by Jordan Grove
First it was Jacksonville State. Now it’s Vanderbilt.
In the opening game of the 2010 season, the Rebels (Black Bears?) were shocked by the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State in double overtime 49-48. It was a stunner. It dominated headlines. And it was a premonition of things to come for Ole Miss.
Now Vanderbilt, a perennial bottom feeder in the SEC, has put another blemish onto the once proud Ole Miss football record.
There are high hopes for new Commodores coach James Franklin but having his team only three more wins away from earning a bowl bid in his first season? That’s foolishness. Or is it?
Vanderbilt still has an offensively inept Kentucky team left on the schedule as well Army, Wake Forest, and Tennessee. They only need to win three out of the four which seems doable.
Even if they fail to make a bowl game, James Franklin has made history by being the first new Commordores coach since World War II to start 3-0.
But for Saturday’s game against Houston Nutt and the Rebels it was an embarrassment. Zach Stoudt, who was anything but what his last name would indicate, imitated LSU QB Jarrett Lee from 2008 by throwing five (yes, FIVE) interceptions complete with one being a pick-six.
It was Vanderbilt’s third pick six of the year. Yes, you read that correctly. It was Vanderbilt’s THIRD pick six of the year.
Ole Miss rushed for a measly 2.7 yards per rush – a far cry from the dynamic rushing attack Houston Nutt employed at Arkansas with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis.
The Rebels finished with 85 total rushing yards. Vanderbilt? 281 yards on the ground.
They were also 4-14 on third downs, had many drive killing penalties, and looked sloppy, disorganized, and completely inept. If it wasn’t for a touchdown in the final three minutes of the game, Vandy would have recorded their first SEC shutout since 1968.
If a reel of just Ole Miss’ offensive series were played it would have Benny Hill music as the soundtrack. They were that bad.
Houston Nutt, when at Arkansas, was known as a good coach that never could live up to the lofty billing of his team. The Hogs were always better as underdogs. It’s when Nutt’s back is to the wall that he coaches best and he will need to do just that to save his job.
He was brought to Ole Miss just hours after being fired by Arkansas with hopes of helping to restore the Rebels to their former glory. In his first two seasons he helped do just that.
In 2008 he went 9-4 (5-3 in conference play) and earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl where he defeated Texas Tech. He did the same thing again in 2009. 9-4 (4-4 in conference) with another trip to the Cotton Bowl where he beat Oklahoma State.
All the success Nutt had in his first two years, though, can be attributed to him having players that were recruited by Ed Oregeron.
In his third year, Nutt finished 4-8, 1-7 in the SEC with that one win coming against Kentucky. The other three wins? Tulane, Fresno State, and UL-Lafayette.
This year looks to be another long one for Mississippi fans as there could potentially be only two more wins for Nutt’s team: at Fresno State and home against Louisiana Tech. Ole Miss still has to play Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and rival Mississippi State.
What makes last season and this season (so far) so disheartening, frustrating, aggravating, and annoying for Mississippi fans is that across the state Dan Mullen, Mississippi State’s head coach, is one of the hottest commodities in college football. While his team has started 0-2 in SEC play, they have been competitive in every game.
Mullen’s offenses are exciting to watch, he’s lively and animated on the sideline, players love playing for him, and he has yet to suffer an embarrassing loss.
With each win that Mullen has, even for every competitive loss that State has, Nutt’s seat gets hotter. He has to prove he can get Ole Miss football back to the heights that it once was.
Mississippi has been patient with Nutt. After just one 4-7 season David Cutcliffe was fired as their head coach and that was after a 10-3 year with a Cotton Bowl win
Nutt’s buyout for this year is a lofty $5 million which makes it unlikely that the Ole Miss administrators will get rid of him. Next year (January 2012), though, his buyout decreases to $4 million, however, if it’s Nutt’s decision to leave then the contract calls for a stairstep buyout of $900,000 until December 31st, 2011 but decreases to $700,000 on January 1st, 2012.
How cheap Ole Miss is will determine how long they will retain Nutt. The problem if they get rid of him, though, is who they could get to replace him?