Column: Putting the Ole Miss vs. Troy game into perspective
OXFORD, Miss. — Putting the Ole Miss vs. Troy game into perspective is one of the calls to action for the Rebels’ coaching staff over the next few days. The coaches are analyzing the takeaways from the game and perusing and running the stats.
There were facets of the 28-10 win over the Trojans that made Rebels excited, and there were some that left people wondering a bit — both common reactions in the first game of a season. In the end, it comes down to the fact there will be teaching and reteaching ahead, especially with so many newcomers to the team.
Head coach Lane Kiffin basically said as much in his Monday press conference.
“We have ‘Tell the Truth Monday,’” Kiffin explained. “It’s what the meetings are in the morning — the good, bad and ugly of the game.”
“….Nothing against other places as everyone does things differently — so I’m not saying we do it better, but we’re trying to break some habits. People just coach differently on certain things, and I told them: ‘A couple of you guys come from other places, and this is your one game. Alright, we told you it, you screwed up, you have to break these habits, or your playing time’s going to suffer.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
If you stop and think about it, coaches are teachers of the game of football. They use spring camp to lay some groundwork. Summer break comes, and you usually see players lose some ground. Then, fall camp comes, and you’re right back at it.
With such a large influx of transfer players, there are a few “bad habits,” as Kiffin has called them, that need to be addressed. Players are being taught and, in some cases, re-trained from what they learned elsewhere.
Coaches teach plays and techniques while also building players’ confidence in their abilities. It’s no different from how a teacher teaches his/her subject matter and prepares students for exit exams.
Throughout the process, teachers and coaches give hands-on instruction. You can practice and take questions from players and students all day long. What they have learned, however, isn’t revealed until they actually take a quiz.
For Ole Miss football, the Troy game was the first quiz of the semester. Now, it’s up to the coaches to reteach some things.
The players are students of the game of football because they enjoy playing. And you can bet they will buckle down and figure it out as the season progresses. It just may take some lessons from the school of hard knocks before they do.
The sign of a good teacher or coach isn’t how they respond to pressure from outside forces or try to mold their students and players to conform to a preconceived notion of who they should be. Instead, successful teachers and coaches lead students and players to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, giving them the tools they need to fix their problems.
Learning from mistakes is also a key to growth.
“It’s a good lesson to learn,” Kiffin said of the Rebels not being able to blow the game open against Troy. “As we play better teams, we wouldn’t be able to get away with some of the things that happened in the game—especially the three turnovers in one half of football,” he said.
Kiffin also understands sometimes you need to look on the bright side and make the most of what you’re given.
“Always try to find something good in the bad,” he said of the close second half.
“It forced our guys to play a little longer than maybe we would’ve wanted to, but it also got them in shape since they had to play longer and play into that heat into the fourth quarter. That part of it was good.“
Coach Kiffin on the benefit of starters being forced to play longer
For good coaches and teachers, it’s not about themselves. It’s about making their students better. And you can bet Lane Kiffin and staff are going to do just that.
That’s what lies ahead for Ole Miss football. The Rebels have some outstanding coaches and an excellent foundation. Let’s see what the team can learn before Central Arkansas visits Oxford on Saturday, September 10th.
Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.