There were a few nice games in Week 11 around the SEC. Mark Ingram rushed for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns in an easy win over Mississippi State. Tim Tebow had 8.0 yards per pass attempt to complement a solid running game and Riley Cooper went over 100 yards receiving as Florida beat South Carolina. Likewise Joe Cox complimented a solid running effort with over 10 yards per pass attempt without an interception and with one touchdown as Georgia won a tight one over Auburn. Derek Locke had 150 total yards as Kentucky beat Vandy.
But clearly, obviously, the player of the week in the SEC last Saturday was Ole Miss do-everything guy Dexter McCluster. He scored 4 touchdowns, and ran for 282 yards, and even found time to catch 4 passes for 42 yards. He scored Ole Miss's first 3 touchdowns of the game on runs of 15, 23, and 32 yards, the last of which gave Ole Miss the lead for good. His last touchdown put the game out of reach, 35-17, on a spectacular 71 yard run. YouTube to follow:
He may weigh only about 125 pounds, but there is no give in him. He runs hard, whether it is up the middle against defensive tackles who are twice his size (literally) or outside against safeties and corners who theoretically should be a match for him athletically.
Lately, Ole Miss has radically re-worked its offensive strategy. Here are McCluster's touches, by game, from the start of the season: 15, 3, 15, 9, 9, 3, 29, 26, 0, 29.
That zero represents a game against Northern Arizona in which McCluster was rested to heal injuries and/or keep him fresh, but you can see a definite trend line if you exclude that aberrational 0 number. They are giving the ball to McCluster a heck of a lot more in the second half of the season than they were in the first half. Strangely, Jevan Snead's numbers have not declined. Here are his pass attempts by game: 22, 28, 21, 34, 34, 22, 33, 35, 29, 20.
In fact, try as I might, I can't find ANYONE whose touches are decreasing in order to make more room for McCluster. Their traditional tailback, Brandon Bolden, is getting about the same number of rushes, and if anything his participation in the passing game has increased, as he has gotten 10 of his 19 pass receptions in just the last 4 weeks. So what's the deal? Obviously, Ole Miss is running more plays, probably because they're getting more first downs. The extra plays are because of giving the ball to McCluster more, and McCluster is reaping the benefits, but no one is really suffering (except the opponents).
There's a lesson in there somewhere. A rising tide lifts all boats? Was Reagan right all along, only applying trickle-down economics in the wrong context?
Anyway, if this is Ole Miss preview Part II, the take-home lesson is TACKLE THAT GUY.