Revenge Game

Serderius Bryant said the Texas game is as important to him this week as another game that might surprise some. And that one's not until the end of the season.

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"To tell you the truth, this is like our Mississippi State this year," said the Rebels' junior ‘stinger' who had 15 tackles to lead the team in that department in last Saturday night's 31-13 win against Southeast Missouri.

That means this one is obviously important to Bryant. Last year Texas came to Oxford and put a pretty good whipping on the Rebels by a 66-31 count.

Bryant remembers.

"The way they came onto the field, and the way they put it on us, we feel we've got to get revenge. We've got to be the one with the chip on our shoulders. We want to be the team that has a bigger chip on our shoulders and go out there and compete."

Bryant sat out the Rebels' first game this season at Vanderbilt, a 39-35 Ole Miss victory. But he made his presence known against the Red Hawks in game two with eight unassisted tackles, including a tackle for loss, as well as seven assists. The Rebels need him to be at his best again against the Longhorns.

But there are unknowns. For one thing, Texas starting quarterback David Ash may or may not play after suffering injuries against BYU in the Cougars' 40-21 win against Texas in Provo, Utah.

And another is simply the mindset and outlook of a Texas squad that is going through some changes, overall but mainly on defense, as coordinator Manny Diaz was fired and replaced by Greg Robinson, as has been well documented for a few days.

Bryant said the Rebels can only concern themselves with being the best they can be and not worrying about any of the unknowns. Be prepared as best they can and go play.

"We're just going to go in and whatever our coaches give us, that's what we're going to gameplan," he said. "All we've got to do is go out there and execute."

It's something he believes the Rebels are more capable of at this point this season than at this time last year. He likes the shape they are in, and said strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson and staff get a lot of credit.

Bryant had a big night against SEMO with 15 tackles
Bruce Newman

"I feel like the whole team is in way better shape," Bryant said. "If you look at myself, I was 240 (pounds) and I've dropped down to 220. I feel like I can run, move. You can look at it with me. I feel like I can do different things. I'm playing way better. This time last year I could never have gotten 15 tackles in a game. I feel like everybody is in better shape and better condition."

He said it was important for him to play as well as he did against SEMO for a lot of reasons. One was the fact that fellow linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is out of action for a few games with injury.

"I just want to be the best I can be out there," Bryant said. "Denzel's a great linebacker. He can go out there and get 15 tackles a game and maybe do even better. I just want to try to go out there and do the same thing he does or even better, and show people all the linebackers on this team are great."

Bryant saw defensive improvement from game one. Of course he didn't play in game one but certainly helped the Rebels play better on that side of the ball in game two. It will take that and more in game three against Texas.

"We had some things to correct; a lot of things we had to go over," Bryant said of this week's practices. "We didn't give up any big plays. That was a plus. We gave up 13 points. That was a minus. That's too many points to give up to a team like that. We just feel like we've got to get better as we go."

If they do get better and they do continue to win, they'll also get more recognition. This week, for the first time since 2009, the Rebels are ranked – No. 25 in the polls.

"It feels great to be ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation," Bryant said. "It's not going to stop here. We're going to keep going and going. We've got to keep proving ourselves every week from here on out, this week to the end of the season. That's going to be a big test for us, so we've got to keep proving ourselves."

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