficulty of playing in Death Valley and LSU’s historic ability to stage comebacks that the entire event, in my mind, got blown out of proportion.
That makes for great TV and perhaps a wakeup call for the Ole Miss Rebels and their fans.
As an ex-athlete and coach, I’m confident this loss will help the Rebels in the long view. Just look back at the game. We played significant minutes with key players hurt and we still nearly won, losing 10-7 after not taking advantage of a chance to tie the game with a field goal in the last seconds.
That’s not an excuse, Rebel Nation, but playing through adversity is always valuable in the growth of a great team. I’ve seen it countless times in my many years in college and professional athletics.
Let me add that the hype, the injuries and the overall media-generated atmosphere resulted in the Rebels playing — for the first time I believe this year — at a less than 100 percent concentration level. It cost them the game.
Whenever you play in a game of this magnitude, mental toughness is absolutely the key to victory. In a contest this intense, the mental aspect of the game is 80 percent of the equation and the physical component only 20 percent.
What did we see in Baton Rouge? Rebel players talking to their opponents and players talking to the rowdy LSU crowd. Whenever you engage, as a player, in that kind of distraction, you become off key to the mental approach Coach Freeze wants his players to adopt.
I think Coach Freeze learned a lot about his team in this disappointing loss, and because of that, I’m 100 percent confident the Rebels will bounce back and defeat the Auburn Tigers.
In my mind the key game left on the Rebels schedule is not Auburn or Mississippi State, it’s the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road. This is a strong running team with a powerful offensive line, much like LSU.
The Arkansas game is pivotal to a successful season for Ole Miss. Having said that, Rebel Nation, there is no reason to panic now!
The main concern I have about the Rebels going forward is injuries. There is no way for us to know the severity of the nagging injuries that may impact the team. Only Coach Freeze and the training staff know that.
Again, my feeling is that if we can stay healthy the LSU game will pay great dividends for Ole Miss. We learned a lot about our team and much of it was positive. Our defense bent, but did not break. We continued to create turnovers. The bottom line is that LSU played a great game. Some time you have to hand it to the opponent.
But keep this in mind. With the possible exception of Arkansas, we won’t face another team that can run like LSU.
Also, remember Ole Miss has never played in a game of this magnitude in many years. We were playing against the LSU crowd, their home mystique, a great defensive effort by the Tigers, and most importantly, the game clock. The game clock was huge because LSU’s control of that factor changed our play calling, ability to substitute and our ability to play our usual up-tempo offensive style.
Don’t forget, these were college kids playing in a tremendously power-packed environment. It’s been years since Ole Miss faced this kind of pressure week in and week out, but it’s here and we have to embrace it!
The pressure is just beginning for Coach Freeze and his football team but I’m a 100 percent confident we’ll bounce back. Yes, Bo Wallace learned from this game and you will see him play better this week. Cody Prewitt will step up and get the defense even more fired up.
I say again Rebel Nation, don’t panic. The Egg Bowl is huge and we will win. Yes, we have to beat Auburn, but I believe the matchups favor the Rebels in this game.
For me, the LSU loss was just another game. I’m happy we survived without any more injuries than we experienced. Because injuries will play the biggest factor in who ultimately wins the national championship. And by the way, that eventual winner will have one loss.
So, it’s time to regroup, not panic Rebel Nation. Growing up means you make mistakes and we made plenty of them against LSU — but we still nearly won. Lets turn those mistakes into positives under the highly effective coaching staff we’re privileged to have at Ole Miss.
What can we do better in my opinion? We can be mentally tougher — review the film and correct our mistakes with great concentration and focus.
And as an ex-athlete at the highest levels of performance and visibility, I feel qualified to add this: In Baton Rouge we played not to lose instead of playing to win the football game. That’s always a dangerous mistake.
That’s what I sincerely believe, but in the final analysis, the hell with what people like me and other pundits think! Our Rebels need to go out and play football with passion and fun. That’s right, having fun can be key to doing your best under the biggest pressure and brightest spotlight. Don’t pay attention to the outside distractions.
That’s the key to a bounceback game against Auburn and a possible run at the national championship. The Rebels must have fun, execute and be mentally tough, focusing on the game plan that Coach Freeze develops for them. The rest will fall in place.
Johnny Neumann, from Memphis, has been voted one of the top college basketball players of all time for his achievements during his brief tenure at Ole Miss. Neumann was a High School All-American at Overton High and brought his talents to Ole Miss in 1970. The statistics Neumann compiled over just ONE season at Ole Miss are proof of his greatness. Currently Neumann is an Ole Miss student again majoring in journalism. He spent many years in the NBA and ABA and as a coach. His goal is to enter sports broadcasting.
• Became one of only three players in the nation to ever average 40 points a game in a career
• Ranks fourth all-time in points scored in one game, 63 vs. LSU in 1971
• Ranks sixth all-time in points in a season, scoring 923.