End Game

When Ole Miss was going 4-8 in 2010, Barry Brunetti was a freshman quarterback for West Virginia. Then the Memphis native came home to the Mid-South to continue his college career.

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The Rebels proceeded to go 2-10 in 2011, and then there was a coaching change. Through it all, Brunetti tried to do his part, whether as a starter or as a backup. Mostly the latter was his role as a Rebel, especially the past two seasons behind Bo Wallace.

Now there's one game left, and then he's done. But that hasn't really been his focus as Ole Miss heads to Nashville for the Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech.

"It hasn't really sunk in that much," said the Memphis University School product of his last college game. "I did realize that it was my last practice in the IPF (last Friday). That kind of hit me, but it hasn't really sunk in that it's my last game to play here yet."

Ole Miss lost its last two games this season. A promising 7-3 start wound up with a 0-for-2 finish against Southeastern Conference Eastern Division Champion Missouri and struggling Mississippi State, which had to beat Ole Miss to become bowl eligible. The Bulldogs did and play Rice in the Liberty Bowl.

Missouri had a tremendous bounce-back season after going 5-7 overall and 2-6 in league play in its first season in the SEC. For MSU, the win over Ole Miss meant a school-record fourth consecutive bowl game.

For Ole Miss, it was a bitter ending to what was once a season of even greater possibilities. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels are ahead of where he thought they would be, given he inherited a program that had gone 4-8 and 2-10 in the previous two seasons.

File Photo
Bruce Newman

Fortunately he inherited players like Brunetti who wanted to win and had the capability to get the job done when called upon.

"It's good to play another game," said Brunetti, a part of a Rebel offense that scored just one offensive touchdown in its last eight quarters. "I wouldn't want the Mississippi State game to be my last game. Hopefully we can come out on top in this one."

Brunetti said the seniors are basically on a mission to beat the Yellow Jackets and end their Rebel careers in a positive manner.

"I want to come out with a win," he said. "All the seniors want to come out with a win. To go from where we were at 2-10, then to be able to do well these last two years, we want to go out with a win up there."

Brunetti said 7-5 Georgia Tech will prove a formidable foe. The Atlantic Coast Conference member is playing in a remarkable 17th consecutive bowl game. The Yellow Jackets won't be surprised by anything as far as bowling is concerned.

"They've got some good individual players," Brunetti said, especially talking about the Tech defense he and the Rebel offense will face. "They've got a real good linebacker. They like to bring more pressure than we've seen. They'll still play some base. But overall I think the linebackers are what caught my eye on film."

Preparations have certainly been on improving their own play as much as the opponent they face. The Rebel offense was a shadow of itself, at least in the scoring department, in its last two games as compared to most of the rest of the season.

"We're itching to get back on the field after losing those last two games," Brunetti said. "We want to show everybody that we can finish this season like we played in the middle of the year, how we were back then, and finish this season on a good note."

Brunetti said leaving West Virginia and coming to Ole Miss, despite the ups and downs of the past three seasons, was the right thing for him to do.

"Everybody has expectations," he said. "And with the opportunities I had, I feel I fulfilled them. Whatever the opportunity, I did it to the best of my ability. Overall it was good. To be able to do what we've done coming back, I feel like we set a good course for the future here."

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