Spurlock and Willis - two sides of the ball

Micheal Spurlock and Patrick Willis talk about the season, about their play, and about what it will take to beat Kentucky.

Micheal Spurlock feels the Rebel offense is getting better each week. It had a long way to go, and still does.

The Rebels keep working at it and tweaking it and moving people in and out for those injured or those less productive. Offensively, the Rebels are still not there, as evidenced by their continual lack of point production with each game.

But they press on. Spurlock says they must. And he feels they are close.

"As an offense, I really feel we are starting to gel," said the Rebel fifth-year senior signal-caller. "We're getting a lot of guys in there who are learning each other and how to play together. Our best is yet to come, and we're ready to prove that."

Spurlock says he can see things coming together, even though there have been some negative moments in the games.

"There is a lot more trust out there now on offense," said Spurlock, with 92 completions on 171 attempts, five interceptions and four touchdown passes. "The offensive line is protecting me and helping me. That will help our running game as well. Things are clicking better, and we can all feel it."

But breakdowns like last week inside the 5-yard line when the Rebels appeared poised to score before two consecutive delay of game penalties are hard to shake. Spurlock says they know they have to be more aware of their surroundings.

"We've got to manage the clock," he said. "Always be knowledgable of the down and the distance, knowing the time on the clock. We just have to manage that better."

It's those little things that turn into huge things, and often are the difference in winning and losing, especially when the competition is fierce. Spurlock knows that's the fine line between winning teams and losing teams.

"We're confident, but we don't have an SEC win yet," he said. "We're hungry. We're at home and we need a win. There's nothing like getting a win at home in front of your home crowd. We're going to come out Saturday and finally get that SEC win."

He knows Kentucky is hungry for a win as well. The Wildcats are 1-4 overall and 0-2 in league play, while the Rebels are 2-4 and 0-3.

"These are two teams that need SEC wins," he said. "We have to take all the positive things we did against Alabama and go into this one with that same level of intensity and confidence. We did some bad things against Alabama, but we did a lot of good things. We have to learn from them and not make those same mistakes. This season isn't nearly over, and we can still have a great season. But we need to win Saturday."

Spurlock says his season has been nothing to write home about but he's hopeful of putting it all together starting this weekend.

"I would rate it just OK," he said of his play. "We haven't won many games, and we haven't won any SEC games. So I say mediocre right now for me. The best thing about it is we're getting better. But we have to get better by leaps and bounds since we are in a tough stretch of SEC games. When we get in the red zone we have to score points. We don't want to kick field goals, we want touchdowns. I know I am emphasizing that with my teammates, and they are too."

The learning continues but it's always better to learn while winning than losing. Spurlock agrees. That goes for his individual play as well.

"I'd rather learn from my mistakes after a win than after a loss."

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Patrick Willis is having an All-American season. That's with a bum knee and a broken finger.

But he's become one of the nation's best at what he does. The Rebel defense is a different unit when he's on the field.

"I think I just bring a little experience out there and also knowing the defense," said the junior linebacker. "I just believe I have the confidence of the coaches to make plays."

And the confidence of his teammates and fans as well. His field awareness of where the ball is and his tackling are superb. Lately he appears to have made them all. Besides the Vandy game where his play was limited and the Wyoming game in which he didn't play, Willis has averaged right at 15 tackles a game in the Rebels' other four contests, either solos or assists.

"When it's gametime, I just go out there and leave it all on the field. Coaches say go out there and have fun and show people that you can be one of the best linebackers. Coach O says that to me a lot. I just keep that in mind and go out there and play and have fun. When it's fun, you'll play better."

The wrap on his hand to protect his broken middle finger appears at first glance to be a huge hindrance. But it hasn't seemed to bother Willis that much.

"It can sometimes get a little heavy. As the game goes on, you have to kinda hold up with it. It may weight two or three pounds and it takes a while to wrap it up. I just try not to think about it and go play."

The wrap has to be checked by officials before the game, either in the training room or before he hits the field.

"It's really been no problem for me," he said. "I haven't had any complaints, from the officials or the other teams."

As for his knee strain and his broken finger, Willis says his entire health assessment is as close as it's been in some time to being normal. But he's not there yet.

"I would say I'm somewhere in the 80s," Willis said as far as the percentage of his health at this time. "I'm still going to go out there and try to perform like it's 100 percent. Injury and pain are part of the game."

The next game is a big one for both Ole Miss and Kentucky. The loser of this one will be in such a hole in SEC play that they might not be able to pull out of it.

"It's another big game for us, a chance for us to get a win in SEC play," Willis said. "It's very important that we do that."

Nevermind that it's a Kentucky team that's struggling.

"It doesn't matter if it's a team that's 1-4 or 5-0, we'll approach it the same way. We know we have to put last week's loss to Alabama behind us and not make the same mistakes we did last week."

Willis says the defense has played better but needs to continue to step up, especially in certain situations.

"There's still a lot of things we have to fix on defense," he said. "We give up the big play too much when things are going well. We can't do that. All we can do is keep working and play better."

Willis says the Rebel "D" knows it can have a complete game. He says they are right there now.

"We've gained a lot of confidence this season and last weekend," he said. "We know we could have won that game. We know we can play with the best now. We look forward to going back out and getting the job done again."

He attributes a lot of their confidence and belief in what they are doing to the coaching staff.

"If we didn't believe in this system, then a lot of us wouldn't have made it through two-a-days. Just believing in our coaches and continuing to believe in them and them in us, then we'll continue to get better."

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