Prior to the Memphis game, all week long in fact, Ole Miss fans talked about revenge for last year's humiliating loss to Memphis in Memphis.
But the Rebels, in interview after interview, didn't care for the "R" word.
All they said is that they would prepare like they do for every opponent, but they all, to a man, promised to be focused, because while it wasn't a 'revenge' thing for them, there was a prevailing we-remember-last-year demeanor that lasted all week and it showed in the game.
Yes, Memphis had a spurt that cut the score to 27-21 in the third quarter, but the Rebels regrouped, put the hammer down, created some turnovers and stretched out to a lead the Tigers would not threaten again.Postgame, to a man, from Coach Hugh Freeze to DC Dave Wommack to QB Chad Kelly to FS Zedrick Woods, gave credit to Memphis for making plays and having a good plan and keeping the Rebels on their toes, but in the end, better talent won out.
The Rebels amassed 624 yards of offense with Kelly throwing for 361 and TB Eugene Brazley and TB Akeem Judd rushing for 124 and 108 yards respectively. On defense, they finally forced some turnovers, four to be exact, with Woods getting two interceptions, including a pick six, and DT D.J. Jones getting a fumble recovery and an unlikely pass interception. (Both of Jones' turnovers were a result of pressure on Memphis QB Riley Ferguson by Reb DE Marquis Haynes, who was inches away from a four or five sack night but was sidestepped a few times by the slippery Ferguson.)
The Rebels weren't looking for revenge, but they were looking for some payback, and they got it.
Now they are 3-2 and headed to a needed open week break.
So where do they stand nearing the midway part of the season? Some good, some not so good, according to Freeze.
"We are doing pretty good things on offense as long as we can show a semblance of balance and go fast. Those two ingredients are our best friends on offense," he said. "They give the offensive a chance to protect for our big weapons. We had those things tonight, but we have not always had the balance we are looking for. Hopefully, moving forward, we can develop more of that balance."
On defense, Freeze likes what's happening up front, but he says the Rebels need all kinds of help at linebacker and the back end of the defense needs to play with more technique.
"We are going to spend a lot of the open week working technique and trying to heal up some. We have got to do better at linebacker. We missed DeMarquis Gates, who is suspended, tonight, but beyond that, we have to find some answers there. I like the progress our secondary has made since the opener, but we still need to play with more technique," he said.
The Rebs are 3-2 and are ranked in the Top 15 in the nation, which shows the pollsters understand strength of schedule.
While they'd like to have a do-over in the Alabama and Florida State games, believing with all their hearts they would win in a rematch, they have overcome those disappointments and righted the ship with a one-sided win over Georgia and a payback game over Memphis, both of whom were undefeated with the Rebels beat them.
The open week is coming at the right time. It's been a long time since August 4th, the last time they have had any break at all.
It's needed and will be used wisely.
The road does not get any easier after the open week, but the Rebs will approach their next tests with a good, winning, taste in their mouths.
Payback is always sweet.