The Day After

A day after his team fell to No. 8 Arkansas in a close game, Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt called into his weekly teleconference Sunday afternoon.

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Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4 SEC) controlled the first half of the game, leading Arkansas 17-0. However, the Razorbacks (6-1, 2-1 SEC) responded with 29 unanswered points, including 22 in the second half.

The Rebels scored a late touchdown and recovered an onsides kick for a potential game-winning drive, but again came up short when quarterback Randall Mackey was intercepted with less than a minute left.

Ole Miss next travels to Auburn Saturday.

"Well, first half was just picture-perfect; the way we just drew it up. I thought we played extremely hard. Good plan on both sides," Nutt said. "I felt like we had them a little bit out of rhythm. If you told me they weren't going to throw a touchdown pass, I thought we'd be in really good shape. It seemed like the third quarter, very, very poor field position. It just seemed like they ran the ball a little bit more and we didn't get off enough blocks. We got to do better defensively, especially third-and-13, right before the half. You can't let them throw a bubble screen, go 60, 70 yards, whatever that was. I know Joe Adams is good, but you got to be able to defend that better. Those big plays kill you and take momentum away.

"And then dropping the one ball we had -- Donte (Moncrief) made several big catches -- but the one drop would have changed the end of the field; would have given us a score for sure. Boy, now, you feel like you're on top again. You can take eight, nine different plays, you know, and say if would've done this or this would have blocked differently or we would've tackled here, it's a whole new ballgame. But you can't do that. I do know this: I think our guys have gotten better on offense. I think that we're improving. We just got to keep fighting."

Donte Moncrief
Bruce Newman

Ole Miss came out of the game relatively healthy. Running backs Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott were both banged up, but Nutt said each is "going to be fine."

Nutt was impressed with junior quarterback Randall Mackey, who finished the game with 249 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Saturday marked Mackey's third start of the season, and his emergence has helped with offensive chemistry, according to Nutt.

"I think it's helped us with chemistry, continuity. He's getting a feel for it," Nutt said. "This is his third or fourth start. He competed. I mean, competed very, very hard. He was sore and tired coming off that field. He laid everything he had out there."

A number of freshmen received significant playing time against Arkansas. Nick Brassell and Moncrief were the team's leading receivers, and Aaron Morris earned his second start of the season at left guard.

"Well, part of it was due to injury, and then part of it is we feel like those guys deserve that shot, that chance," Nutt said of the freshmen. "A guy like Aaron Morris, physically we feel he's very, very talented. So now it's left up to the speed of the game, experience, and he got better as the game went on.

"He had 78 plays, three knockdowns and he only had three missed assignments. He did an excellent job of finishing blocks. He had six finished blocks. He did some awfully good things. I was very proud of him. There were a couple of pass protections, they'd twist, and he'd get a little confused on. But got better as the game went on."

Ole Miss had 370 yards of total offense in the game, with 151 of those yards coming on the ground. Nutt said the offensive line had one of its better games, starting with guard Matt Hall, who transferred to Ole Miss from Arkansas two seasons ago.

"He was fired up and did a really good job of coming off the ball. As a whole, I thought are offensive line really came off the ball this game. They were really coming off. Lot of determination," Nutt said.

"Matt played hard. He had about five knockdowns and only had one missed assignment. He was really focused in, except of the illegal procedure. That's something I'm going to talk to (SEC coordinator of officials) Steve Shaw about. There's a lot of linemen that are talking, using the signal count, and the umpire's not hearing it."

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