Robertson says Rebs believe turnaround at hand

When the going gets tough, the captains have to step up.

Not that they weren't doing so beforehand. But 0-2 starts usually mean the players, especially the younger ones, are looking for some guidance and direction.

This is a football program that hasn't experienced a lot of losing the past few years. Yes, there have been some losses, and one stretch in 2002 with five consectutive setbacks after a 5-1 start wasn't easy for any to go through.

After last season's 2-2 September, the Rebels rallied for a 10-win campaign. So there have been times similar to these before.

Fans often get desperate. Players and coaches try not to do so. They try to keep a more even keel to stay the course.

Ole Miss senior linebacker Rob Robertson says he and the other Rebel team captains have done that lately, but they do also feel the urgency of getting that first win and have reacted accordingly.

"We need to get the ship righted. We need a win," said Robertson, a 2004 captain along with wide receiver Kerry Johnson, offensive left guard Doug Buckles, free safety Eric Oliver, and offensive right guard Marcus Johnson. "A win will make a lot of things better."

In the meantime, the Rebels have worked hard to turn things around. Memphis and Alabama, while formidable foes, won't be any better than some of the teams the Rebels will face the rest of the season – like Tennessee, Auburn, or LSU.

And Vanderbilt always gives the Rebels fits.

"They are a tough team," said Robertson, the team's leading tackler after two games with 17 including six unassisted. "They always give us a hard time. I know they are licking their chops looking at us."

The Commodores have had two weeks to prepare for the Rebels following a 31-6 Sept. 4 home loss to South Carolina. Open dates can be a positive for a team, but Robertson says this early in the season a bye might not be as helpful as it would be weeks from now.

"It may be some advantage for them (to have had two weeks to prepare for the Rebels), but I think it's even bigger later in the season," said the fifth-year Rebel from Centreville. "One, by that time you have more injuries you have to nurse and heal, and two, there is more film to watch of a team so you get more tendencies of what a team might do. So I don't think it's that big of an advantage this early."

Robertson says at first glance it may appear the Rebels have a ways to go to be more competitive this season. But in actuality it's all about putting things together on both sides of the ball.

"Defensively we're just not carrying out our assignments totally," he said. "We might have like 10 guys doing their jobs, and then we might have one guy who busts or goes the wrong way to open up a gap. In this league, that can't happen. We have to get everybody on the same page."

It's what captains like Robertson, along with the Rebel coaches and the entire team, have worked on this week. They won't call it a must win, but they know it's close.

"We've got guys who can play. We know that," Robertson said. "We just have to carry out our assignments. When we do that consistently, we'll be fine. Right now at times, it seems like all the balls are bouncing against us. We may have to will some good luck our way and make some plays. We just have to keep plugging away."

Robertson says the captains know their role is important, at all times and especially now.

"Every person leads in a different way," he said. "We've met as captains and as a team even without the coaches. We know the importance of this game. We're not panicking. But it is easy for people to start to get frustrated when you're 0-2. It's important for the team captains to be there and not let things like that spread."

As Robertson said, a win will make a lot of things better for the players, coaches, and fans.

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Saturday's game is the 79th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in football. Ole Miss has only played two schools more on the gridiron – Mississippi State 100 times and LSU 92 times.

The Rebels now lead the series 44-32-2 after Vanderbilt took a commanding 19-0 lead from 1894 through 1938. The first Ole Miss victory was in 1939, a 14-7 win in Memphis.

The Rebels have currently won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Vandy. The lone loss in that stretch was a 37-34 overtime setback in 1999 in Oxford.

The Commodores are the Rebels' permanent Southeastern Conference opponent from the SEC Eastern Division. Ole Miss rotates with everyone else on that side of the league.

Ole Miss has a 21-15 record against SEC East teams since divisional play began in 1992. The Rebels have won six of their last seven games against the East, the lone setback a 31-17 loss at Georgia in 2002.

Rebel records since the start of divisional play against East teams are Florida (2-2), Georgia (3-8), Kentucky (3-1), South Carolina (3-0), Tennessee (0-2), and Vanderbilt (10-2).

In September games in Oxford, Ole Miss is 60-9-2 all-time.

The Rebels and the Commodores kick off at 11:30 a.m. on Jefferson-Pilot TV Saturday from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field.

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