Nutt: 'Tough one to get over'

The following is Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's weekly press conference on Monday afternoon prior to the Rebels' game with Samford in Oxford.

Houston Nutt: Tough one to get over. Tough one to get over. I really love how hard our young men played. I thought they really competed hard, played hard. Our whole sideline from the kickoff team to the offense to the defense, they all really had one thing on their mind and that was to win the ballgame at Wake Forest. After watching the film I was proud of the effort of the players. We played really hard, and that's the first thing you look at. Did your players give effort and play hard, and they did. The things we've got to correct are the foolish mistakes. One, I just cannot put up with a hit out of bounds. Everybody knows the rules. We've had one each week. We have to stop that. We're smarter than that. Can't turn the ball over. We talk about winning the turnover margin. Can't lose that, especially against good teams. Got to take care of the ball better. There are a few things assignment-wise we may have to get a little simpler and get to where we're playing on automatic pilot. Everybody was pretty much out there on the field practicing yesterday. Good attitude and they know after watching the film they can get better. We've just got to go to work. As tough as that was, just go back to work. And realize you're close and it's such a fine line between winning and losing. Go back and look at 15 or 16 different plays that would have gone just a little bit different and you win the game. We'd be sitting here 2-0. But that's not the case. The reality is we have to go back and go to work. We had a good start Sunday. We come back tomorrow with a hard hat on and go to work.

Q: Did you feel most of the mistakes your team made in the game were of the correctable variety?

Nutt: No question about it. Very correctable. That's what as a staff we're so excited about. Get some things corrected and be a better football team. That's the first thing we did Sunday, emphasize that and work on that.

Q: You've talked for months about changing the mindset of the team. Does a game like the 30-28 loss at Wake Forest do that, or do you actually have to win one for that to happen?

Nutt: Good question. Always better when you win a game like that, because they then know they can do it. But really what this game has actually given us is a lot of hope and confidence that we can play with a top 20 team, some of the best teams in the country. In the SEC you play them anyway. To be able to go on the road and have a good focus, to have every chance in the world to win that game. And then when they (players) look at the film, they realize this game should have been ours. That part of it gives you that confidence. And the next time you're in that position, you hope you've corrected those mistakes and finish it. That's been our theme song. Finish.

Q: You saw Ole Miss last year (a 44-8 Arkansas win over the Rebels) after an emotional loss to Alabama (controversial finish in a 27-24 Crimson Tide win). A lot of these same players were on that team. And given your reputation as a motivator, what is your approach this week?

Nutt: I don't worry about last year. I worry about right now. I go by the very first day after a tough loss. How did we respond? That's what I love about this game. It's the greatest game in the world. You're going to get knocked down. You get hit right in the stomach and you see how they respond. You go by their practice. You go by their attitudes. Was everybody here for weights? Yes. Was everybody here on time for meetings? Yes. You give that credit to your seniors, your leadership. Now as coaches we want to go correct those mistakes and put them in position to win the next ballgame. I don't worry about our attitude right now. Boy our attitude has been good. Our sideline was very into it. Seventy guys all together. That's what I love about this team. They know they can do better. They know they can win. They've got to keep working to get better.

Q: Your thoughts on Jevan Snead Saturday. Any surprises?

Nutt: I knew Jevan was talented. What I didn't know was how he would respond after an interception. How he would respond when things weren't going right in the third quarter. The leadership he showed and what you guys don't get to see is the leadership he showed and what he said to his teammates on the sideline. You don't get to see his response to me or to Coach (Kent) Austin when we tell him hey you missed a little pre-read right here. Here's what we want you to do when you come back this next series. Bam. And I mean you have to have a short memory, and he does. I'll tell you what. I am so excited about Jevan. I think Kent Austin will tell you the same thing. What a leader. He's got such a quick release. He took some shots now, two or three really hard shots. Boy you talk about staying in there and being a man and getting hit right in the teeth, and throwing it right to our guys. He showed a lot of courage and just his leadership he showed, I thought he took a giant step. Our team now knows he's our quarterback, he's our leader. You have to realize this is his second game in two years. Second game. He's going to be something. He's going to be something when that fifth, sixth, seventh game rolls around. We just want to keep building on that. I'm excited about it. Those deep balls are going to come. We'll work hard on that and we'll get better at that.

Q: With Samford coming up Saturday, do you almost wish you were playing somebody else, maybe a team with more reputation? Seems like a step back in opponent. How do you approach that?

Nutt: We can't approach it that way. That's the worst thing we can do is to have that attitude. If you look around the world, there are a lot of teams you can go through and say this might be a so-so opponent, but every Saturday there's a shocker of the world. Somebody beating somebody they're not supposed to. That's the way the world is right now. So we've got to get better. It doesn't matter if we're playing the Green Bay Packers or Samford, we've got to get better. It starts this Saturday at 6 o'clock. We're getting ready to head into the SEC. The worst thing we can do is say we wish we were playing Vanderbilt or we wish we were playing somebody else this week. Because that's not reality. Reality is we're playing Samford. They just scored 62 points in a game, and we've got to get better. We've got to be better blockers, better tacklers. We've got to be a smarter football team this Saturday. That's the key.

Q: Would you share some of what you said to your team after the loss Saturday? Were you in damage control mode?

Nutt: I don't know if you'd call it damage control. I don't see that. Our team right now is really enjoying playing football. They were hurt and I want them to be hurt. We all were hurt. But I told them I was proud of them. I was proud of their effort. I was proud of their fight. Anytime in the third quarter if you have double interceptions or double turnovers, it's real easy to let go of the rope and say well it's just not going to happen today. But our defense did a great job of holding them to three points at one point and holding them where this thing didn't get out of hand. If we score one time in the third quarter, it's a different ballgame. If we could have just gotten seven. But the bottom line is I told them to keep their heads up. I'm depending on them to be better the next time we play. And there's only one way to do that, and that's to go back out on the field and practice the right way. That was the biggest thing I told them.

Q: What is Brandon Bolden's status, and how did Peria Jerry fare Saturday?

Nutt: Brandon Bolden got hit real good. He got welcomed to college football. He was sore but he came back good yesterday. Peria has more confidence now. I think he'll be even better this next game. I'm glad he's out there. For the most part we're pretty healthy. Nobody missed yesterday except the ones who have been hurt.

Q: You talked about simplification earlier, can you explain that further?

Nutt: There may be some things you want to do offensively and defensively where we're not maybe doing all these plays, just zero in and cut down a little bit. Not so much cut away from Jevan and the things he does. Just as far as some of the runs so we can get more physical, play faster. And we'll get our running game going. We want to be a much better running team to compliment our passing game. There are too many plays where it's I think I'll go get this guy. We've got to be more on automatic pilot where we go on full speed coming off the ball, know who we have, and give our backs a real chance.

Q: Talk about Patrick Trahan's progress.

Nutt: Getting better. His whole problem, and we've said this before, is missing the summer. That's still a work in progress. He gets winded. But he's getting much better. He's a lot better than three weeks ago. I'm real proud of where he's come from. He's a good physical football player who has to keep working on conditioning and learning the plays and fundamentals. He's going to get better and better. He will be better this week than the last two weeks. He's starting to get a feel for what Coach (Tyrone) Nix wants him to do as far as this package and the things he has to execute. He's going to get better.

Q: What did you see in Brandon Bolden when you got here as a staff that made you want to continue to recruit him after you replaced the former staff? Brandon said he already had fallen in love with Ole Miss at the Alabama game last season.

Nutt: When we got here I found out what he was running in track. You can't hide those times. Go look at track times, and those are legitimate. You saw how physical he ran the football, and then see how fast he is, it's a no-brainer. You have to have a guy like that. He's another guy who will get better. He's hard on himself. He dropped a kickoff which he normally doesn't do. He doesn't want to let the team down, and he wants to please so bad. He puts so much pressure on himself. Just turn it loose and play and relax. Easier said than done. But he's getting a real dose of college football and I've been proud of him.

Q: When Brandon left the game, it appeared your running attack really slowed down some. Is he your kind of your horse now? And it appears Cordera Eason has struggled some in the first two games. His fault or the line's fault?

Nutt: It's a little bit of both. All of that will work out. These next couple of weeks we'll find out who the word "horse" that you used is, we'll find out who that's going to be. But right now we're still kind of feeling things out. They've been told that no matter who is in there, when we hand that ball to you, you've got to run and be physical and hang onto it. Sometimes you've got to BYOB – be your own blocker. You can't find a place just to fall down. You‘ve got to go. The offensive line can do better. The backs can do better. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Q: Any update on Greg Hardy?

Nutt: I didn't get one today. He's probably still a couple of weeks out. He's getting better, I know that. I know he's in the pool running.

Q: Are you getting what you want out of the front seven on defense?

Nutt: For the most part, they've been playing very hard. Marcus Tillman has been real steady. Emmanuel Stephens plays hard. Lawon Scott. What happens when you lose three experienced players right from the start in Ted Laurent, Peria Jerry, and Greg Hardy, you're losing three tough, experienced SEC guys. That makes it hard. We're probably not at that level. But are we getting what we want? We're getting the best that we have here and we want to keep getting better. They're playing hard and they're working and we hope to get everybody back.

Q: Did you get Saturday out of your offensive line what you wanted protection-wise?

Nutt: Oh yeah. Protection was the best thing we did Saturday. Those guys really did a good job with twists and stunts. Michael Oher did a good job. John Jerry did a good job. Daverin Geralds, Darryl Harris, Maurice Miller. A couple of times Jevan got flushed and did a good job of escaping guys and making things happen. It helps when you have a quarterback who can do that. For the most part, all of them were over 84 percent as far as grading out on pass protection. That's really good as many times as we passed the ball. And Jevan had time to throw, especially in three wideouts and four wideouts and he had time to see the field. And as you saw when he has time, he is accurate.

Q: What kind of leader is Jamarca Sanford?

Nutt: Jamarca is probably our most vocal leader since Peria's been out. What a solid tackler. Really comes up, squares up, puts that helmet in there, looks them right in the eye and tackles so solid. He was probably our best blitzer Saturday. He's been a real leader. That's why the team voted him as a captain. He's really admired and looked up to. We'll need his leadership even more here in the next couple of weeks.

Q: Did you sense a few times Jevan was keying in on just one receiver?

Nutt: For the most part he looked right where was supposed to look – one, two, three. For his second ballgame in two years, I really thought he was spectacular. The play-action fake, the drop-back, quick game, to escape problems. To be able to take a play-action fake, know you're going to get hit in the rib cage and stand in there and throw it, man that was very, very good. His reads were good. There were two or three times when he got in trouble. He'll be the first to tell you which those were. Of course one was the interception. He's only going to get better. I don't ever see him zeroing in on one receiver. I see him going through his progressions. Coach Austin's done a great job of teaching. Jevan's only going to get better. He had two or three plays when he went to the third choice. A lot of quarterbacks would have forced those down the field where the plays were called. But he went to the third choice. He had two or three of those.


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