Nutt: 'Getting ready to play No. 1'

The taste of defeat has become all too familiar for the Ole Miss Rebels this fall. Coach Houston Nutt said there was more of it lingering Sunday.

"Just a bitter taste in your mouth," he said Monday at his weekly media gathering in the IPF team meeting room. "I do like the way we went back to work (Sunday). Now we're getting ready to play the No. 1 team in America."

The Auburn Tigers roll into Oxford 8-0 on the season and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Last Saturday Auburn beat previously undefeated LSU 24-17.

"They've done an excellent job," Nutt said. "They're doing some great things on offense. Their defense is very athletic. We're game-planning right now and looking forward to getting back on the field tomorrow."

The star of the Auburn team is quarterback Cam Newton, who is on everyone's Heisman Trophy watch list currently.

"He's such a weapon," Nutt said. "He can be a true tailback at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds. He can throw the football. He has good people around him that he can hand it to, throw it to. He's a triple threat all the way around because of handing, running, throwing. He's brought their offense alive."

AU QB Cam Newton

The Rebels were the consensus last-place pick in the SEC West heading into this season, and that is now where they are found. Ole Miss is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in league play.

The Rebels were 3-4 two years ago in Nutt's first season at Ole Miss and were able to finish 8-4 and move on to get their ninth win against Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Nutt says his team knows exactly where it stands, what it faces the rest of the way, and obviously wants to finish strong.

"As disappointed as they were (Sunday), the thing I keep reminding them of is there are signs of some very good things," Nutt said. "Our problem is we haven't been a complete 60-minute team. We don't take advantage of opportunities. We've got to do better helping each other out. When you get those opportunities, take advantage of them.

"Our guys know our record. They understand it," Nutt added. "I know the seniors do. I think they also know we can be a good football team if we do things the right way. But we've got to tackle better. Can't give up long runs. Every time we've given up a long run, there've been at least three missed tackles. Can't do that."

Nutt said it's the same thing on offense.

"There are times when we look good. But we can't always depend on Jeremiah (Masoli) to make things happen for us. Everybody's got to help him. There are three or four plays again where if we just finish a block, we score. Finish another block and we get another first down.

"At 3-4, we've always been a strong finisher," he continued. "We've got a tough, tough way ahead, starting with the No. 1 team in the nation."

Nutt said consistency is the key.

"And we haven't been," he said. "Our young guys in the offensive line are getting a real baptism into athletic play. Most of those guys should probably be down on scout team right now. But that's where we are, and they've got to grow up in a hurry. It's got to be consistent up there. And our older guys have to do a better job down the field. But things like that have stopped us. You can't be a good offense in our league when you're inconsistent. Bottom line."

More Nutt on Monday:

On Ja-Mes Logan: "He is really stepping up. Been proud of him, and he's just a freshman. His routes are getting better. He's making big catches for us."

On big plays given up by the defense: "It's missed tackles. It's fundamentals. You can't have three missed tackles (on one play) in our league. That back is going to go the distance. It's such a back-breaker and hurts the momentum."

UM Punter Tyler Campbell

On special teams not being up to past standards: "I've been really proud of our kickoff return. That's been good. Our kickoff team for the most part has been good. The thing I've been most disappointed in is the punt team. Our coverage in our punt team hasn't been there. There've been a couple of kicks Tyler (Campbell) did outkick everybody. But there's no excuse. We've got to get down there. We've been really evaluating and working on that hard. We're trying to get more hang time. We've got to do a better job. That's been another back-breaker when they return one 97 yards."

On Jeremiah Masoli's improvement: "He's been told and coached that when things break down, you go to instincts. We trust him with the ball. We trust him in how he takes care of it. He knows where the down markers are. There've been a couple of times we'd like for him to take the ball down and run a few more times, don't try to always feel like you've got to force a pass. Take off running. He's done an excellent job."

On the difficulty of getting consistent play on the offensive front when there have been so many different combinations of players there this season: "That's been difficult. Since day one, we've not had the same front except maybe one week. That's how many injuries we've had. It's been difficult. Chemistry is everything, and that's especially true with the offensive line and working together. With that much youth, it's tough. But I love their fight and attitude. They want to learn and get better. They're going to be really something one day."

On Auburn's defense: "They play together. The one game with Arkansas was crazy. But other than that, they are sound and well coached. And it starts with their front."

On perhaps throwing the football more on first down: "Every game we go into, you try to give them the best chance to win. We spend all week on it. I felt like last week we could block them and try to get those four to six yards on first down and mix it up, whether it be pass or run. But when we were moving it, that was when we were having success on first down. We went in last week thinking we could run the ball and handle the inside guys. But we did not do a good job of blocking. Our young guys got a little bit twisted up on a couple of fronts. That's that learning curve we're talking about. After all that we still had a chance. That's been our story this year. We've had a lot of chances to win games we basically have given away."

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