All last week, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt cautioned the Rebel players not to lose their focus and to take care of their business with heavy underdog Samford.
But you also got the feeling Nutt wasn't going to try to push too many buttons. He certainly was not trying to peak his troops. What would be the point? He knew, just like the rest of us did, that his team could sleepwalk through this matchup and still win with plenty of breathing room.
He was following, I suspect from his demeanor most of the week, an old coaching adage. Don't try to peak your team every week. It won't happen and it won't work. No team plays sky-high 12 times a year so it is folly to try. Pick your spots and be smart how you use your bullets. It's a long grind and you only have so many rounds in the gun.
The Rebs played hard, but not with a lot of urgency. The Rebs played with heart, but probably with only a fraction of it. It was certainly not the football equivalent of a big game, and these youngsters played that way. Get it done, get it over with and get home.
We'll allow them that. They are, after all, humans, young ones at that, and not machines. No matter how many times the coaches warned them, they saw the Samford film and, just as you can't fool Mother Nature, you can't fool college football players. With no disrespect to Pat Sullivan's team, they were inferior and there was no hiding that fact from the Rebels.
So the Rebs made enough plays to nail the game down by half and coast in on cruise control, saving themselves for the heavyweight division.
Don't look now, but that starts next Saturday with undefeated Vanderbilt. That sounds odd, doesn't it? Let me repeat - undefeated Vanderbilt.
The preparation for the Commodores starts today with a light Sunday workout. If I were a betting man, I'd wager Nutt and his staff take a different tack this week.
Last week, they worked on fine-tuning the run game, working out some special teams kinks that popped up against Wake Forest and inserting a revamped defensive lineup. They tried to take it easy on the troops while still working on straightening out what ailed them. Not a lot, frankly, was said about Samford.
Even the media was complacent about Samford. Hell, I still don't even know their nickname and the only question I asked Nutt about them all week was if he knew Sullivan or not.
This week, look for preparation to be more up tempo. This will be a game Nutt tries to peak the team, similar to the Wake game. The Vanderbilt encounter will be urgent. It will be about heart. It will be about who wants it the most. It will be about ultimate concentration and focus. It will be about flawless execution and who makes the least mistakes.
It will be a defining moment in the season for this team. In the arena of make-or-break games, it's too early for this one to qualify because of all the football left to play this year, but it's about as close as you can get this early in the season.
Like the Wake Forest game, it's a contest where a win could act as a catapult to bigger and better things. It's cocked and loaded, but the trigger remains unpulled due to the late comeback by the Demon Deacons.
It's also a matchup the Rebels should enter with confidence. I'm not suggesting it's a guaranteed win by any means, but I am suggesting it's very winnable.
The Ole Miss-Vandy game is the kind where it doesn't stretch my imagination at all to see either team walking away victorious, and that's what is great about the SEC and why aspiring college football players want to play in this league. It's the ultimate challenge every time you strap it on in this loop.
So here's the bottom line.
The Rebs didn't play their best ball against Samford. So what? It really didn't matter in the big picture.
Do yourself a favor. Don't spend too much time nitpicking away at the effort versus Samford. It's not a reflection of the quality of this squad, physically or mentally.
Every player, coach and fan knows the Rebs have to play much better against Vanderbilt. It goes without saying. Another Wake Forest effort, sans the mistakes, will be required.
The breather known as Samford is over. It's time for real football to start.
Everyone is aware of that and will respond accordingly.
Get ready. I'm sure the Rebels will.
The true mettle of this team will be on full display and I, for one, cannot wait.
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