Full Speed Ahead

Some inside the Ole Miss football program would prefer not to put too much stock into one game, a Saturday tilt at Tulane set for broadcast in front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPN2.

But not Jerrell Powe.

No, the senior defensive tackle, one of more dominant players at his position in the country, is comfortable in tabbing Ole Miss' second game of the season a must-win. The Rebels were shocked in their home opener, falling to Jacksonville State, 49-48, in double overtime.

For Powe, it's time to make a statement.

"I'm very anxious. I'm definitely ready to take the field again and show everybody how good we are, how good of a defense we can be," Powe said.

"I think we did some things well (against Jacksonville State). It just goes to show you, when you're not handling your landmark, things can happen. Like I said, I'm anxious to get back on the field. I think everybody in the locker room is anxious to get back on the field and bounce back."

"Trust" has been a term thrust about regularly with head coach Houston Nutt at the helm of a rising program.

Jerrell Powe

He called for it from his fan base in his introductory press conference three years ago. His players are held to it, accepting the responsibility, both on and off the field, of a student-athlete at Ole Miss.

When the clock struck zero Saturday and the attention of college football shifted to Oxford, the team lost a bit of that trust amongst Ole Miss faithful, according to Powe.

He and his teammates, toiling this week under the framework of finishing, are determined to rid themselves, and their disappointed following, of the bitter taste from a stomach-turning upset.

"It's definitely a must-win," he said. "All 11 of them, they're all a must-win. We've got to go out there and prove to a lot of people how good we really are, show everybody how good our defense is, earn the trust back with our fans and in this community."

So far, a physical practice week has gone well. Nutt said Wednesday that each day has been better than the day before, as players are responding to their coach's mission, refusing to hang their heads despite an 0-1 record.

The veterans Nutt has relied upon, Powe included, have been vocal to lead the charge. It's a follow-the-leader(s) rally cry not expected to come so soon, if at all, but one the team needs as it tries to pick up the pieces and move forward.

"I saw a lot of momentum, a lot of guys stepping up," Powe said of the practice week. "I saw a lot of guys voicing their opinions. I saw a lot of leadership out of the linebackers and the secondary. I just saw a lot of leadership. Everybody wants to get better at finishing."

Predictably, fans and media alike have tried to point fingers at what happened against Jacksonville State, how a charter member of the Southeastern Conference lost to an FCS opponent on its home field.

Powe, however, refuses to do so. He says the defense, collectively, was responsible for the loss, unable to protect a 21-point lead Ole Miss held at halftime.

"We didn't step on their throat," said Powe. "We had them down, but we didn't step on their throat.

Jerrell Powe

"Something we've got to do both on and off the field is finishing. That's what we emphasized in practice is finishing. Anything we did, just finishing. Had we stepped on their throat and not gotten lackadaisical, we would've beat ‘em. We let them hang around too long. We relaxed too much."

And to the finger-pointing?

"We all took that loss together. There's no pointing fingers at nobody. The defense didn't perform."

Ole Miss received a double dose of good news this week. Senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, as well as senior free safety Fon Ingram, returned to practice in full. Each took his respective place with the first team.

Ingram and Lockett were sorely missed Saturday, but perhaps none more than Lockett, a vocal leader and reliable contributor for an otherwise young group of defensive ends. Fill-in Gerald Rivers made little noise in the first start of his career. The same could be said for newcomer Wayne Dorsey.

"We're excited to have him back," Powe said of Lockett. "He's a big part of our defense. We definitely need him on and off the field. I think we had some guys who stepped up at his position and did some things well. But we definitely need him out there, because he's a veteran. He started over Greg Hardy. Greg never took his spot back.

"So we definitely miss him. He knows the game and we need him out there."

The 2010 season has quickly turned into an "us-against-the-world" march for Powe and company. The Rebels are out to prove they're better than Saturday's score indicated, that they're no pushover or a team to be taken lightly going forward.

And Tulane is up first.

"It's most definitely a game we've got to use to make a statement," Powe said. "It's just like the coaches say, we're going to go out there and we ain't holding nothing back.

"Whatever the score is, the score is."

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