But to put the blame for this stunning and humiliating Tennessee defeat - or similar losses to Missouri and Kentucky as well - entirely on the beleaguered defense and our embattled D.C. would be wrong, in my opinion. Some of the blame must rest on the offensive play-calling.
3. Defense wins championships. Until we build one, we ain't gonna win squat. We can collectively bitch all we want about our offense, but when your defense literally gets run over for more yards gained on any Georgia team since 1978, you will always lose.
It's not like we didn't see this happening. I just don't know that anyone saw it happening this forcefully. A Gator offense which said all along that they were going to come out and enforce their will on the Bulldog defense did exactly that, churning out an obscene 418 yards on the ground, the vast majority of it on straight-forward, straight-ahead plays on which the Gator offensive line blocked Bulldog defenders who weren't in position and didn't have the testicular mass to tackle Matt Jones.
Those flaws didn't matter even one second after Michael McNeely scampered into the end zone from 21 yards out on that glorious fake to help tie the game; certainly, no one was thinking about that botched snap when Florida forced a three-and-out despite an offsides penalty and a third and one on the next series, or when the Gators got a 44-yard run from Kelvin Taylor and a 15-yard catch from Latroy Pittman to set up a short Taylor touchdown run on the next series.
This win belonged to Kelvin Taylor, with a career-high 197 rushing yards, eighth-best in Florida history, and two touchdowns, and to Matt Jones, with 192 rushing yards, 11th-best, and two touchdowns. It belonged to every Florida offensive lineman who blocked his ass off all day, and every Florida tight end who blocked his ass off all day, and to every Florida wide receiver who blocked his ass off all day, and to Treon Harris, who handed the ball off and stayed out of the way.
Yes, I know it's Old Dominion. Yes, I know they're a CUSA team a year removed from FCS with a defense that couldn't catch a cold in a day care center in January. Guess what? UMass and Charleston Southern were supposed to be weak sisters too, and those are games we escaped from by the grace of Loki, satiated by years of blood sacrifice at the hands of his faithful avatar Murderleg. This? This was an actual win, one that felt like a win, one that was the kind of result we expected from this team. Sure, young and error prone at times, but still capable of handling the teams they're supposed to beat, capable of covering the spread and beating the number in a non-conference tilt.
Overall, and I think we all saw the same game — the broad strokes are that the defense played well and the offense played very poorly. Kentucky only managed 258 yards of total offense, 100 on the ground and 158 through the air. This was a frustrating game in the sense that the Wildcats have looked better against better teams than Missouri, but I think the youth of this squad is really showing up on the road, where they have had nothing remotely resembling success since the game against Florida in the swamp.
We are bowl eligible but we might not get another game the rest of the year. We have regressed all season long. I don't know what to do about that. I think we can fix the personnel issues, but I don't know how to fix the lack of effort issues we have seen for the past two weeks. Lack of effort can sometimes be overcome by good coaching...and poor coaching can sometimes be overcome by good effort. Right now we are lacking in either department...and that falls squarely on the shoulders of the man in charge.
But when overtime beckons, all that becomes prologue. History is written by the winners, so the stories that will be told about this game will start on 3rd and 18 at the South Carolina 10 with five minutes to play. The Vols had been frustrating in the second half but were in it, down 35-28 and ready to get the ball back. And then "Third Down For What" became "Third Down for WHAT?!" as Thompson ran for 20 yards and an inexplicable first down. And on the very next play, Brandon Wilds gashed a vulnerable defense for 70 yards and the assumed back-breaker, 42-28 with 4:52 to play.
It's hard to overstate the way Arkansas' defense has performed this season. Holding Mississippi State to 17 points, in Starkville, when they haven't scored fewer than 34 all year, is a real accomplishment. Much like against Texas A&M and Alabama, that should have been enough for the team to win, but it wasn't. The Bulldogs have allowed at least 23 points to everybody they've played this year other than South Alabama and Southern Miss, but, once again, the Hogs just couldn't take advantage of most of the opportunities they were given.
To finish the season, Mizzou faces Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas after this week's bye.
In order to do this, I’ve split the 2014 Season into Season A (covering West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss, and Florida) and Season B (covering Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee), and you’ll also see the numbers from 20134 for comparison. Season A covers 151 non-garbage snaps, Season B covers 217, and the 2013 Season has 273. I removed the play column from the charts — there was no clean way to do this for each partial season. If there’s some small sample stuff going on anywhere I’ll let you know in the observations. Onward!
Stone Cold Les Miles struts to the ring with his usual over-bearing swagger. His eyes are glassy, focused. A man who swilled 8 beers and dumped a bottle of water on his head before opting to confront his most hated enemy. He's mouthing swear words at no one in particular because the mood is right, dammit.
It was a back and forth game, with neither side ever really able to take control of the game. Auburn took a lead on a quick drive, but Ole Miss answered. Nick Marshall threw his first non-tipped pass interception of the year, but the defense held and didn't give up points. Ole Miss had a halftime lead and opened up to a 10 point lead in the 2nd half before surrendering the lead to Auburn.
Dak Prescott: It was far from a banner game from Prescott with two interceptions, but outside of those passes, Prescott put up solid numbers. He finished the night 18-27 for 331 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was a thing of beauty as he stepped out of what looked to be an eminent sack and hit Ross for the score. Prescott also added 61 yards on the ground and avoided taking a sack.
And somewhere, in some other universe, we are all in a really happy place right now. Laquon Treadwell slipped past that final tackle en route to the endzone, scored the go-ahead and subsequently game-winning touchdown, and kept the Rebels in play for the College Football Playoff. That place saw hours-long celebrations in the Grove, not silently and deliberately packed up tents and chairs being exhaustingly dragged home. It saw fans celebrating in their seats at Vaught-Hemingway, not grumbling, crying, and semi-serious threats of violence against visiting fans. It saw you doing whatever it is that you do to celebrate instead of commiserate.
I decided to write about sports professionally when the second of two missed Jonathan Nichols field goals went wide in a 17-14 LSU win over Ole Miss in 2003. That game was Eli Manning’s senior season, and it was the closest Ole Miss would come to modern relevance until 2014. I was standing under the goal posts for Nichols' kick. To watch grown men weep, formerly sensible human beings beating their chests at an invisible curse? I wanted to follow that folly.