Cutcliffe: 'We were solid in all three phases'

The following are UM Coach David Cutcliffe's comments after the Rebels beat the Bulldogs 20-3 in the 101st meeting between Ole Miss and Mississippi State in football. UM now leads the overall series 58-37-6. The Rebs have won three in a row and four of the last five.

Cutcliffe: It's good to get a win in a rival game. It's certainly good to get one with such a team victory. I thought we were solid in all three phases, especially defensively where we set the tone early. Offensively and in the special teams, everybody did their jobs and we played as a team. I told our squad it is amazing what you can accomplish when you play together. That was a solid, sound performance. I'm really proud of the staff. I'm really proud of the players.

Q: Talk about your defense a little more.

Cutcliffe: They are a good offensive football team with some playmakers. We kept them from ever getting into a rhythm. We handled the line of scrimmage at times extremely well; that was obvious. We tackled better. We got pressure on the quarterback. All the things you have to do to be successful, we did better today.

Q: Talk about Patrick Willis' game. He seemed to be in on a lot of big plays.

Cutcliffe: Patrick Willis is a heck of a football player. He's got explosive speed and is a playmaker on the defensive side. He finds a way to make plays. Usually when you see the ball, he's somewhere around it.

Q: Talk about Robert Lane's day and keeping the chains moving.

Cutcliffe: We converted some third downs one way or the other, either by running or throwing. He's a tough competitor. He's got a lot yet to still improve upon. But he loves to compete and I believe he can be a real good playmaker.

Q: Did he step up today and establish himself going into the spring?

Cutcliffe: I think he is on that track. I think certainly they are going to compete, and I expect those guys to compete. But Robert has established himself as a guy who can make plays both ways. He's getting better at throwing the football.

Q: Talk about the touchdown when he faked the handoff and took it in himself.

Cutcliffe: He was the only one that knew he was going to keep the ball. It makes for a little better fake.

Q: When Robert is in there he seems to elevate the play of the other players. Is that the case?

Cutcliffe: You hope so. They have a lot of confidence in him. But you have to ask the players. I would think they would answer yes.

Q: Did you sense in the pregame that your team would be ready to play like they did?

Cutcliffe: We started that this week. We talked about preparation being the key. We had better practices this week, and it was evident once we started playing. They were much more tuned in at practice. They took the challenge.

Q: Your running game worked very well.

Cutcliffe: We felt like we had a chance to run the football going in. We wanted to try to control the football. We were pretty beat up on defense, and we wanted to do what we could to try to control the football and control the time of possession and help our defense stay off the field.

Q: Was it surprising to play this well with the season your team has had?

Cutcliffe: It's been a tough year. Right now it feels good to win, and I'm going to totally focus on this football game.

Q: You are now 4-2 in this game. Do you feel like you have the upper hand?

Cutcliffe: I don't think there's an upper hand. Every year's a new year. We're just fortunate to be able to have won the last three. It's a very competitive rivalry. Both teams play extremely hard. It's very intense. You're just happy when you come out on top.

Q: Talk about the running of Vashon Pearson and Jamal Pittman today.

Cutcliffe: Both ran well as did Alan Abrams. They're all three good backs. Vashon was hurt a little in the first half, and I didn't think we were going to get him back. But he came back in the second half and made some bigtime runs. Other than the fumble, Jamal had a solid day as well.

Q: Talk about how the 98-yard drive for a touchdown to make it 17-3 all but put the game away.

Cutcliffe: I felt like it made a difference in the game. We had the ball a long time. I'm sure that gave us momentum. I think it gave us confidence at that point in time that we had the upper hand in the game if we just hang on to it.

Q: Talk about how this game might carry over to spring practice and into next season.

Cutcliffe: For a lot of reasons your last game is one you remember, whether it's a bowl game or the last regular season game, in this case. Players understand it's a real commitment that it takes to win. Hopefully these guys will take that and make that commitment to be the very best they can possibly be.

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