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Looking back at promises before season

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
Oct. 29, 2002
The power of prayer doesn't work in football. Neither does wishful thinking, high hopes or crossing your fingers. What does work is having better players bigger, faster, smarter. There seems to be an unexpected shortage of supply in players of that type at Ole Miss and Mississippi State this year and, possibly, Southern Mississippi. We'll know about them after the 5-2 Golden Eagles play TCU Wednesday night.
But as for the Rebels and Bulldogs, what you see is not what you expected to get.
In their media guide published at the start of the season Mississippi State's sports information department said this about their team: "MSU returns 50 lettermen and 16 starters from last fall's team, the largest number of regulars coming back to a Bulldog team since that SEC West winning squad (1998). That group will be bolstered by quite possibly the best incoming class of new Bulldogs ever recruited by (Jackie) Sherrill and his staff."
Scouts honor. That's what it says in the "Outlook" section of the guide.
To continue.
Say what?
(On defense) "The Bulldogs return seven starters to a defense that allowed five opponents three touchdowns or less during the 2001 season. Three of those five games came against SEC foes, but two of those three were early season two-point losses."
If that much talent really was expected to represent the maroon and white this year, what happened? Is the staff now scrambling for the usual excuses, injuries, bad breaks, official's decisions that were in error? That's something for the MSU administration to decide. My point is that what they said in August has little or no merit in October, and it is fair to ask why.
As for Ole Miss, the Rebels' Achilles heel in 2001 was defense. Coach David Cutcliffe apparently decided the problem was not the players but the coaching. He made a change, bringing in a new defensive coordinator, Chuck Driesbach, and implied that would solve the problem.
How's that? Ole Miss opponents have scored 220 points this season, 90 of them in the last two games.
The fans must share the blame for some of the preseason hype. They believed Eli Manning could carry the team on his shoulders like Atlas holding up the world. Well he couldn't, didn't, and is not likely to. Yes, individually Manning has been everything he was expected to be, but football is a three-dimensional game passing, running and special teams. The Rebels have no ground game. Virtually none at all. Against Alabama the Rebels gained four yards. Saturday in their Arkansas game the Rebels ran the ball 25 times for a net gain of 36 yards. And as for the punting and special teams, it has been merely adequate at best.
Possible offensive line problems were never considered at the start of the season. Again we quote.
offensive line and that future might be now."
So the same question asked about Mississippi State is valid regarding Ole Miss. How come there's a problem? Could it be the running backs are to blame?
Another preseason quote.
Yes, there have been injuries, but remember the quote about having "potential quality depth" on this year's squad.
Please understand, we're not finger pointing. We're puzzled, looking for answers, finding none.
I'm tired of "wait til next year." For Ole Miss and Mississippi State this was supposed to be next year.
It's not.