Hinging on November

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt held his weekly press conference Monday. Go inside for a detailed notebook, including updates on the defense, injuries and the offensive line.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt opened his Monday press conference by reflecting on the game a couple of days earlier.

Nutt again praised the atmosphere Saturday, from the nearly 62,000 fans in the stands to the 3-D presentation on the video board at halftime.

"That was an outstanding crowd Saturday," Nutt said. "I really want to thank our students, our fans. That atmosphere was awesome. What I really hate the most is we couldn't hand them a victory. From the video boards to everything, when you walked in there, that place was rocking."

Ole Miss pulled out all the stops to give the game a primetime feel. Players donned newly-designed gray jerseys with red/blue lettering. Scott van Pelt, of ESPN fame, led the crowd in the customary pregame ‘Are You Ready,' followed moments later by senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett's video message to the fans.

"Had a lot of outstanding recruits here, families here," Nutt said. "(The atmosphere) was all they commented on. And as they stood after the game, and stayed along time after the game, they kept bringing it up."

Ole Miss welcomed a star-studded collection of visitors, including current Mississippi State commitments Nickolas Brassell and Jermaine Whitehead. Ole Miss commitments in attendance included, among others, four-star wide receiver Donte Moncrief, three-star offensive lineman Aaron Morris, four-star cornerback Senquez Golson and three-star wide receiver T.J. Worthy.

Plenty of blame for lackluster standing:

Nutt said the Rebels still were not able to get it done on the field and said the coaches and players are all accountable for making sure that gets done.

"The message to our team and our coaches is hey, it's up to us now. We've got to change it," Nutt said.

Rebel defense has struggled

"We can't stand losing, and I never want our guys to get used to that. It's unacceptable, and you've got to fight and you've really got to reach down and focus. We're better tacklers than that. I know we are."

Nutt said there is time to get things right as November is upon us.

"Every play, every series you have to be at your highest level," he said. "I'm calling on our seniors, I'm calling on everybody. There aren't very many practices left, probably about 20. Now what are you going to make out of your season?

"We all had different plans up to this point. But the bottom line is this is reality, this is it. Let's do something to change it. We're excited about this week."

Nutt continued to encourage fans to help the team out as Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Oxford.

"It's Homecoming Week. We need our crowd back in there again. I can't tell you how important that atmosphere was. When we scored first, it couldn't have been planned any better, to be on that board first and the place was rocking. We've got to go from here and get better."

Positive reports on Cornell, Jackson:

Ole Miss received good news on the injury front Monday.

An MRI on senior linebacker Jonathan Cornell's hip came back negative which, of course, was positive to Nutt. Junior safety Damien Jackson, who missed Saturday's game with Auburn, also had his MRI result come back negative.

"We got good news on Jonathan Cornell. His MRI came back (well)," Nutt said. "Damien Jackson practiced a little Sunday. He was much better. I'm expecting him to be able to go Saturday. His MRI was also (good)."

Sophomore defensive end Gerald Rivers suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss. Nutt said Rivers isn't expected to play vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Gerald Rivers has a high ankle sprain, and it will be slow going for a while. He probably will not be ready Saturday. We'll see," Nutt said.

Defense a disappointment:

Ole Miss was gashed by Cameron Newton and a high-powered Tiger offense. The Rebels surrendered 572 yards of total offense, including 343 yards on the ground.

"The thing that's disappointing is I know we're better tacklers," Nutt said. "I know we can line up better. Just those little things we're so accustomed to doing just right. We have to get back to that. You just can't make excuses. Auburn is a good team, but we made them look better."

On the season, Ole Miss ranks 81st in the country in total defense. The Rebels are 107th in scoring defense, and 98th in turnovers.

"As long as they give me their best and we give them the best plan, I can live with whatever happens. It just eats your guts out to be at this point. We planned on a much different record at this time. As a coach, they look to you. Our coaches have to do their best coaching job in November."

Nutt likes fight of constantly shuffled offensive line:

Ole Miss featured a different offensive line for the seventh time this season Saturday against top-ranked Auburn.

Evan Swindall was replaced by A.J. Hawkins at center Saturday

"That was our seventh different line to start Saturday. Seven," Nutt said. "But I like their fight. I like how competitive they were. We got to keep finding ways to score."

Tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie are the only linemen to have started every game for the Rebels in 2010.

Jared Duke, a true freshman, earned his first start of the season at right guard in a 51-31 loss to Auburn. Alex Washington replaced injured starter Patrick Junen at left guard. A.J. Hawkins, who played guard in a loss at Arkansas, was moved back to center in place of Evan Swindall, where Hawkins started the first four games of the season.

Despite the constant reshuffling, Ole Miss is No. 1 in the SEC in fewest sacks allowed, and third in rushing. Ole Miss has had six different linemen start at right guard in 2010.

"If you look at Auburn's offensive line, that's the same offensive line we tossed around and beat up (two years ago in a 17-7 UM win). Now they're all seniors. We're going to have that group (in the future). This group of young (offensive linemen) are going to be very good. They're holding their own, fighting, finding some holes, getting a little push, helping our backs, protecting."

Another ‘November to Remember?'

Nutt's teams, be it at Ole Miss or Arkansas, have routinely finished strong in November.

The third-year head coach led the Rebels to back-to-back nine-win seasons in his first two years heading the program, including a season-concluding, six-game win streak in his first year. That year, 2008, Ole Miss reeled off wins over Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU and in-state rival Mississippi State in November.

"One thing we've always tried to harp on is stay together. Keep fighting," Nutt said. "This is why football's the greatest game in the world, because there's so many life lessons. There's so many things you can learn. But the biggest thing is stay together, stay with each other, keep fighting."

Nutt, with his team 3-5 (1-4), will need another strong final month for Ole Miss to even entertain the possibility of a third bowl appearance in as many seasons. The Rebels conclude their season with Louisiana-Lafayette, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State.

"I don't know if there's any magic, but I know this: It's easy to say, ‘I confess; it's your fault,'" Nutt said. "That's what we try and keep in this room on Sunday. There's enough blame for everybody. I've seen teams just fall apart."

OM Spirit Top Stories