It’s almost as if Ole Miss was doomed from the beginning this season.
The Rebels were stunned 49-48 in double overtime by FCS opponent Jacksonville State at home to open the season, and that was just the start of a nightmarish season.
The frustrating part for Ole Miss fans was that this was supposed to be one of those schedules where the Rebels (4-8) would be able to build up a bunch of wins during the first half of the season. But after losing to Jacksonville State, they lost two weeks later at home to Vanderbilt by two touchdowns.
The wheels were officially off at that point, although Ole Miss did manage to keep from going winless in the SEC thanks to a 42-35 win over Kentucky.
Injuries took their toll on Tyrone Nix’s defense. And after two excellent seasons in a row on that side of the ball, the Rebels sank to near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every defensive category.
Some will blame Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt for bringing in Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback for this season and disrupting team chemistry, but there’s really no evidence of that.
Offensive MVP: Running back Brandon Bolden. He just missed a 1,000-yard rushing season with 976 yards on 163 carries. Averaging 6 yards per carry, Bolden was a steady force for the Rebels and also led them in receiving with 32 catches for 344 yards. He scored 17 touchdowns -- 14 rushing and three receiving.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Jonathan Cornell. He didn’t receive a lot of fanfare because Ole Miss struggled so much on defense, but Cornell quietly put together a stellar senior season. He led the team with 80 total tackles, including 14 tackles for loss and was second on the team with 4.5 sacks.
Turning point: Look no further than that first game. Losing the opener is always tough. But when you lose to an FCS team at home in the opener, there’s usually no recovering from that ... and the Rebels didn’t.
What’s next: After winning back-to-back Cotton Bowls, the Rebels will spend this postseason at home. Nutt asked the fans for patience following the embarrassing 52-14 loss to Tennessee. If the Rebels don’t get back to a bowl game next season, and certainly if they lose to rival Mississippi State for a third straight year, that patience will run thin very quickly.