This week has featured a string of upsets, and while it may not get as much national attention, Ole Miss's victory over the Gators in the Swamp may be more shocking than Oregon State's victory over the Trojans in Corvallis. With the Rebels next up for the Gamecocks after tonight's game against UAB, I'm sure a lot of USC fans want to know how Houston Nutt's team did it. Is Ole Miss better than we thought? Are we in for trouble next week in Oxford?
To make a long story short, Ole Miss was always going to be a tough game for us, and that obviously still remains the case. However, I wouldn't go penciling in an L for that week just yet. The outcome of today's game in the Swamp says a lot more about Florida and their lack of mental preparation than it does about the Rebels. The Gators beat themselves in this game, mostly in the third quarter. First of all, the Saurians fumbled twice (once by Harvin, once by Tebow) while deep in their own territory. This led to 10 Rebels points, which tied the game at 17-17. The Gators also had some special teams lapses, including an under-20 yard punt and some long returns by Ole Miss. There were also some defensive breakdowns that led to huge plays for the Rebels. The biggest of these, undoubtedly, was an 86 yard TD pass from Jevan Snead to Shay Hodge with five minutes left in the fourth. This gave the Rebels a 31-24 lead. The Gators would score again, but in what will surely go down as one of the epic special teams choke jobs of the SEC season, the Rebels managed to block the PAT.
The Gators would get one last chance, and I'm a little miffed about what happened. Florida drove down to the Mississippi 32, and chose to go for it on fourth and one with about 40 seconds remaining. The Rebs rose to the task and stuffed Tim on his QB keeper, sealing the victory. Maybe those who were at the game and the weather conditions or know more about Florida's kicker can explain why Urban didn't choose to try for a long FG to win at this point. Even if the Gators had gotten the first down, I'm not sure that they would've been able to get more than one or two more plays off before trying for the kick. Risking a turnover on downs was a huge gamble, and I honestly think it would've made more sense to try to kick a long FG.
This isn't to say that we aren't in for a wild ride next week. The Rebels got a lot of mileage out of their Wild Rebel formation, and I'm sure we all remember what Houston Nutt's teams can do to us. However, I have to think that (1) Florida's coordinators have been thinking too much about upcoming dates with LSU and the like and (2) the Gators just didn't get up for this game and committed key mental errors. Ellis Johnson, on the other hand, has undoubtedly been preparing his gameplan for Nutt's wacky offense, and I hope to see the dividends of that preparation when we travel to Oxford.