Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was visibly more enthusiastic about the way his Rebels played their second Southeastern Conference game Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Two weeks after watching his team give away a win to Vanderbilt, Nutt was talking about the importance of causing turnovers to the tune of 21 points in a 42-35 win over Kentucky.The progress that the Rebels have made in just two weeks, with a number of injuries and dismissals adding to an already young lineup in spots, seemed to make Nutt the most proud. Instead of seeing his team wilt after a tough season-opening loss to Jacksonville State in double overtime and watching his team have miscue after miscue in the loss to the Commodores, Nutt was able to talk up a team that has only tried to get better as the year has progressed.
“I kept telling them to keep believing. That first knockout punch, that first game, I don’t know if you realize how devastating that was to our team. That was devastating and if you’re not careful, that will linger. That will help you get beat the next game when you go to Tulane,” Nutt said. “Then all of a sudden, it starts the negative and the doubt from the outside. Everybody starts to tell you’re not very good. It’s easy to let go of the rope and it’s easy to go to the training room.
“That’s what I love. We showed a little character, we challenged them to hold on to the rope, that we’re going to fight through this. If we keep fighting, I can live with whatever happens. That’s what is the best teacher about football.”
The Rebels have definitely listened to Nutt and his staff about overcoming their shortcomings. This season may not have gotten off to the start so many thought they could accomplish, but the year is far from over. There are things this team can build on moving forward. Nutt reminded the media of what he said in August about the team and how each game would come down to the end.
“I told you right here in August that this would be the biggest challenge of our careers. I didn’t believe it would be to this extent though,” Nutt said. “Every game on out will be down to the end. We’ve got our guys geared to that. I appreciate our players. I have asked them to hang in there and never let go of the rope. They’ve done that and I’m proud of them.”
Ole Miss has a much needed off week to lick its wounds and prepare for the biggest challenge of the season at No. 1 Alabama. The Rebels won’t be favored in either of the next two road games or likely the next home game against Auburn. But that doesn’t mean they will just give in to the Crimson Tide, the Razorbacks or the Tigers either. Based on the way they have competed the last two weeks, the Rebels could prove to be a tough out for all three opponents.
A win over any of those three teams helps make the season that much better, while an improved overall effort in all three ultimately keeps the fans feeling proud. That may not sound like a lot to look forward to, but considering how bad things could have gotten, it’s a much better scenario to be working with for a team that still thinks there is something to play for. (October 4, 2010, Page 1B)