Sawyer Sees Positives

After the Rebels dropped a heartbreaking 14-13 decision to BYU, Safety Charles Sawyer was down, as he should be, but he saw something he's been waiting on - a good defensive performance from the Rebels.


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If, big if, the Rebels had beaten the visiting BYU Cougars Saturday, there's little doubt the spotlight would have been on sophomore Safety Charles Sawyer.

His heroics - a 96-yard interception return for the Rebels' only touchdown on the day - are what legends are made of.

Alas, the Rebels, as you know, did not win, suffering a 14-13 loss to the Cougars, and Sawyer's play, while still great in every sense of the word, will fade away in the backwash of the setback.

While there is no attempt being made here to minimize the loss, and the way the game was lost, it wouldn't be fair to just wash everything under the rug as if it never happened.

The Rebel defense did a very good job, overall, against a high-powered, veteran offense.

The Cougars were held to one offensive TD and that's the bottom line. In anyone's book, that's a winning effort.

As Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator David Lee said postgame, "The defense won the game, we lost it."

"I'm telling you, man, we played hard," said Sawyer, who was totally spent, postgame. "We knew we would have to play hard against an offense as skilled and balanced as they are. We showed some character tonight. We showed we have character.

"We are not going to give up, no matter what. We live by that code and we lived by it today."


Charles Sawyer rests on the bench following his 96-yard interception return
Chuck Rounsaville

There was a different look and feel to the defensive performance of this batch of Rebels from last year's group of defenders.

"It feels very different. I feel I am on a high-powered defense," Charles continued. "With our defensive line, we can do anything in the secondary. We are getting a good push from up front and all we have to do behind them is keep believing in the scheme and keep playing hard.

"With our defensive scheme, with our defensive coaches, we are going to be fine. All we have to do is stay the course and play with the effort we gave today."

Sawyer said he could feel Secondary Coach Keith Burns' influence on the field Saturday.

"His energy and enthusiasm is contagious. We could all feel it. We all feed off of him and Coach (Tyrone) Nix. We are coming together for them and it feels good," Charles stated. "Ever since I have come in here, I have craved being on a strong defense. Right now, I feel I am a part of something that could be special.

"But the ball is in our court. Everything is in place. We have great coaches who believe in us, we have great schemes that will work. All we have to do is play hard and execute. I think we are ready for that challenge."

The outing against BYU gives Sawyer more reason to believe.

"Against a high-powered, multiple offense, we gave up one TD and scored one ourselves. That shows me something," he said. "Look, we lost, and losing is never good. It hurts, but we have to look at it differently. We have to draw on the positives and correct the mistakes.

"We will look at the film and see mistakes, there's no doubt about that, but we will also be looking confidently at how we can fix those things. Maybe next time, we won't give up that one score and we will win."

Charles understands BYU did get in an offensive rhythm in the second half, but he's philosophical about it.

"They are on scholarship too. They are going to make some plays. The bottom line is that our job is to keep them from scoring and we did that except one time," noted Sawyer.

Oh, yes, the play.

"We had a disguised coverage and I was watching (Jake) Heaps the whole time. I saw the receiver take the break and get inside position and just jumped the route. Heaps threw it right to me," said Sawyer. "I had a little traffic to get through around the 30 or so, but then I picked up a bunch of blockers and knew it was clear sailing.

"That took a lot out of me, but the trainers iced me down during the kickoff and I got a second wind before I had to go back out there."

Charles Sawyer had the fifth-longest interception return in Ole Miss history.

It will go in the record books, but Sawyer said he'd give it back for a team victory.

"It's about winning, not about records," he closed.

His "hero" status is on hold for now, but one gets the feeling it's only temporary.


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