Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Markuson doesn't claim to have all the answers to this unpredictable game of football, but there is one thing he is certain of.
The odds of winning go way up when you don't turn the ball over.
That was certainly the case Saturday against Kentucky in the 42-35 Ole Miss victory over SEC foe Kentucky in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
For the first time this season, the Rebels did not have a turnover.
Clean football, what a welcomed sight.
"We preach it and preach it and preach it. We finally had a game with no turnovers and you see what happens," said Markuson. "This is something we now have in our pockets as coaches that we can show the guys. See what happens when you don't turn the ball over. We will make a huge point of today's performance.
"That's been proven thousands of times and we finally got it right today."
Markuson said it's a simple equation.
Two plus two. If you don't turn the ball over, you have a chance to win, period," he emphasized again. "I am sure Joke Phillips is in the Kentucky locker room saying the same thing. They turned it over, we didn't and they lost."
Everyone is responsible for protecting the ball, but most of the time it comes down to the quarterback. The Rebs' Jeremiah Masoli was flawless in taking care of the rock.
"He managed the game very well, cleanly. He made big plays when we needed them and threw some nice balls when we hd to have them, but the number one thing Jeremiah did today was take care of the ball," Mike stated. "He's a cool customer and he never panics. I think that mindset is starting to bleed over to the other players.
"Keep your wits, take care of the ball and the plays will come."
TB Brandon Bolden, after going for 228 yards last week, ate some more yardage against the Wildcats, 108 rushing yards on 23 carries and 46 yards on two catches. He scored via the ground and via a reception.
"Brandon is getting a feel for his line and a feel for the plays. We're not doing anything real complicated and he's just running downhill. Every game is different, but Brandon seems to have hit a stride," noted Markuson.
Markuson assessed his offensive line, who got their first taste as a unit against SEC competition.
"We had some decent holes at time in the run game, but I didn't think our protection was as good as it needs to be," he said. "We gave up a sack and didn't give our guy enough time to throw at times. We have to shore that up in the open week.
"But I will say this - Kentucky was a different animal than we played last week. They had some good-looking kids on defense and I thought we took another step forward. The film will tell, but that's my first impression."
The Rebels didn't rack up a ton of yardage - 301 total on the day, but they were efficient, going 6-6 in the Red Zone.
"We finished. We would have liked to have been a little better on third down (5-13) but every opportunity we had to score, we did and that's encouraging," Mike closed. "We talk about finishing all the time - constantly.
"When you finish and capitalize on your opportunities, and you don't give the other team gifts, you have a real good shot at winning. I know that is stating the obvious, but as coaches, we can't stress that enough."
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix was in the same boat as Markuson, from a different perspective.
His guys had not been causing enough turnovers, but against Kentucky, they forced three and all three led to Rebel TDs and gave the offense relatively short fields to work with.
"It was big to get those turnovers. We had the opportunity to make some plays today and we made some key ones," said Nix. "Charles Sawyer got our first interception of the year and that was a relief. He's starting to play well.
"Our defense is not perfect yet, by any means, but I can see improvement and as long as we can continue to improve, we will win ballgames."
There is one major roadblock in the way, however, injury.
The Rebs were playing against the Wildcats without stalwarts DE Kentrell Lockett and SS Johnny Brown and during the course of the Kentucky game, Sawyer, CB Marcus Temple and S Brishen Mathews all suffered concussions. CB Jeremy McGee, who had a concussion last week in the Fresno game, was able to play, but they had hoped to rest him.
In stepped Tony Grimes, McGee and Julian Whitehead.
"We have guys who haven't been playing much who have to step up and learn fast. You can't coach experience, but we'll keep putting our best 11 who are available out there and see what happens," he stated. "If we have to play more true freshmen, then so be it.
"We can control a lot of things, but we can't control injuries. You just have to deal with them and move on."
Even with a makeshift crew in the secondary, and Kentucky getting steady yardage, there were more Rebels around the ball against the Wildcats.
"We were more aggressive as a defense overall. Our secondary came up with some big hits, especially Damien Jackson," he continued. "Damien had a real big hit against Fresno and had two or three in the Kentucky game.
"That's the type of aggression we expect from all 11 of our guys. If we play with more abandon and play more physical. If you do, you can knock more balls loose."
The Rebels now have an open date and Nix let out a sigh of relief because of that.
"It couldn't come at a better time. We have to get some guys healed up and back in the lineup," he closed. "We'll get a chance during the open week to get some of the younger guys more reps and give our banged up guys a chance to get back.
"We want to go into Tuscaloosa with a healthy unit and see what happens."
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