After three straight losses, you could sense the relief of getting the 43-21 win over visiting Louisiana Saturday night.
"The third quarter was the best we have played defensively in terms of effort and assignment. I was really excited about shutting them out in the second half," Nutt began. "We came out and played hard.
"For his first start, I was really pleased with the energy (MLB) Mike Marry (11 tackles, 1 sack) played with. He played pretty well. He missed some things, but he did a good job. I was proud of him."
Another defensive move that worked out well was putting LB D.T. Shackelford at defensive end. D.T. has played DE some this year in nickel and dime packages, but they tried him in base defensive sets against Louisiana - successfully.
"D.T. is another one who brings a lot of energy to the field and he's a playmaker. He played 58 plays and did a real good job," Nutt stated.
The Rebel defense limited Louisiana to 215 yards of total offense.
"After their first drive, I felt we buckled down and played a good defensive game," Nutt noted.
The Rebels gained 298 yards rushing with two backs - Brandon Bolden with 136 yards and Enrique Davis with 116 - both going over the century mark.
"We rushed the ball well. We are not there by any stretch of the imagination, because in the tight red zone we didn't score a couple of times like we should have, but Brandon and Enrique ran hard and effectively last night and our offensive line opened some holes for them," he explained. "We were getting a hat-on-a-hat and the backs were running hard.
"Brandon had some good reads where he bounced outside and made some big plays. He may not be able to do that against UT and LSU, but he was able to last night. For the most part, our OL did a good job with creating some running lanes."
And what of those red zone woes?
"When Jeremiah is in there at QB, you have to defend him on both sides, against the option and the pass," he continued. "They were able to gang up on us a little when the option was not a threat and come after us harder.
"We still have some work to do up front, but Bobby Massie was really good last night. He had four knockdowns and 11 finishes. He played his best game as a Rebel. I was really proud of him."
Nathan Stanley came in for Jeremiah Masoli (concussion) and played the whole second half.
"He did what we asked him to do. Nathan handled the ball, he made some nice throws, he managed the clock and he didn't throw any picks," said Houston. "I was proud of him. He was put in a tough situation and responded.
"You could see we changed things dramatically when Nathan came in. You have to get back really involved with play-action passes. He's more of a true dropback guy like Jevan Snead and that's what Nathan does best. Overall, he took us to the win despite not having played since the Tulane game and that's a successful outing to me."
Masoli will not practice Sunday and the team takes Monday off, as required by NCAA rules (one day a week off).
"He felt better today, but we don't have a lot of information yet until we get some tests back. We hope to know more Tuesday, but he was better this morning," said Nutt. "Jeff (Scott, calf pull) and A.J. (Hawkins, ankle) have nagging injuries, but they came in for treatment today and are better. We hope to have them back Tuesday."
There was no new word on the availability of MLB Jonathan Cornell (hip) or Gerald Rivers (ankle) but Cornell did dress out for the Louisiana game. Rivers is still doubtful for UT.
Tennessee is up next. Early thoughts from the head man?
"I just got started on them but what jumps out about them is that they have improved," he closed. "Coach (Derrick) Dooley has done a nice job of getting them to play hard. They should have had the LSU game. They have had a few injuries. This one will be a tremendous challenge and we are looking forward to it."