Words Into Action

So what do we take from Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt's animated Monday press conference? Well, that remains to be seen.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt took the podium inside the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility Monday.

There was nothing out of the ordinary at first. Nutt's weekly press conferences are, mostly, all about routine. Nutt gets going with an opening statement. Gathered media follow with questions. After about 15 minutes of back and forth, Nutt heads for the doors, hardly stopping en route to his next destination.

Monday, however, was all about the unordinary. Nutt was far removed from his usual, jovial self. Pick an adjective – animated, loud, boisterous – and it would have easily fit his mood on a rainy November afternoon in Oxford.

Those in the room hadn't seen Nutt this way in any of his three years at Ole Miss, me included.

Houston Nutt

"There's going to be a year in this league, the greatest league in America, when things don't go just right. But it's not all about doom and gloom," Nutt said. "That's what is difficult about the world we're in now.

"I've got 18 and 19 year olds that actually believe everything that comes in from outside these walls. I've got to turn that."

Maybe his team's 4-6 overall record had gotten to him. Maybe he was simply rallying the troops. He mentioned some of the downtrodden spirits in his locker room, how he noticed a few players walking about the practice fields with heads down.

But Nutt was bound and determined to get his point across. If transcribed properly, the majority of his sentences would have ended in exclamation marks. Was he publicly voicing his frustrations? Was he posturing for recruiting purposes? Or was this simply Nutt's greatest rally cry of all – a last-ditch effort to revive a team facing two must-win games against LSU and Mississippi State?

Try all of the above.

It takes a lot to push Nutt to what we saw Monday. The program has been surrounded by negativity for much of the season, starting with a season-opening loss to Jacksonville State. Collective discontent on message boards has been near an all-time high.

His long-winded opening statement wasn't evoked by any posed question. When asked what prompted his emotional message, Nutt mentioned the body language of some of his players, while further noting the "few personal people I listen to" as reasons.

He had planned this out, sending out a message that the 2010 season wasn't over, even if his team was fresh off a disastrous, 52-14 loss to Tennessee.

Honestly, I have no clue how to take the press conference, other than to call it interesting.

Houston Nutt

But for a season turned sour, and for fans calling for accountability, Nutt had to say something. And he did, whether it was the right response or not.

All Nutt needed was a gavel.

"It's easy to dwell on the negative," he said. "It's easy to sit up on the 50-yard line; it's easy to sit there and say ‘Bad, bad, bad, bad, embarrassing.' Hey, I was the first one to say it after Saturday. Man, I don't want to do that."

And this:

"If you think you're hurting, you oughta just look at the tip of my itsy-bitsy little finger and then go all the way up through my body. I'm sick to my stomach."

It showed Monday, coach.

In a radio appearance later in the afternoon, I was asked how the team would respond to Nutt's theatrics. The hosts wondered if players would react positively to their head coach, if they would rally in support and pull off another memorable finish to November.

At first, I was taken aback. I had to think about it. Because I've heard plenty of colorful words in response to this season, not so much from Nutt, but from players who discussed "coming together," and "playing a full, 60-minute game."

With limited time remaining to salvage the season, and 10 games already in the books, words have to finally be put into action. If not, Nutt's State of the Program will ring hollow upon season's end, be it after a regular-season meeting with in-state rival Mississippi State or in a bowl.

"Get your head up," Nutt said. "This is the greatest thing about football. It teaches all you want about life. There's no sin about getting knocked down. The sin is if you stay down."

There's nothing great about Ole Miss being knocked down to the insufferable cellar that is a 4-6 season. But Nutt took a bold, if not surprising, step towards getting back up. But whether it will mean anything remains to be seen.


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