Thieved Become Thieves

Ole Miss had forced all of three turnovers through its first four games of the 2010 season, but no interceptions.

The Rebels matched that total, including an interception by Charles Sawyer, with over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter Saturday.

All three, the only turnovers created by Ole Miss in the game, lead to touchdowns. Ole Miss topped Kentucky, 42-35, in front of over 55,000 fans in attendance.

"Everytime our defense got turnovers, we capitalized," head coach Houston Nutt said. "That's what turnovers do."

It was a welcomed, if not a surprising, change for a vastly inconsistent defense.

"I love those turnovers," junior safety Damien Jackson, who had seven tackles and forced a fumble in the game, said. "To be honest, the coaches always preach turnovers. It's a players' game. It was our fault that we weren't getting turnovers. Now we're getting turnovers, and suddenly it's our way."

The Rebels (2-2, 0-1 SEC) were limited defensively. Senior cornerback Jeremy McGee played sparingly. Gerald Rivers and Shackelford combined to replace Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. The secondary suffered concussions to three different members in Brishen Mathews, Sawyer and Marcus Temple.

"It was very huge," sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford, who recovered a fumble, said of the turnovers. "That's been one of the things about our defense here lately; we haven't been getting enough turnovers. Today we get three and you see what the outcome was."

D.T. Shackelford

Ole Miss' defense always seemed a step slow over a disappointing start to the season. The Rebels surrendered yards in bunches, which wouldn't mean as much if they were creating turnovers and holding opponents out of the end zone.

But they hadn't. Ole Miss had yet to hold an opponent under 14 points or 300 yards of total offense. Saturday, the statistics were pretty much the same. The Rebels surrendered 424 yards of offense and 35 points.

The glaring discrepancy, and an important one at that, was the turnover battle. Ole Miss had none. Kentucky had three.

"It's big not to have any turnovers," sophomore wide receiver Jesse Grandy said. "Normally when turnovers come, you're not going to have a good game. Everything's coming together. No turnovers. It's like we're all coming into one now."

Offensively, senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was far more efficient. For the first time in four weeks, he didn't throw an interception, while completing 9-of-17 passes for three touchdowns. No running back fumbled. Brandon Bolden had his second 100-plus rushing performance in as many weeks on 23 carries. No wide receiver dropped a would-be touchdown.

"It was big," Masoli said. "(The defense) kept us in the game. We weren't having success like we wanted on some of the plays, but those guys giving us good field position helped."

As it was, the Rebels turned a glaring area of weakness into a strength, a usual goose egg into three critical turnovers which virtually won the game.

"We've seen a lot of improvement. You can see it in the turnovers," Shackelford said. "With the turnovers, that means you're being more violent and you're selling out for your teammates. Once again, 35 points is still a whole lot. But a win is a win. You never want to get complacent. We're going to keep working."

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