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Trickery not enough for struggling offense in loss to Georgia

Petre Thomas/The Daily Mississippian

After an interesting week filled with rumors, speculation and distraction following the loss to Vanderbilt, the effort by the team improved, but the results were not much better in the 27-13 SEC home-opening loss to the Georgia Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC).

Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2 SEC) ran two trick plays, one a double reverse pass out of the “Wild Rebel” formation and another a reverse handoff on a punt return, that both went for touchdowns.

However, mistakes proved costly, as sophomore running back Jeff Scott also had two long touchdowns called back for penalties — just two of the Rebels’ eight penalties for 69 yards in the game. In all, the Ole Miss offense managed only 183 yards of total offense and eight first downs.

“Obviously 183 yards of offense is not enough to win in this conference, or any conference, so we have to improve on that, but I did think there was improvement,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said.

“I thought our guys fought — (Georgia) won the ball game, but we fought harder this week than last week at Vanderbilt.”

The Rebels opening drive started off well, and Scott went 66 yards on a screen pass for a touchdown, but a holding penalty negated the score.

“We’re not a good enough football team to overcome when a touchdown gets called back or a couple of first downs getting called back,” Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. “It’s really hard for us because we’re just having a hard enough time staying in rhythm.”

On their first possession of the game, Georgia struck first as freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for a career-high 147 yards and 30 carries, led his team down the field to set up a 36-yard field goal from senior place kicker Blair Walsh. Georgia made it 10-0 on their next possession when sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray scored on a quarterback sneak from one yard out.

Sophomore safety Charles Sawyer turned the momentum in the Rebels’ favor when he made an acrobatic interception on a tipped ball, his third of the season, that set Ole Miss up in good field position. But a three-and-out gave the ball back to Georgia.

Halfway through the second quarter, Murray, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards in the game, threw his first of two touchdowns. The two-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Orson Charles capped an eight-play, 99-yard scoring drive for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss responded with their first score of the day, which came out of the “Wild Rebel” formation. The play saw a reverse hand off to junior quarterback Randall Mackey, lined up at wide receiver, who then threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief.

“It was a good lift,” Moncrief said. “It helped us out. It gave us good motivation, but we have got to have more.”

The ensuing kickoff saw a surprise onside kick recovered by Ole Miss, but Mackey threw an interception to halt the Rebels’ momentum. This turnover led to a 35-yard touchdown pass from Murray to senior tight end Aron White, which put the Bulldogs up 24-7.

With just under a minute to play in the first half, the Rebels used some more trickery. On a Georgia punt, Scott fielded the punt and then handed the ball off to freshman Nickolas Brassell, who took the punt 81 yards for a touchdown. A missed hold on the extra point left the score 24-13 at the half.

“We’ve been working a lot,” Brassell said of the punt return.

“We got the chance, and I saw a couple of guys in front of me. And I just took off from there — I knew I was going to get to the end zone.”

Georgia continued to drive down the field in the second half, but could not come away with points as Walsh missed field goals from 48, 47 and 35 yards out respectively, before finally connecting on a 43-yard field to extend the lead to 27-13.

"They had several opportunities where they could have laid down, and they showed a lot of want-to and character,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “And the direction we’re going in, we’re going to get better.”

Throughout the second half, the Ole Miss offense could never capitalize on Georgia’s missed opportunities. For the game, the Rebels averaged only 1.3 yards per carry, while Stoudt and Mackey combined to complete 12 of 30 passes for 149 yards.

“Defensively, we just got to get them some points,” Nutt said. “One thing I know about our defense is they are going to get turnovers, they’re going to be real stingy around the red zone, but they just need that boost of confidence that we’re going to get them some points.”

There was less than a minute left in the game and the Ole Miss defense had forced Georgia to punt the football away to Scott, who took it 67 yards for a touchdown.

Then the few fans left in the stands slumped in their celebrations when they saw another yellow flag on the field.  A block in the backfield took the points off the board, and the next play, which proved to be the last of the game, summed up the offensive woes for the Rebels - Mackey sacked for a loss of 17 yards.