OK, let's get right to where this team lost this game. This team lost this game in two places.
- In the trenches, when we had the ball. The Ole Miss defensive line dominated our offensive line. It wasn't even close. Peria Jerry, Kentrell Lockett, and half-a-Greg-Hardy destroyed our offensive line play after play. Keiland Williams averaged 2.8 yards per carry; Charles Scott averaged 1.0 yards per carry. Jarrett Lee was sacked once; Jordan Jefferson 3 times. Granted, those three guys are pretty darn good, but offensive line was supposed to be the strength of our team.
- In the secondary. Jevan Snead carved us up. He averaged 11 yards per attempt, did not throw an interception, and even had a rushing touchdown that was called back because of a penalty that did not impact the play. The last time I saw a quarterback dominate an LSU defense like that was in a time period I would prefer not to remember.
A lot of people are going to point to our QB situation and point out how we've been devastated by injuries and dismissals at the position, and that's all true. But it doesn't explain why the Ole Miss defensive spent the entire game in our backfield. It doesn't explain why we can't cover wide receivers.
It's been pretty clear all year that we are not going to run on anyone unless and until we establish a passing threat. Here in Tuscaloosa, people always ask me, "Why don't y'all just run the ball?" I always answer the same: "We can't run if we can't pass." Last night, we couldn't run no matter our passing game did. Only Jordan Jefferson had any production at all in the ground game. He in fact looked the best he has all year, both running and throwing.
I am not sure what has happened to our offensive line, but they have not done the job of protecting our QB or opening holes for the running game lately. This, more than anything else, is why we have fallen behind early in games of late.
Now on defense, we did an excellent job of containing Ole Miss's running game, but we left a lot of receivers open with blown coverages. This secondary has become a shambles this season, and it will be back to the drawing board once the season is over.
I think that in Spring of 2009 we have to have open competition for every spot on the defense. I honestly think we go into the Spring this year with only one defensive starter set. That's Rahim Alem. Everyone else has to earn it. Harry Coleman, Chris Hawkins, Jai Eugene, Kelvin Sheppard, and Perry Riley have done little to show they are essential pieces of the 2009 team. Sure, I think most if not all of them will end up earning starter spots, but nothing should be handed to them.
Most of all, I think this defense has just lacked playmakers. Rahim Alem and Tyson Jackson have been playmakers. Everyone else has just seemed to be place-holders. We're playing [insert name here] not because he's a special player, but just because, "He's our [insert position he plays]. Try it. It works with every other player on the defense.
Sure, I think most every team has players like that. Guys who are solid and fill the gaps in your roster between the great players. But where are the great players? The guys who other teams fear? I think Patrick Peterson is getting there. Drake Nevis appears to be on his way. Chad Jones could get there. Other than those guys, I think we're looking around.
Ricky Jean-Francois was supposed to be a great player, but he's been average this year. Darry Beckwith was supposed to be a great player, but he has either regressed or he's playing at less than 100% health.
It's the rare team that can have a great defense without great individual players peppered throughout the lineup. Our defense is not among those rare great ones. We need players to step up between no and Fall of 2009 or we will struggle again next year.
I'll have more thoughts on this another time.