Even when they had dropped to 3-5, the Rebel football team kept their heads held high, but it was easy to see the losses were wearing on them.
Then, out of the blue, All-SEC QB Chad Kelly went down for the season with a torn up knee to add injury to insult.
To say the least, the Rebs needed a shot in the arm, which they got in the form of a 29-28 win over Texas A&M last Saturday night in College Station, Texas.
This little recap does have a purpose, that being the rejuvenated look the Rebels had at practice Tuesday, a practice where students were allowed to come out and watch the Rebs work in full pads. (About 300, estimated, showed up.)
The rise in the energy level was palpable. The Rebs were bounding around like the team fans anticipated at the beginning of the year, and rightly so.
While not what anyone wanted when the season began, at 5-5 they have put themselves back in position to finish strong and with a postseason appearance.
The motto the last two weeks has been to go 1-0. 1-0 against Georgia Southern, forget it and then go 1-0 the next week against A&M, forget it and go 1-0 against Saturday's 7 p.m. foe, Vanderbilt in Nashville.
"Vanderbilt's defense is very good. They had an uncharacteristic bust or two against Missouri last week in a loss, but they are very sound and they usually make very few mistakes," said Hugh Freeze. "Look at their scores this year. Nobody has been able to really run it up on them. We have our hands full."
Freeze mentioned it will be necessary to expand new Quarterback Shea Patterson's usable playbook this week.
"We will have to run more than the four basic plays we ran against A&M, even though those were RPOs that had a lot of options off of them," he stated.
So, with renewed energy and enthusiasm, the Rebels began the preparation to yet another night road game this season.
* True freshman Left Tackle Greg Little and redshirt freshman Right Tackle Alex Givens both played all 93 offensive snaps against A&M. For all intents and purposes, they shut down a heralded edge pass rush of the Aggies. We were told there were a few technique breakdowns, but even then, none of those breakdowns adversely affected any of those plays. OL Coach Matt Luke has to be ecstatic about the future with those two youngsters anchoring his OL the next three years.
* Speaking of Givens and Little, they may get a little help this week from Rod Taylor, who has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain. He was at practice Tuesday. He was limited and heavily taped on his right ankle, but he is expected to play some against Vandy, which will help Givens and Little a lot. Ninety-three snaps are too many.
* For weeks, actually for most of the year, the defensive coaches have been lamenting the play of the linebackers, among others, and playing musical chairs trying to find the right combination(s). After two games of going with starters MLB Rommel Mageo and Stinger DeMarquis Gates, with Detric Bing-Dukes, Tayler Polk and Willie Hibbler backing them up with spot duty, it appears the issue is settled for the remainder of the season and both have, we were told, "been playing better." Bing-Dukes, it must be said, may match up better in the Egg Bowl, but expect Mageo and Gates to be the bell cows from this point on at LB.
* Freshman Rover Miles Hartsfield, still learning his craft the hard way at times, had a big bust on a long pass early in the A&M game and was replaced by another freshman, Deontay Anderson, who ended up playing a majority of the snaps the rest of the game and had the game-sealing interception at the end. Who will start this week? From Tuesday's practice, it appeared they are now co-number ones and will both see a lot of action.
* DT Issac Gross did not practice today due to a neck sprain (stinger). We were told, thank goodness, that his injury has nothing to do with the surgery he had last year that affected his spine. His status for Saturday? Unknown at this time.
* As expected, Center Sean Rawlings, Center Robert Conyers and DE Fadol Brown did not practice on Tuesday. Conyers and Fadol never do - they need the rest. Rawlings is still struggling with an ankle injury but should be available for some playing time, similar to how he gutted it out against A&M when he was needed. Ditto with Conyers, who will give the team as many reps as he possibly can. Rawlings and Conyers have been called, by Freeze, the "true heroes of the A&M game" just for trying to help while injured,
* With Conyers and Rawlings not at practice, Javon Patterson was at center, but OL Coach Matt Luke has moved Jordan Sims back to right guard from left guard and moved Daronte Bouldin from right guard to left guard.
* CB Tony Bridges bruised some ribs and his back in the A&M game, but he was at practice Tuesday. He should be available for the Vandy game.
* Unexpectedly, DT Breeland Speaks is having a sophomore slump and has lost roughly 30 pounds of body weight. Meanwhile, freshman Benito Jones is on the rise. The ebb and flow of youth and college sports. Benito, another freshman who is making his mark on this team, is penciled in for stardom and is learning his craft from D.J. Jones, a senior who has taken him under his win and is playing "like a beast" currently. Hopefully Breeland, who we all saw has immense talent, will snap out of his slump soon.
* With Fadol out of practice, Garrald McDowell is running with the number one defense in practice and, we have been told, it is helping him to get the extra reps. With John Youngblood now out for the year, it's a plus to have McDowell more prepared and potentially productive.
* We were asked all day today about the status of RB Jordan Wilkins if the Rebels get to a bowl game. The answer is that he can play in a postseason game. He lost his junior year, essentially, but he will be academically eligible and he will get at least one game - if the Rebs go bowling - out of his junior campaign. Next year will be his senior season, just to clarify.
* We've also been asked about whether or not Wide Receiver DeMore'ea Stringfellow will return for his senior season. While the hope here is that he will, to be truthful, we'd have to say it's not likely he will return.
* Redshirt WR Tre Nixon is trying to set himself up to be the chief return man next year. He is working hard in fielding punts and kickoffs and he has shown improvement in that department. The youngster can fly, so don't be surprised to see it. Van Jefferson and A.J. Brown were also fielding punts Tuesday.