Difference in winning and losing can be very minute

The difference in the talent and coaching in the Southeastern Conference seems to get narrower and narrower with each passing football season. Consequently, there's a thin line between celebrating in victory after a game or hanging your head in defeat. Just ask the Ole Miss Rebels, who got the spark they needed and soundly defeated a Top 20 Texas A&M squad last Saturday.

At Monday's press conference, when the media gets an unencumbered free shot at Coach Hugh Freeze and a small selection of key players, there was a common theme about the convincing victory over Texas A&M Saturday.

The question had to be asked. . . . how can you go from looking like a flat tire against Memphis in a one-sided loss to owning a Top 20 team in the Aggies?

The consensus answers made one realize just how competitive college football, especially SEC football, is and how very little separates most of the teams.

"Somewhere after the Alabama game, when we got a couple of key injuries, our guys lost their confidence and we did not do a good job of recognizing that," said Hugh, bluntly. "We did some things last week to help our guys regain their confidence - like being more physical in practice and calling on our leaders to step up more - and I think it paid off."

And just how do you get confidence going back in your direction during a tough game? SEC Defensive Back of the Week Trae Elston had his answer.

"We played with more heart and more passion. It was as simple as that to me," said Trae, who mentioned the lack of heart after the Memphis game. "We had a meeting about it early last week and everyone put their heart into the game, gave 110% percent and the outrcome was good. If you don't play with passion, you cannot win in this league. You have to be locked in.

"Everybody stayed positive the whole game. We had some negativity going on in the Memphis game and we had to get rid of that. We just kept working and running to the ball and it all started to fall in place again. We kept getting more and more confidence."

Trae said, while not perfect, the defense the Rebels played against A&M was the defense he anticipated in August.

"We still missed some tackles, but the difference was we were swarming and if one guy missed a tackle, the runner got one more yard instead of 15 like when we would miss one at Memphis," he continued. "That is the true Landshark defense, the one we all want to have here. We just had to find the edge we lost. Now, the chore will be to keep the edge."

Trae was glad to get C.J. Johnson back in the fold after being out a few weeks after minor knee surgery.

"We need C.J.'s leadership, It was great to see him back out there making plays," Trae closed. "He plays with passion and confidence and he's always positive and that's what you have to have to win in this league and on this level."

C.J. said the win was a result of the mindset that was developed during the week in practice.

"That was not us last week up in Memphis. We were determined to turn that around. The practices were more physical and I think that helped us too," said Johnson.

Like Trae, it was about passion and confidence for C.J.

"We didn't play with the passion and confidence we are known for a couple of weeks this year. You have to have the energy and intensity that we had at Alabama every week," he stated. "When you don't have that type of energy and passion, when things start going wrong, you can easily lose your confidence and from there, it's hard to win because all the teams in this league are so close talent-wise. I know it sounds like a cliche' but a lot of times it really does come down to who is mentally stronger on that day and that's why the home crowd is so important."

Which leads us to going to Auburn this week. . . .

"It will be tough. They do so much on offense. They are a run-first, tempo offense but they can do anything out of any set and formation," he mentioned. "And when they get on a roll, their crowd is tough to deal with. We will have to be very intense, very focused and very passionate in that stadium to come out ahead."

After the A&M game, both Elston and Johnson believe the Rebs will go into the Auburn game with renewed confidence and passion.

Maintaining that for 60 minutes will not just be the goal, it will be a requirement if the Rebs intend to come back to Oxford with a win under their belts.

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