The Ole Miss offense left points on the board, the secondary failed to stop the pass and a John Rhys Plumlee comeback fell just short.
That was the story of Ole Miss’s loss to Cal on Saturday in Oxford. Cal quarterback Chase Garbers went 23-35 for 357 yards and rarely looked phased by a nonexistent Ole Miss pass rush and a secondary that struggled to stop the Golden Bears through the air.
John Rhys Plumlee came in for an injured Matt Corral and led a ferocious comeback in the fourth quarter.
Plumlee completed a pass to Elijah Moore that the Ole Miss offense appeared to be a touchdown but was ruled short of the goal line, and Plumlee was stuffed on a quarterback sneak on the next play as time expired. After his strong performance, if or how Plumlee is utilized moving forward will be interesting to see.
Now sitting at 2-2 on the year with two winnable games having resulted in losses, the Rebels’ hopes of reaching a bowl game are considerably dimmer than when the season started.
Winnable games still remain on the schedule, but Ole Miss needed a win on Saturday to feel good about its hopes of reaching the postseason and renew some optimism amongst fans.
With a young team fresh off of NCAA sanctions, this was always going to be the year where a lack of roster depth and experience reared its ugly head. The Rebels just had to counteract that in any way they could.
Pair that with new offensive and defensive coordinators and schemes, and you have a recipe for some struggles on the gridiron in 2019. Even with a lackluster showing for much of the game, Plumlee showed flashes of excellence as he helped lead a scoring drive and fell just short of another as time expired. The season hasn’t flatlined just yet, but the road ahead is tough.
Next week brings an almost-certain loss in Tuscaloosa to the Crimson Tide followed by a home match against Vanderbilt, a game the Rebels should be favored in.
If Ole Miss can gain a win against Vanderbilt, a win against New Mexico State on November 9 is probable, putting the team at four wins. That leaves the Rebels needing two wins from games against Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State — a feat that is far from guaranteed.
Needless to say, we’ve entered a portion of the season where the margin for error is practically zero if it wasn’t already. For a team as young as this, that’s not an ideal situation to be in.
The debate will certainly be had as to whether or not Elijah Moore was in the end zone on the third down play before Plumlee’s QB sneak, but the final score is what matters, and the Rebels came out on the short end.
It’s likely that an irritated fanbase won’t heed this warning, but Cal is a quality opponent. This quality opponent, however, might have just lowered the ceiling of what this Ole Miss season can accomplish.