There and Back

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt never has a case of the Mondays. He can't afford to.

He begins each week with a mid-afternoon press conference, the usual media contingent randomly seated throughout the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility.

The questions are rather habitual, usually centering on the Rebels' previous game. This week Nutt was asked of a 23-10 loss to Alabama, the third loss for Ole Miss this season.

But one week out of the year, the questions Nutt so routinely answers shift from ordinary to emotional, as much as Nutt would rather turn attention away from himself. Ole Miss travels to Arkansas Saturday, a school he coached for all of 10 seasons.

"I think it's probably died down a little bit," Nutt said.

Nutt is in his third season at Ole Miss. He's compiled 21 wins to 11 losses, including consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time since 1961-62 and back-to-back January bowl victories. He's rooted now, even holding a 2-0 record over his former school.

Houston Nutt

"You really don't have time to worry about, well, what do they think or what about the emotion and all that. I'm not really concerned about that. It's about getting these players ready to play," Nutt said.

But no matter how removed he may be from Fayetteville, the storyline each and every season remains the same. To Razorback fans, Nutt is a polarizing figure. At Ole Miss, he's the coach who brought a program back to respectability following a four-year bowl drought.

"Him being our head coach and really our leader, we really want to go out and show that he's our coach," sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford said. "Just like our approach to every game, though, we want to go out there and represent for our family.

"Coach Nutt coming from there and knowing what he's been through, we want to play hard and our best game of the year."

The emotions of Ole Miss vs. Arkansas aren't lost amongst Nutt's current players. They still want to win it for him, knowing full well the history between their head coach and upcoming opponent.

"It's a big-time game," sophomore wide receiver Melvin Harris said. "It's very emotional for everybody, including the coaches. From the history that Coach Nutt had at Arkansas, it's always going to be an emotional game for him. We want to go out there and win this one, especially because we just lost and two, because that's where he came from. It's going to be a big game for us."

Sooner or later, the recurring theme between Ole Miss and Arkansas will go away. Nutt, his team 3-3 (1-2 SEC) on the season, has made his home in Oxford. He even says as much on the video board during pregame introductions.

Saturday, however, will mark just the second return trip to his home state. The first was in 2008, when Ole Miss jump-started its season with a last-second, 23-21 win.

To summarize, Ole Miss led 23-14 with 1:45 remaining, but Arkansas quickly cut the deficit on Casey Dick's 22-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs. The Razorbacks then converted an onside kick.

But Ole Miss held, the game ending on a late night in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"It still kind of feels that way, but at the same time, we need to do it both for him and our season," senior defensive end LaMark Armour said of winning this game for Nutt. "We need a win on the road. This game is big. It would be a help for this year.

"Right now, we're just looking forward to executing this weekend. If we stop beating ourselves, the turnout will come out good."

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