Nutt: 'We're looking forward to the Egg Bowl'

Houston Nutt looked back at his team's effort at LSU and hoped the players can bring that same type intensity, focus, and production to the Egg Bowl Saturday.

"I wish we could have finished that (game) the right way," Nutt said at his Monday press conference. "We fought hard but we made too many mistakes. The team that makes the fewest mistakes is the team that's going to win.

"But we're excited about this week. It's the biggest game of the year," Nutt continued, this time talking about the matchup with Mississippi State. "We're looking forward to the Egg Bowl. We had a good start Sunday. We're game-planning now. With school out, we had our guys in this morning , getting treatment, watching film, getting a little head start."

Nutt then had an announcement of an all-too-common theme from this season, it seems.

"Going to suspend Melvin Harris for this ballgame for breaking team rules," he said.

Nutt won his first Egg Bowl at Ole Miss 45-0 two seasons ago. Last year in Starkville, Mississippi State won 41-27. Nutt said there is no understating the magnitude of the final game of the regular season.

"It's big. It's real big," he said. "Playing Mississippi State at the other school (Arkansas), it's not the same playing them as it is here at Ole Miss. The first year, I still didn't think that way.

Houston Nutt

"But when you go down there with an Ole Miss shirt on in Starkville, you realize. We're in reverse roles this year. Last year we were going to a bowl game. This year we're not. But this is a big, big ballgame."

All the talk Nutt heard since last year's bowl trip wasn't about beating Oklahoma State, it was about losing to Mississippi State.

"All I heard all summer long was people talking about the Mississippi State game," Nutt said. "Nothing else. It was about this game. When your state's divided, you truly understand what rival means. It's big."

Nutt said there have been reminders to his players since last year about the importance of this game.

"Actually it started back in January in the winter workouts, the spring workouts," he said. "That was a bitter, bitter pill the last regular season game. Even our seniors that had graduated (last) year, they would bring it up to our players. It carried on through the summer. Each week a different coach would make mention of the last ballgame (of the season)."

Nutt said recruiting could possibly be affected on the outcome of the finale, because recruits are aware of the game and how it plays out.

"We've got a good thing going in recruiting. This ballgame is always big. Most of your instate recruits will be at the ballgame. Most of them will be talking about it. It's always big to win this ballgame. It just helps everything."

Nutt said since the Rebels aren't going to a bowl this season, this game is the end of the line for some of the players as they won't play organized football again.

"A lot of these guys will never play football again," he said. "This is it. This is your last 60 minutes, so this is big. It can be an excellent foundation as we start the off-season. So it's real big."

Markeith Summers

Nutt said Mississippi State, which has improved from five wins last year to seven this year, has done some things very well.

"No. 1 the turnover margin," he said. "They've done an excellent job taking care of the ball and getting turnovers. Their running game has gotten better. Their defense is very strong. They are the ones creating the turnovers. They are physical and play extremely hard. But it all goes back to them winning the turnover margin."

More Nutt from Monday:

On Markeith Summer's dive into the end zone after a touchdown at LSU: "We don't ever coach that. Just run it into the end zone, but that's what they see on Sunday. That's our fault. You can't do that. Yes there was a defender two yards or less. The rule is the rule. It was the right call. Just run into the end zone. Just a bad, bad play after making such a beautiful play (for the touchdown). That flag was painful."

On State's success running the option and how do you defend it this year?: "Relf didn't start last year but came in before the half. This year there is no secret. You know they'll run the option. Hopefully we'll be better prepared for that. We've got to do better with assignment football. There have been times we've been good (at defending it this year) and other times we haven't. We've got to be at our best playing option this week."

More on the impact on recruiting last year's loss had: "We had our best year last year recruiting in Mississippi. I think it was because of the success of back to back Cotton Bowls. They felt the energy of our players. They loved coming over here. I was concerned a little bit from losing that ballgame. But by the first Wednesday in February, I was excited. It was our best recruiting year in Mississippi. They look at the body of work. They get a lot of information. They know who is graduating. They know what kind of offense you run. They see Shay Hodge, 1,000 yard receiver, and Dexter McCluster, the only person to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch for over 500 yards. That trumped everything. They get here on their official visits and they see coaches that care about them and that it's a family type atmosphere that's going to help mold them into the man their momma wants them to be. So add all that together, it's a pretty good recipe. To answer the question, that game didn't affect us (in recruiting) last year."

On the direction of the Ole Miss program: "I don't like this season. I don't like losing. It's been a bitter pill to swallow. I feel good about what we have going and about the future. I'm excited about our program. I believe good things are coming, I really believe that."

Jeremiah Masoli

On the offensive line play at LSU: "AJ. Jared Duke, 18 years old, going against the best, did really good. Patrick Junen played until he got hurt. A lot of young guys that have gotten baptized in this league. I was really proud of them, the way they compete. You've got to be a man in there. Evan Swindall is another that's done a good job this year. A lot of good young guys that have stepped in and I'm proud of them. Of course Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie continue to get better."

On Jonathan Cornell: "He's been an awesome captain for us and really played hard. He's been one that's laid it on the line. He's got a lot of pride. He's made a lot of big plays for us and you can count on him. Been proud of his leadership during a tough time. It's been excellent."

On the seniors as a whole: "They've done a lot of good things. Kentrell Lockett's loss was much tougher than we anticipated, especially in the locker room. We took him on the trip (to LSU), and our locker room was lifted. You can only take 70. Because we've had so many injuries, and with Rodney Scott missing, we had an extra seat. So I said hey let's get Kentrell Lockett on that plane. It made a difference. We really didn't have a lot of them this year to say hey come on, follow me. But it is what it is, and they did the best they could, and I've been proud of them."

Have you talked to Jeremiah Masoli about the Egg Bowl?: "I have talked to him about it. I've tried to educate him like I was educated. He knows how big this ballgame is. He won't be able to completely understand it until he walks into that stadium. The best I can, I've tried to explain it to him."

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