Cutcliffe: 'This gives us something to build on'

The following is Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe's postgame press conference following the Rebels' 26-23 overtime victory against Vanderbilt Saturday in Oxford.

Cutcliffe: First I want to say how proud I am of the team and the staff for never giving up and pushing and coming from behind. Those are always sweet victories. It was great to see everybody continue to compete and get better in the fourth quarter and then carry that into overtime. I also want to commend Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt's got a good football team. They played hard and they've got some good football players. I'm sure it's tough to lose that kind of ballgame. I'm really proud of our players, and this gives us something to build on.

Q: What did you see from Ethan Flatt today – both positive and negative?

Cutcliffe: For the most part he was accurate throwing the ball. I thought he managed the game well. We were able to pick up some key third downs on a couple of plays. I thought he handled those well. He got rushed a little bit more than we'd like. They got to us a little bit. But for the most part I thought he played fairly consistently for his first real start and playing time.

Q: Is it impossible to understand how important it was to get a win at this point?

Cutcliffe: It may be impossible. It was something that was needed badly. It will certainly make practice better. Hopefully this is something we can build off of. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to get some people back healthy. We've got to try to find a way to become the best football team we can become. We're far from that right now. So it's a better frame of mind to work in, and that may be the most important part of it.

Q: How much better is 1-2 than 0-3?

Cutcliffe: 0-3 is a deep hole. 1-2 is a hole. But I think the significance is that this makes us practice with much more energy.

Q: Talk about your defense today.

Cutcliffe: We made some big plays on third down and a huge play on fourth down that enabled us to get back in the game. We got better as the game went along in the second half. We had a difficult time stopping their option game. We gave up a couple of easy throws to them over the middle. We have a lot of people fighting. We have a lot of people banged up. We have a lot of people playing hard. We'll see what the tape tells us.

Q: Talk about Jonathan Nichols today, specifically that 50-yarder with 12 seconds left that would have won it in regulation.

Cutcliffe: He hit that 50-yarder about as good as you can hit one. Fifty yarders don't have that high a percentage. I thought he hit it good. He was hitting it well. Jonathan Nichols does a great job preparing himself for those moments. So I felt good about it. He's made a lot of practice kicks from that same spot. So the percentages are in your favor.

Q: What are your thoughts on overtime strategy, specifically today?

Cutcliffe: We were hoping to break a run. At that point with a kicker like we have, you want to avoid the turnover. If we make good yardage on first down, then you hope to run for the first down, move the chains, and get closer for a field goal. We did make good yardage on first down, and at that time I knew we'd probably just run it again. I guess you'd call that thinking field goal. I'd like to have broken a run for a first down or a score.

Q: Talk more about what you've seen from Ethan.

Cutcliffe: He's very calm under pressure. That's evident watching his mannerisms. He's a quiet young man but he's a thinker. He's a competitor, and in his own quiet way I think he has great pride in everything he does. I think he's going to continue to get better.

Q: Were you surprised to not see more option (from Vandy) down the stretch and in overtime?

Cutcliffe: I was worried about it in overtime. Certainly they had some success with it, and that's something we'll have to take a look at.

Q: Did the game turn in your favor on the long pass by VU QB Jay Cutler and interception by Trumaine McBride near midfield when your team was down 23-13 (after a return and penalty, the Rebs were first down at the Vandy 24 with 10:17 remaining in the contest)?

Cutcliffe: I thought that interception was really pivotal. Great play by Trumaine McBride. We got the ball in good field position. We were able to cash it in. I think momentum changed at that time.

Q: You tried to give Micheal Spurlock another chance, it appeared?

Cutcliffe: He went in and did some good things. We got a first down when he was in there. We're still evaluating what we're going to do. He's a good football player and a significant part of our team.

Q: Is it correct to say you and your staff are taking baby steps with the offense to get it headed in the right direction?

Cutcliffe: We're trying to be successful. We're trying to build on that success when you're as miserable as we have been. Anything would be better than what we've done. We're just trying to find things that we can execute.

Q: Ethan wasn't very highly recruited. How much did he grow and learn his first two years?

Cutcliffe: He spent a lot of time physically growing. He needed to improve and gain some strength when he got here. He has always been a student of the game. He is focused in meetings. He asked a lot of questions. He answered a lot of questions. He did a nice job the past two years learning our offense.

Q: Talk about some of your players at offensive line, especially tackle, who are improving to provide depth?

Cutcliffe: The first two that come to mind are Darryl Harris and Tony Sanders. They continue to improve. But there's a ways to go. I'm looking for more consistency in practice in both run blocking and pass blocking. All we have to evaluate is practice. If they are sharp, we will find a way to get them into games. We're pushing for that.

Q: What adjustments did you and your staff make on stopping their option?

Cutcliffe: We made some adjustments at halftime to help us. We played it a little better, and they didn't run it as much. We felt we made some positive adjustments.

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