Ethan Flatt, hesitatingly, said yes in August when asked if he felt like the forgotten man of Ole Miss quarterbacks. How could he not? Nothing would have indicated he should feel otherwise.
New Coach Ed Orgeron talked mostly about two players in the hunt for the quarterbacking slot – Micheal Spurlock and Robert Lane. Flatt normally wasn't mentioned unless specifically asked about. That went as far back as last winter and carried on into spring practice. Flatt admits he didn't have a good spring practice. Throughout the summer he remained the clear No. 3.
Seven games into this season, it didn't appear Flatt would get a shot, even though the Rebel offense was sputtering much of the time. It isn't always the quarterback that makes a difference, but it normally has an impact.
Even after Lane was moved to another position on offense a couple of weeks ago, Flatt didn't truly emerge as the No. 2 signal-caller. It appeared that if the Rebels went to someone besides Spurlock, it still might be Lane.
So when Flatt entered the contest at Auburn to start the Rebels' first drive of the fourth quarter with his team trailing 20-3, it likely surprised many, given the way things had gone, been stated, and appeared up until then.
"All week last week I had gotten the two reps, so I felt I was closer," said Flatt, who hadn't played in a game since he started the Mississippi State contest last fall, his ninth consecutive start in 2004. "Coach (Noel) Mazzone said to be ready because I might go in. I knew I always needed to be ready every game. But at the end of the third quarter, he said get ready and start warming up. It had been a while since I'd heard that."
Ole Miss had four possessions in the final period in the 27-3 loss to Auburn. Ethan directed the Rebels the rest of the way.
"I watched the film (Sunday) night, and obviously there were some mistakes," said Flatt, who went 11-of-17 for 81 yards with a long of 17 yards against the Tigers. "But it's all given me a renewed sense of energy to come out here this week and work even harder."
Flatt's been working, but now it seems he has a chance. It's been a long road for him since last winter.
"At the beginning of spring, no doubt I had a slow start," said Flatt, who was 11-of-18 for 112 yards and one touchdown in the Red-Blue Game this past spring. "That kinda put me behind. Toward the end of the spring I came on pretty well and played well in the spring game and did what I could."
He worked to get better in the summer and came along in fall camp. He's continued to work in practice every day. But in the games he's mostly worn a ballcap and sent in signals from the sidelines to the other quarterbacks who were playing.
Now Flatt, almost a forgotten man, has new life and a real shot to lead the Rebels the rest of this season. Orgeron hasn't said who will start the Rebels next game against Arkansas on Nov. 12 in Oxford. He says there is still competition for the starting quarterback spot, and with an open date this week there is time to determine that.
But Orgeron did say Flatt may have been the brightest spot of all offensively in the Auburn game.
"The one positive was Ethan Flatt, who came in and operated the offense very well and made some excellent decisions within the scheme of the offense," he said. "He has a chance to be our quarterback, but he will have to earn it this week in the competition phase of practice. Right now Ethan will practice with the first team, and Robert and Micheal will get second team reps. Robert will continue working at fullback and tight end, too."
So Flatt has his best shot yet to lead this year's offense, and that side of the ball could certainly use any kind of lift after eight games of less than stellar production. He's excited about the possibilities.
"I had a lot of fun Saturday, and I want to have a lot of fun a week from Saturday," said the 6-foot-6, 220-pound fourth-year junior from Nashville, Tenn., and David Lipscomb High School. "I want to keep playing, so this has really encouraged me to work even harder and try to get it done."
At 3-5 the Rebs have to win them all the rest of the way to have a chance to go bowling. That's Ethan's goal for the team.
"We've got three games left, three shots left to do something," he said. "We want to send these seniors out with a bang. This senior class deserves it. They're a real talented group and they haven't been able to reap the benefits of how talented they are. I'm going to try to do my best and help them out."
Important week for Flatt, Rebs
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