Beginning to End

Houston Nutt was hired by Ole Miss in December of 2008. Brandon Bolden was there for the beginning, signing with Ole Miss in Nutt's first recruiting class.

Nearly four years later, he's here for the end.

Nutt, as announced Monday, won't be returning as head coach in 2012. Ole Miss won back-to-back Cotton Bowls in his first two seasons. Bolden, now a senior, capped a breakout freshman season in the first of those two Cotton Bowl wins, rushing for a team-leading 101 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries in an upset win against Texas Tech.

Ole Miss has fallen far since then. The Rebels finished 4-8 (1-7) last season, and are currently 2-7 overall and 0-6 in league games with games against Louisiana Tech and LSU and at in-state rival Mississippi State left on the schedule.

"That's a tough question," Bolden said, when asked of how Ole Miss football has gotten to this point, just two years removed from the second of consecutive nine-win seasons.

"I don't know. I honestly don't know."

What he does know is the disappointment shared amongst him and his teammates following the decision handed down Monday. Nutt won't continue as the leader of Ole Miss football beyond the final three games of the season.

Bolden said he was "shocked" to hear the news of Nutt's dismissal, as were many of the players.

"Shocked. I mean, I hate it for him," he said. "That's not something you wish upon anybody, and then especially for us to be having the season we're having, for him to go out on that note, I really hate it for him. If they were going to do that, I wish we were having a better season. But if we were having a better season, he probably wouldn't be in this situation. So I was shocked. A lot of people were shocked."

Brandon Bolden
Bruce Newman

The freshmen were arguably hit the hardest, Bolden said. Nutt, for many of them, was a primary reason -- if not the reason -- for their decision to sign with Ole Miss last February.

Eight true freshmen have started a game for Ole Miss this season. True freshmen have made a combined 24 starts. The Rebels have had 16 first-year players (freshmen or transfers not on the roster last season) start at least one game this season.

"Of course they took it tough," Bolden said. "For a guy who brought them in here, they were real disappointed. I'm not going to say his name, but one freshman came up to me and was like ‘I don't know what I'm going to do,' and I just looked at him. But he said ‘We gotta win these last three games.'

"All the freshmen realize that. (Freshman linebacker) C.J. (Johnson), he's adamant about it. ‘Hey, let's go. Hey, we're going to win these next three games.' Just follow C.J. There are a lot of freshmen out there. It's tough, but a lot of them are just focused on these next three games. All of us are."

Ole Miss hosts Louisiana Tech (5-4, 4-1 WAC) Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The goal for the players, Bolden said, is to send Nutt out on a high note.

"Everybody wants to send him out on a good note," he said. "Everybody's been showing up to practice ready to go. And I mean everybody, even managers and trainers. Everybody's just ready to go get practice started. We want to send him out on a high note."

It wasn't supposed to end this way. Not for Nutt. Not for Bolden.

Bolden is second on the team in rushing behind sophomore Jeff Scott. He has 343 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 63 carries. He was injured in the season-opening loss to BYU. He returned in a limited capacity in a win over Fresno State.

He had 114 yards rushing against Auburn in one of his most productive performances this season. He is currently fourth place on the Ole Miss career rushing list with 2,485 yards.

"It's a disappointment," he said of his final season. "But, hey, if I can go into that locker room and look everybody in their face and they can tell me ‘Man, I tried my hardest,' it's fine with me."

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