Thursday, September 29, 2022

Vassallo: Ole Miss Football’s Season-Ending Report Card

Photo by Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Photo by Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

What an exciting season this has been! Rarely do I disagree with any of my inner circle of football fanatics/experts, but at this time, I do have a slightly different viewpoint than one
or two.

This comment has been raised recently to me re the Arkansas game….”what if we coulda won?” This game was the wildest that any Rebel fan has probably ever seen, but here is the reality verdict of it all.

Let’s fast backward and assume the famous lateral had become the infamous lateral. We would have won the west and met Florida again, this time in Atlanta. A victory there would have placed us back in the Sugar Bowl, however, a loss would have been devastating. A 10-3 record got Florida in the Citrus, but we would have still (possibly) competed with Alabama should the Bowl Selection Committee passed over them as a non divisional winner within their conference. Had this happened, we would be going to the Outback Bowl in Tampa (as a result, in my opinion). Injuries really took their toll this year and an extra game could have only compounded this situation prior to the bowl.

Now for the report card:

Ole Miss Offense: We graded this an A+ for the first half of the season, and we’re grading it an A+ for the entire season. This scoring machine led the entire SEC in total points (483) and out scored bowl-bound LSU by 12.2 points per game! Chad Kelly not making first team all SEC is the joke of the year. What does a quarterback have to do? With all the great quarterbacks Ole Miss has known, Kelly has the opportunity to become the greatest ever with an encore to this incredible season. Our offense was spectacular and once Tunsil returned and the running game went into high gear, we were unstoppable. Oklahoma State’s defense has its hands full.

Ole Miss Defense: This unit too receives an A+ and here’s why. Again, fast backward to August. There were five starters projected who will not be playing in New Orleans. And when you factor in playing time missed by others due to injuries etc., our depth held us together for the first time in recent memory. Our defense totally dominated LSU and State, and who will ever forget the five takeaways in Tuscaloosa. With our demanding schedule, it’s easy to criticize a particular game, but when one steps back and views the season in its entirety, it’s a pretty, pretty picture overall.

The Ole Miss Coaches A+ one hundred times over! Fortunately the majority of our readers have not endured the “46” years of suffering since the last Sugar Bowl. I didn’t think I was going to make it to witness another, but I only have 3 weeks to go. What this staff has done is truly amazing, not to forget about the blue chip recruiting going on in the process. Coach Freeze is the only Ole Miss Head Coach (other than John H. Vaught) to get us in the Sugar Bowl. Think about that statement for a minute…”the only one.” I do not like to single out a particular coach, however, Dave Wommack performed miracles this year with a striking force completely redone since August. What a production!

There you have it. Defeating Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season was unique. Trouncing State in Starkville was most enjoyable. And going 6-0 in Oxford (forgetting about the overtime loss to Arkansas) was thrilling. (The Hogs also won in Knoxville and Baton Rouge.) The 2015 season will be a season never to be forgotten.

A victory over the Cowboys (we’re a 7 point favorite) should land us in the final Top Ten. But in any event, Bourbon Street will have never looked better. I pray for our current student body that it won’t be another 46 years to visit the Crescent City in January.


Steve Vassallo

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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