There really is not much a team can say after losing a game by 63 points. There’s even less to say when that loss came against a rival. Saturday’s 66-3 loss to the seemingly always No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide stung for the Rebels.
That scoreline may not leave the public’s mind for some time. And maybe it shouldn’t. But according to the Ole Miss football team, the time to dwell on that loss has passed. Auburn, Alabama’s younger cousin who’s just as big and only a little less mean, lies in waiting for Saturday.
In the minds of this year’s Rebels, Alabama is already a distant memory. Auburn possesses a physical and mental toughness that must be matched. According to sophomore corner Myles Hartsfield, the loss at Bama was just as motivating as it was demoralizing.
“A loss like that is hard to digest,” Hartsfield said. “You have to just go back on the practice field and go to work, getting the stuff that you messed up on game day corrected. That’s a game that you’re always going to feel, that you’re always going to keep going back to. You don’t want to have that feeling again. We’re just moving on to the next one. We’re not worried about Alabama anymore.”
Though the loss hurt his pride, Hartsfield thinks the agony felt after it will motivate his teammates to prevent it from happening again. That sentiment seems to be resonant with the team.
“That kind of loss will test your will,” wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler said. “When you lose a game like that, you can’t lose two games. We threw that game away. We washed it. We learned from it.”
For Peeler and the rest of the coaching staff, this week is about preparing the guys to move on. They want the team to focus on what it can control, not on what it can’t.
“Simplifying is taking the thinking process out of it,” Peeler said. “When you think, you don’t play as fast. When you’re not thinking, you’re playing fast, and we want to play fast.”
Not thinking may seem like a strange idea after such a devastating loss, but it could be the key to getting the team out of its current slump.
One particular play in the game against Alabama rubbed many fans the wrong way. When junior wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge failed to catch an ultimately intercepted pass, he turned his head and walked away instead of chasing down the ball carrier. But Peeler knew Lodge meant no harm by his action.
“You know the thing is it looks bad, but he thought the ball hit the ground,” Peeler said. “When you look at it, he never even turned around. It’s loud in that stadium. It was not intended. It wasn’t anything it looked like.”
This weekend’s matchup with Auburn could set the tone for the rest of the season. A win could revitalize the team’s stagnant form, while a loss could crush any hope for further success. Only time will tell. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.