Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Ole Miss might have been vastly overrated and vastly unproven, but that doesn’t mean the season is over for the Rebels.
Rather, it’s just beginning.
As disappointing as the 16-10 loss to South Carolina was Thursday, Ole Miss’ season will be defined by what it does from here and whether the Rebels are a player in the Western Division race come November.
Junior quarterback Jevan Snead points out, and rightly so, that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Snead’s slow start has mirrored that of the Rebels, which isn’t a coincidence. He and this offense have yet to find a rhythm.
Granted, the month of September was a weird one for the Rebels with only one Saturday game and then the short week leading up to the South Carolina game, but there are no more excuses now.
Either the Rebels are legit, or they’re not.
“If you’ll remember, we kind of started off slow last year,” said Snead, who was 7-of-21 in the loss to the Gamecocks. “I was hoping to get into a rhythm quicker this year, but obviously haven’t been able to do that. That’s one of the things we’re trying to correct. We’re trying to get into a rhythm, not only on offense, but as a team.
“We really need to start playing well in all phases of the game. Last week, our defense did an excellent job. I feel like as an offense, we let them down. We’re just trying to get to where we’re playing as one.”
Pass protection, especially against South Carolina, has been a problem. Left tackle Bradley Sowell struggled in that game. But Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt also said that Snead has to quit seeing “ghosts” and trust in his teammates.
“We want his eyes downfield like he did last year,” Nutt said. “Just play the game like he is capable of playing. When he does that, we move the football.”
Ole Miss was missing starting tight end Gerald Harris (hamstring) in the South Carolina game. He might be back for the Vanderbilt game this Saturday, but fullback Andy Hartmann (knee) will miss at least one more week.
It’s pretty clear that the Rebels also miss Mike Wallace’s downfield speed in the passing game, not to mention All-SEC left tackle Michael Oher.
In retrospect, this team had more holes than probably any of us realized back in August.
Tyrone Nix’s defense has held up just fine and gave the Rebels every chance to win in Columbia.
The onus is on Snead and the offense now if Ole Miss is going to live up to the hype.
And before anybody mentions anything about Alabama coming to Oxford in two weeks, keep in mind that Ole Miss lost at home last season to Vanderbilt.
“We've got 22 good seniors that really want to win,” Nutt said. “They've tasted winning. They understand it, and they know how tough winning is. It's about getting back up. You got knocked down, so you get back up.
“What's critical is that you don't let the bubble burst.”