COLUMN: It’s become painfully obvious that the Ole Miss football team lacks leadership, focus and the understanding of what it takes to win football games in the Southeastern Conference.
What else can you call Thursday’s decision by coach Houston Nutt to suspend four players for violation of team rules other than total disrespect to the ultimate goal of winning?
Less than 48 hours before the Rebels play their biggest game of the season against No. 2 Alabama, Nutt had to deal with yet another distraction that did nothing but take away from the final stages of preparation for the Crimson Tide.
Regardless of what Brandon Bolden, Alex Washington, A.J. Hawkins and Philander Moore did to earn the one game suspension, they put their teammates in an even tougher situation than the one they were already facing.
Nutt started the week off by saying it was going to take a complete team effort, the best effort of the season, to have a chance against Alabama on Saturday. It was paramount that the team had to be united and pushing all in the same direction.
Remember what suspensions did for the team’s morale last year?
Nutt also talked about the type of mindset his team had to play with against a talented bunch like Alabama and how eliminating such things as penalties and turnovers were the best ways to accomplish such a feat. Nutt had to know that even with a good week of practice, a better focus and fresh legs that his young group was still going to make mistakes, but he never thought that some of his most veteran players, and his biggest leader in Brandon Bolden, would cause the team this much harm prior to kickoff.
It seems very unlikely that the Rebels will beat the Crimson Tide, but the hope is to make the game competitive, stay close and maybe, just maybe, have a chance late to accomplish something very special in the form of a huge upset win. Losing a player of Bolden’s caliber, even if he wasn’t quite 100 percent, as well as two linemen with experience, diminishes those chances even more.
The actions that led to the suspensions are not only disrespectful to Nutt and his staff but to the remaining members of the team who went about their business the proper way and to the fans who will fill up the stadium to cheer on the Rebels. It was already tough enough for a fractured fan base to get up for a game where their favorite team is now 29-point underdog. The fans didn’t need this escapade to make the challenge that much more hopeless.
Nutt has always talked about football being a good teacher of life lessons. There are consequences to making mistakes whether that is on the field or off. Everyone deserves a second chance in life and Nutt has been good about doing that for his players, but how many cases have to be dealt with before everyone finally gets the ultimate message that this is a team game and no one player is above the rest?
The Rebels have their work cut out for them for sure Saturday, but it’s not going to get any easier the rest of the way if they don’t stop making mistakes like this. This team isn’t talented enough to lose four players with this amount of talent and win games in this league. It just isn’t going to happen. Nutt and his staff have to figure a way to make sure there aren’t any more suspensions or any more dissension in the ranks. It’s a must he keep the team together, moving forward and actually improving like he has talked about at length because the second chances for them all have run out. (October 14, 2011, Page 6A)