Formula For Winning

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the formula for winning football. Most of the time, with all other things relatively equal, it's all about turnovers. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt and his staff have been singing it for weeks.

In the film room, in team meetings, on the practice fields and during weight room workouts.

To paraphrase, it goes something like this.

Protect what is yours, take what it theirs.

And it all centers around that leather egg, the football.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.

Don't make any on offense, force some on defense and, most likely, you'll get the victory.

In a nutshell, that's what happened Saturday in Ole Miss' SEC matchup with Kentucky and it led directly - like a bullet - to the 42-35 Rebel win.

Despite a revamped offensive line going against their first SEC opponent and despite an injury-riddled defense giving up over 400 yards of total offense, the Rebs pulled out the win.

Melvin Harris

Why? Simple.

They took care of the ball on offense and took it away from Kentucky on defense - three times, and all three takeaways led to Ole Miss touchdowns.

So how did this come about?

Believe it or not, it started last week against Fresno State and it had little to do with turnovers.

It had everything to do with getting their minds right - gaining some confidence, playing aggressively and playing with more poise than they had previously shown in the 55-38 win over the Bulldogs.

That mindset carried over to the next week of practice and right into the Kentucky game.

It was a vital step, but step number two, which surfaced against the Cats, was playing a cleaner, a more efficient and a more opportunistic brand of football.

That is what surfaced, for the most part, against Kentucky.

On offense, the Rebels were the beneficiary of three turnovers in Kentucky territory and a Jesse Grandy punt return that ended up on the Wildcat seven.

All four times, the Rebs scored touchdowns. In all, they were a perfect 6-6 in the Red Zone and, on the day, they had zero turnovers for the first time this year.

That spells a win in most any sports dictionary or reference book.

The offense was explosive at the right times, it ground things out at the right times and it capitalized on every opportunity to score.

That type of efficiency, that higher quality of performance, will win games on that side of the ball.

On defense, going without a bevy of starters - Kentrell Lockett, Johnny Brown, Marcus Temple and Charles Sawyer, plus number three safety Brishen Mathews going down - the Rebs were not able to completely stop the Kentucky offense, which ran up a respectable 424 total yards.

But for the first time all year, they forced some meaningful turnovers, two fumble recoveries and the first interception of the season, by Sawyer before his concussion.

Against a balanced and pretty potent offense like Kentucky's, those big plays, those ball-jarring plays, made the difference. We can even take it a step further - they were the difference in the game.

Mike Marry recovers a fumble

The Cats moved the chains. The Cats scored more than one would like. The Cats threw for the magic number of 300 yards.

None of that can be discounted or ignored, but the three turnovers the Rebs caused were what turned the tide in Ole Miss' favor.

Some will look at the defensive effort and not be very impressed. An argument can be made in that direction and not be off base by too much.

When you look at all the facts, however, the bottom line is the defense played about as good as one could expect with five starters out for all, most or the latter parts of the game.

Kudos to guys like CB Tony Grimes, CB/S Frank Crawford, CB Jeremy McGee, fresh off a concussion, and little used CB Julian Whitehead.

They gave up some plays, but they also made plays, and in that situation, that's about all one can reasonably ask.

There can be no argument the Rebel defensive arsenal was depleted and they still managed to find a way to win.

The Rebels, thank the football gods, have an open week to heal up some of their walking wounded.

That's big with Alabama in Tuscaloosa looming.

But what may be even more important is it gives this Rebel squad time for one indisputable fact to sink in.

Protect what's yours, take what's theirs and you, more often than not, will end up in the winner's circle.

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