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Vassallo: Ole Miss Fans Leave Memphis Angry and Confused

Photo by Joshua McCoy with Ole Miss Athletics
Photo by Joshua McCoy with Ole Miss Athletics

Say it ain’t so, Hugh. It’s been 39 years since we last witnessed a ranked Ole Miss team lose to an unranked, non-conference opponent!

The Ole Miss’ journey not only stalled in Memphis, it shifted gears into reverse. You are now about to enter a No Spin Zone absent Bill O’Reilly. Read no further if you have a thin skin as presented are the four primary questions that Rebel fans, commentators and the football world in general are now asking out loud.

Number One: The absence of a running game is killing this team. Rushing 24 times for 40 yards isn’t going to win any championships especially among the college elite. If this weakness is not corrected immediately this team is going nowhere fast. Third down plays in Memphis were a disaster as time and time again the Rebs could not make a first down versus the 103rd best defense in the country. When this issue was discussed on the SEC Network following the upset, one analyst summed it up: “Their offensive line stinks.” Why we have not been able to recruit a superior running back in four years is troubling.

Number Two: The coaching placed calls (mistakes) put the team in a precarious position as the 14 point advantage was wiped out in minutes. Attempting a fourth down play from your own 34 yardline (in the first half) is normally suicidal. It was again this time. This bad decision coupled with not going for a chip shot field goal led to 10 points cutting into the lead. And playing your star defensive lineman on offense when the defense is already missing four starters is beyond any rational thinking. Furthermore, everyone in the stadium knew who would be getting the ball once Robert Nkemdiche entered the backfield. It’s no wonder the entire Memphis defense tackled him (or at least it seemed that way).

Number Three: The pass defense has fallen apart. Lynch attempted 53 throws, completing 39 for 384 yards and three touchdowns. The defense that only allowed 16 points per game in 2014 is now a memory. True, the injuries have definitely impacted this, but seven games into the season, the backups have got to step up and show the fans why they deserved a scholarship. Unfortunately, it’s now or never time starting with the Aggies.

Number Four: The punt return game is well below par. Each and every time the Rebs field a punt, most fans are relieved if a fumble does not result, let alone a respectable return. Expecting a lengthy return is “Dreamin'” a la Johnny Burnette.

It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback especially on a Monday. We are all grateful to the coaches and players for the commitments they have made to this program. I believe what is upsetting the media and fan base more than anything is the fact that everyone knows the potential this team possesses. They have proven themselves two years in a row versus Alabama and against a number of other opponents as well.

What the alumni and fans are wanting (and deserving) is a team that consistently plays equally hard and smart for 4 quarters. The second quarter Saturday in Memphis was too painful to watch.

There you have it. We reported, you decide.


Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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