All things considered, both Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Markuson and Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix thought things were "better" after the Rebs defeated Louisiana 43-21 Saturday night.

The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns marched down the field with their opening possession for what looked like a relatively easy score.

But the Ole Miss defensive players didn't do a here-we-go-again act this time.

They bowed up and buckled down, allowing only one more offensive score, no points in the second half and only 215 yards of total offense to the visitors.

"Our second half was better than some other ones this year," smirked Rebel Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix. "The kids continued to battle and compete. I thought they showed character tonight.

"We had some first-time starters in there with Mike Marry at middle linebacker and D.T. Shackelford getting his first start at defensive end, and I thought they stepped up. We are beginning to see several younger players developing. (DE) Carlos (Thompson) played more tonight and did a good job. He's in the rotation now with Gerald Rivers being out for now. Jason Jones got his first start at DE. We need all those guys to keep coming. They played faster tonight."

After the opening drive, Nix said the Rebs had to settle down and regroup.

"We just had to keep emphasizing that if they would know their role and do their job, we'd be OK," he continued.

Damien Jackson

"From there, we tackled better and created some turnovers. That gave us some momentum and some better field position. We did some good things, but we can play better and we will have to play better in order to win some SEC games. We have to be more consistent."

Nix was proud of Marry's first extensive effort. The true freshman was playing in place of senior Jonathan Cornell and ended up leading the team in tackles with 11.

"I thought Mike did well. He did a lot of positive things. He missed a couple of tackles, but he had 11 hits, two tackles for losses and a QB sack," Tyrone stated. "That's a heckuva game for a first-time starter."

CB Charles Sawyer got an early interception and also drew some praise from Nix.

"Charles can be hot and cold at times, but we are hoping he will stay hot in the month of November. He made some plays against Kentucky, but gave up some against Auburn," Nix explained. "The kid is resilient and he will continue to work. He believes in his technique, so we feel if he can keep gaining some consistency he will be a fine player."

The Rebs didn't give up any huge plays, which is a improvement over past performances.

"We did better preventing explosion plays, which is a plus. The thing about college football now is that you are going to see spread offenses more and more. They put the ball in space and as much space as there is out there, there are opportunities for big plays," he stated. "I think we are seeing bigger offensive numbers out there weekly across the nation and it's because of the spread and the quality athletes in the country. Offensive coaches are utilizing the talents of their best players better and getting them in space more often, so it's tough to defend, but we have to find a way to get it done."

The shutout the Rebs pitched in the second half was due - mostly - to more pressure on their quarterback.

"We did the same things we did in the first half, but we cut our defensive linemen loose a little more because we got them in some longer down-and-distance situations. When you get them in those situations, you can be more aggressive," he noted. "The biggest challenge with that is defending the screen and they hit us on that a couple of times early. We played it better in the second half.

"Ted Laurent made a huge hit on a screen play. Maybe that hit will make offensive coaches think twice before running that too often after seeing that hit."

Mike Markuson and the offensive coaches were put in the position of having to shift gears when QB Jeremiah Masoli went out with a mild concussion after scoring a TD he didn't even remember scoring.

The Rebs went with backup Nathan Stanley, who drew kudos from Markuson.

"I give a lot of credit to Nate for coming off the bench and operating the offense efficiently. He made some nice throws and performed pretty flawlessly," said Mike. "At that point, we just wanted to hand the ball off, run some clock, establish our run game and then throw it when we needed to. Nate did all those things very well - he made some nice completions when we needed them for critical first downs.

"At times, that strategy worked, at times they stopped us and at times we stopped ourselves, but it all came out alright in the end. We weren't going to ask him to win the game if we didn't need him to because that would not be fair to him with the limited playing time he had had."

The Rebels didn't need Stanley to win the game. Ole Miss had two 100-plus yard rushers on the night in Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis.

"They ran hard. I was disappointed getting stopped in the Red Zone two or three times.

Brandon Bolden

"We literally got stuffed a couple of times and we will have to look at that very hard, but overall we ran the ball well," he noted.

The biggest flaw on the night for the offense was right before halftime. The score was 27-14 and the Rebs were deep in Ragin' Cajun territory with an opportunity to virtually ice the game. Blowout time.

Unfortunately, TB Rodney Scott fumbled the ball and Melvin White scopped and scored from 93 yards, making the score a tighter 27-21.

"That just changed everything. We gave them life at halftime. I am glad we came back and put up a field goal as time expired after Martez Eastland had a real nice kickoff return," Markuson added. "We knew at halftime, though, that we were controlling things pretty well other than that fluke, so there was no panic at halftime.

"We went back to work and did what we needed to in the second half other than our Red Zone woes."

Markuson was also pleased the Rebels answered Louisiana's opening TD with one of their own immediately on a nifty drive capped by Bolden's 2-yard run.

"That was important for us, for our psyche. We did not show any nervousness there. We just went out and did it," he stated. "That was good to get into the flow of the game."

Coach Houston Nutt told the media he "got on the team pretty good at half," which Markuson said was necessary.

"You know, we were ready to put the nail in the coffin and we not only cough it up, but they score. We let them back in the game - stupid stuff," he closed. "In the end, we won the game and we will move on to Tennessee, a big, big game for us."

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