Let's start with the negative aspects and get them out of the way, so we can focus on the positives (yes, Virginia, there actually were some).
1. We bought the BS.
We listened to the hype, unfortunately. We heard that Ole Miss was in an "off year,” that they were "regrouping,” that they were "still trying to jell.” ("Hey, they're starting a walk-on freshman in the O Line, how tough can they be?")
Fresno State went into Oxford looking, at least to some degree, to find a wounded football team, a discouraged and dispirited team that had been beaten by lesser foes and by weaker teams and had lost a lot of its moxie.
Truth be told? The Bulldogs walked into the cave of a grizzly bear who thought they were messing with her cubs.
The ‘Dogs found a team that was bigger, faster, and meaner. Also deeper. Also better prepared. In addition, FS found 55,000 loud, proud Ole Miss faithful, and they all wanted us to die... now!
When Masoli broke off that 56-yard run, in immediate response to the ‘Dogs first touchdown, the crowd sensed victory. They smelled fresh meat! It was like pouring blood into the water at the Sea World shark tank. It quickly got ugly.
We also found that Ole Miss, far from being a weak team, was actually a main stream, middle-of-the-pack SEC regular. A solid, hard, very, very fast, well-coached club who had a laser beam focus on taking care of the business at hand.
I guess we forgot that last year, Ole Miss beat LSU, Arkansas, and Tennessee - and were ranked as high as #4 in the nation, before winning their second straight Cotton Bowl. A lot of those same players showed up to make a statement, last night.
By the way, the refs were definitely partisan, SEC homers.
So what? You expected something different? Grow up. Besides, if there had been PERFECT referees, FS would STILL have lost that game, 'cause they stank up the place, defensively.
And perfect refs would have noticed a few holding penalties and a few other shenanigans I saw the ‘Dogs getting away with, as well.
2. It was eerily reminiscent of last year's Bulldog Defense.
Like Yogi Berra used to say, "déjà vu, all over again".
Ole Miss ran over FS like a Mack truck that lost its brakes, coming down the Grapevine. The truck's name? Brandon Bolden, a Ryan Mathews' size (5'11", 215 lb) running back from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who just killed us, all night long.
Bolden is a junior, this year. Hope he goes in the draft, 'cause I don't want to see him when the Rebels come to town, next year. To make matters worse, Bolden gained a great deal of his career-best 228 yards, running straight up the gut. He ran right at FS. The ‘Dogs could not handle him. Hell, he AVERAGED 12 yards per carry!
FS had no answer for him.
Here's the eerie part. Before this game, the defense was doing well, holding its own. FS was No. 30 in the nation, against the run and among the top 10 in sacks per game and tackles for loss. After last night?
FS is now ranked No. 111 in the nation vs. the run. Why is that eerie...? Because that's where they were ranked last year. FS dropped 81 clicks in one game...! Giving up 425 yards rushing in one game will do that for ya. All the cellar dwellers said, "Hey, you're back! Welcome home!"
The other eerie similarity was the defense allowing all those long, long, runs from scrimmage, again and again, all night long - just like last year. Several times, Ole Miss runners seemed to get through the d-line and linebackers untouched... and then it was a katy-bar-the-door footrace and wrestling match with the DBs for 30, or 40 yards...
To say the D still has more work to do is a laughable understatement.
3. The Offensive Line failed to appear.
Granted, the Bulldogs’ best o-lineman, the great RG Andrew Jackson, did not play.
But 30 yards rushing?
Really? On 33 carries - for a whopping .9 yards (net) per carry?
Okay, okay…So, FS sucked at run blocking. But how about pass protection? Well, the Rebels sacked the quarterback five (5) times, with four coming in the first half. It was as they moved into the ‘Dogs backfield and set up shop.
How many other tackles for loss did they have...? Well, the backs actually rushed for 94 yards - but we allowed so many TFLs that they had to subtract 64 yards from the stats! No run blocking and no pass protection? Hmmm... that is a great recipe for a total slaughter, every time. Guaranteed.
4. The numbers don't lie.
Here are a few more unpleasant numbers to digest. Just to keep it real.
1977. That's the last time any Ole Miss team rushed for more than 400 yards, against ANYBODY! That includes some horrible teams, defensively. That description now includes Fresno State.
44 lbs. That's how much FS was outweighed, per man, by the Ole Miss offensive line, in comparison to FS d-line. I heard that from Paul Loeffler, the best prepared radio announcer we have ever had. (BTW, I usually turn down the often-homerish TV boobs and turn up the KMJ coverage - which provides us with the right KIND of homers...!) That explains a great deal about how they managed to steamroll us so effectively. They were bigger, stronger and they - well, they manhandled us, in the dictionary sense of that term.
326. That's how many total yards Ole Miss racked up in the first half...! Glad FS sucked it up in the second half because, at that rate, we would have seen over 650 yards in total offense from the Rebels.
5. Ole Miss turned the Cincinnati tables on FS.
In this game FS suffered a long night of QB harassment, sacks, hurry ups, and chasings-out-of-the-pocket. They threw FS off its game, out hustled, and outplayed the ‘Dogs.
OK. Enough negatives. On to the positives.
6. Ryan Colburn was easily the MVP for the Dogs.
Colburn is like a fine Cabernet. He just gets better with time. I am glad he is in the ‘Dogs wine cellar. The guy came to play, last night no question. Career numbers for the night 32-of-42 for 390 yards, 4 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. That is a smooth 76.2% and over 12 yards per throw. Nice. Did I mention four TDs? Kudos also to Mr. Colburn, while his o-line was leaking like a broken colander, many of those throws were made on the run.
As of Sunday morning, the Bulldog starting QB is ranked No. 9 in the nation in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 786 yards in three games, with nine touchdowns against two picks. As of last night's performance, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound signal caller is clearly becoming a bona fide NFL prospect. It is well known that Colburn has been a beast in the weight room this year and his arm strength is demonstrably better.
An excellent example of Colburn's physical nature, aggressive play, and arm strength was seen last night, in an athletic move that did not involve passing. Think about it. In the second quarter, Colburn threw a perfect strike over the middle to TE Vince Pascoe, who was hit hard and promptly fumbled the football. The Rebels scooped it up, dropped it, scrambled around and, eventually, the ball was picked up by Marcus Temple, the 190 lb Ole Miss cornerback, who raced down the right sideline, headed for pay-dirt, except for Colburn - who had a good angle and caught him.
The image of Ryan Colburn, running as fast as he knows how, reaching way out, grabbing that flying cornerback by the back of his jersey, and just locking his iron grip into that jersey material... and hauling him down... Wow. Indelible. Like a lion catching a gazelle. I will never forget that. Strong hands. Tough guy.
Colburn made a lot of great throws, last night. He also - again - showed his courage and resolve in taking off and running the ball, when he needed to do so. He ran the ball nine times, for 28 yards - but, here again, he was sacked so many times that the stats are reduced substantially. Gutsy guy. Hope he stays healthy.
7. We are getting better at these SEC games.
Don't laugh. Give the facts a chance. FS started out playing occasional SEC games back in 1996, when Coach Jim Sweeney scheduled Auburn. Ouch. 62 to zip. Then, in 2003, FS played Tennessee in Knoxville, 24-6. Then, a few years later, Coach Hill scheduled a very tough game against a highly respected LSU squad, which they lost, 38-6.
In none of those three earlier games did FS even score a single offensive touchdown. Last night, FS scored five! FS also outscored Ole Miss, after they went up 41-10 in the second half, by 28-14. I'm not saying they didn't get whipped, because they did.
However, I am saying that the ‘Dogs never gave up, fought to the end and still dropped 420 yards and five touchdowns on 'em. They are steadily getting better. It is going to be an absolute war in Bulldog Stadium, next year.
8. Jamel Hamler is elevating himself. Ditto Jalen Saunders. Hello, Mr. Lindsey!
WR Jamel Hamler is the ‘Dogs star receiver. Great routes. Good hands. Tough and courageous. NFL written all over him. Last night, he had a spectacular night, snagging eight passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Rookie true frosh kick returner/WR Jalen Saunders continues to be a force, with an amazing 222 all-purpose yards on the night, 142 yards in kick and punt returns, and 80 yards receiving with a touchdown.
And WR Matt Lindsey stepped up huge, with 102 yards receiving.
9. Safety Philip Thomas and OLB Travis Brown.
Thomas is an amazing player. Last night, he continued his excellent play with several tackles and a sweet interception with a 39-yard return. He could be an all-WAC performer, if he is not careful.
Travis Brown, again, was all over the field, playing with his hair on fire. Gotta love him.
10. Congratulations to our ancestral enemies, the Donks and the Wolf Pups.
Just giving credit where credit is certainly due. Victories over Oregon State and BYWho were significant statements by our soon-to-be MWC cohorts. Well done, fellas, but not looking forward to playing either of you.
Redroadster is highly regarded attorney in the Central Valley, a loyal Bulldog fan, and a regular poster/contributor on BarkBoard.com. Check in time to time for his take on games and other Bulldog athletic events in his View from the Roadster.
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