Half the Problem

Ole Miss played Auburn to a tie in the first half Saturday. The second half, however, was an entirely different story.

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The Rebels allowed 24 unanswered points to the Tigers over the course of the third and fourth quarters, in return only scoring a meaningless touchdown with no time remaining in the game.

The loss marked the second week in a row Ole Miss was beaten in the second half, most notably the third quarter. Ole Miss held a 17-7 lead against Arkansas two weeks ago, only to lose 29-24.

Ole Miss has been outscored 61-0 in the third quarter of the last three games, including losses to No. 2 Alabama and No. 8 Arkansas.

Head coach Houston Nutt, meeting with reporters via teleconference Sunday afternoon, said he's never had a team struggle in the third quarter like this one has. Nutt is in his fourth season at Ole Miss.

"Not like this, where it just seems like once that thing starts going for the other team, it just seems like one more thing bad happens to us," he said. "You just got to play through it. I hadn't been at this level, where it seems like it's happened for sure the last two weeks. It gets in that mind. You just got to play through it.

"Boy, there were a lot of good things (against Auburn). We did some good things. When you watch this film, it just makes you sick how many times we executed the right way. But it comes back to turnovers. We got a good drive going the very first series and we turn it over. That gives them seven. That doesn't give the defense a chance. We're third-and-1 and still in the game and Brandon slips; ball hits him in the helmet on the handoff. Our short yardage was excellent. Best it's been all year. Those things are frustrating because they all add up. It allows the other team to win."

Randall Mackey
Associated Press

Nutt said he's been pleased with the team's approach in practices, and the coaching staff has tried a number of different things to offset the third-quarter struggles.

Ole Miss returned to the playing field of Jordan-Hare Stadium well before the start of the third quarter for stretching exercises, similar to those done pregame.

"What I want is that first half duplicated for 60 minutes," Nutt said. "Thirty minutes and 30 minutes. We played an excellent ballgame, but that was for 30 minutes. It's got to be a full game. You see things like that, are giving second effort, getting one block, trying to get another block down the field. You see things like that, and then second half, it's got to be the same intensity, same execution.

"We come out so good in the first half, and we tried some different things. Keep working on that, hopefully where good things happen to us. It seems like the third quarter's been where their team takes the ball and drives down and scores each time. That's a bad, bad … just kind of sets the tone. Then you try to fight back, and it's been like that for about three weeks."

Ole Miss has lost 11 straight Southeastern Conference games. The Rebels are 2-6 overall on the year and 0-5 in league play. Nutt said mounting losses can take a toll on any team, especially such a young team as Ole Miss.

Ole Miss returns to action Saturday at Kentucky.

"That's the thing. There's nothing like the antidote, the medicine of winning," Nutt said. "So when you're sitting here and you've lost that many times, that's what's difficult. You got to play through it, you've got to overcome it, keep believing. Got to go win this one. We're going to do everything we can, starting today, to head that direction and get a victory."

And it starts with winning the second half.

"I really think they've really given it to us. They've worked hard, been good listeners," Nutt said. "We just got to put both halves together and continue to work hard and doing a good job of laying everything out for them and getting them the blueprint for how to win and how to play for 60 minutes."

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