Finding out the strengths of your players and what they can and cannot do is an ongoing process for…
Sometimes it's not.
Case in point, Ole Miss' 33-20 loss to Auburn Saturday afternoon was easy to explain.
"We just didn't play well enough to win. It's pretty basic," said Rebel Offenisve Coordinator Kent Austin. "We had our opportunities to get it done, but we didn't do it."
Missed opportunities were the name of this game from an offensive standpoint.
"We kick a ball up in the air for an interception that was returned all the way, we fumble reaching for a first down deep in Auburn territory and Jevan (Snead) scrambles for a first down late in the game that is called back for holding," Austin continued. "Those kinds of things kill you on the road in this league.
"Turnovers - we preach it all the time. We work it all the time. Penalties - we preach that all the time. We had too many of both today to win."
Another offensive factor? The Rebs' lack of production on third down.
"Historically, we are a pretty good third-down team. Today, we were very poor, something like 3-15. Again, that's not good enough. It's not going to beat a good team on the road," he noted.
The Rebels also could not loosen up the Auburn defense with anything noteworthy downfield in the pasing game.
"The couple of times we tried anything, they rolled their coverages and had us covered, but when Dexter (McCluster) is in the backfield, we lose some speed out wide and it's hard for us to go deep," stated Austin. "We understand that there is a give-and-take in putting Dexter in the backfield, but we feel that is our best option to get things done offensively.
"We are getting a lot out of Dex and we have to take a hard look at what we are doing with him game in and game out, but he's our best offensive player and we have to get the ball in his hands."
Possibly the most surprising aspect of the game was how the Rebs took the ball on their opening possession and methodically marched 94 yards for a touchdown. . . .
. . . Then, other than a 79-yard run by McCluster in the fourth quarter, no offensive points the rest of the way.
"I've ben around too long to think 'here we go' after that first drive," Kent said. "It was a great way to start, but you have to keep executing and we didn't execute well enough on some key plays that were there to be made to get the job done."
Austin also credited Auburn's front, particularly DE Antonio Coleman, for playing well.
"We knew coming in that #52 was a man and their front was good - their front is always good," Kent said. "But we didn't help our cause the way we executed in a lot of key situations. They played well, keeping our passing game in front of them and forcing us to make plays in front of them, which we didn't make enough of."
Kent refused to call it a beat-yourself game though.
"It's rarely all we-beat-ourselves. I thought they played well and we didn't not respond to their level of play," he assessed.
QB Jevan Snead was 16-35 with two interceptions, 1 TD and 175 yards. He was sacked three times.
"He could have made more throws today, but that can be said every game. He had a fluke play on the TD interception," Austin added. "He can improve from this both in his passing and in his decision-making, but I'm not disappointed in his play any more than I am in the whole unit's play."
Bottom line? Down 33-20, twice the Rebs had the ball inside Auburn's 25 and failed to get a point.
"No question, that's the biggest disappointment I had on the day. You have to make something there. Have to," He closed. "Offensively, we just did not get it done. We had 394 yards and scored two offensive TDs. That tells you all you need to know."
It was just as simple for Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix, whose defense gave up a shocking 401 yards to an offense that had struggled some the past three games.
"They threw a couple of new wrinkles at us, but that wasn't the story of this game," said a dejected Nix. "They executed better than we did and wanted it more than we did, it looked like to me.
"We didn't stop them, period. They ran the ball too much, they were successful too often on play-action and they ran their offense better than we ran our defense."
The Rebels have not been giving up many big plays so far in the 2009 season, but Auburn had several - a big run and three or four relatively long passes.
"It was obvious today," he continued. "That big run crushed us. The long passes led to points too. The big plays were the difference in the game. Most of the big plays in the passing game they made were the result of our eyes being in the wrong place with our corners because our corners are not involved in stopping the run much against their offense - the safeties are.
"On their first TD, when their tight end got behind us, we just let the guy run right by us. We were in a man coverage and nobody picked him up. Then, when they hit the big run in the third quarter we looked like we were in a lull and I don't know why. We didn't have much emotion at that point."
For Nix, it was the worst performance of the year for his defense, he said.
"It's disappointing. We had been playing some pretty good football up to this point, but we sure didn't today," he closed. "I have to figure out why and get it fixed."
Auburn played better than Ole Miss.
What might be more complicated to get to the bottom of is why.
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