Looking back, Houston Nutt was on to something Monday.
Less than two days after the Rebels gave one away against Vanderbilt, Nutt walked into his weekly press conference smiling and proceeded to preach to those present about how excited he was about his team. Coming from the coach that shocked No. 1 LSU last season, a little foreshadowing was definitely at work.
Five days later, the entire Ole Miss fan base can join in that euphoria.
The Rebels (3-2, 1-1) used an early second half surge and a last-minute defensive stop to stun fourth-ranked Florida, 31-30, in front of 90,106 at The Swamp.
The feeling with the Gators (3-1, 1-1) driving on their final possession had to be familiar for the Ole Miss faithful. The plethora of close misses in the last four seasons is hard to erase from memory, but this is a different era, a different situation than the one that had become the norm in the post-Eli era.
Nutt said during the past week or so that the players were close to believing in the coaches and the process. With the fourth-and-one stop of Tim Tebow to clinch the contest, I'm pretty sure the transition switched from close to complete.
Actually it might have been a series of three plays that changed the complexion.
With the score tied at 24 and Florida roaring back, Jevan Snead, who tossed two scores and ran for another, dropped back to pass and found Shay Hodge for an 86-yard touchdown at the 5:26 mark of the fourth quarter. The Rebels didn't fold, they responded.
But so did the Gators. On the ensuing possession, Tebow drove the 22-point favorites down the field in about two minutes. Percy Harvin broke free for a 15-yard scoring run, bringing Florida within an extra point of the tie. That was as close as the Gators would get.
Kentrell Lockett sliced through the line and deflected the kick, preserving the Rebels' one point advantage.
And finally, as Florida drove into Rebel territory and seemed poised to add a chapter of disappointment to Ole Miss' recent history, the Red and Blue stiffened. Two incomplete passes and a Harvin run left fourth down for Florida on Ole Miss' 32.
The Gators needed give or take a yard to move the chains, but the distance didn't matter. Tebow, the 2007 Heisman winner that is known for barreling through defensive lines, met the front wall for Ole Miss and moved nowhere but backwards.
The chain gang measured to make sure, but that was merely a formality. The Rebel celebration was underway – in Gainesville, Oxford and everywhere else in between.
So many opportunities have passed Ole Miss by recently, but that doesn't matter on this Saturday. The book on close calls closed as the clock ticked to zero.
That nine-game SEC losing streak. Gone.
The failure to beat a ranked opponent since 2004. Over.
Saturday's two coaches knew that Ole Miss was no longer an easy out. Nutt was confident and borderline giddy despite the 2-2 record. Urban Meyer spent the week telling anyone who would listen that the Rebels would be the Gators' toughest test to date. Both had reason for their actions.
Ole Miss notified the nation with the triumph in The Swamp, as everyone previously unaware will now focus on the Rebels' resurgence that has been threatening to boil over.
We could talk of missed opportunities that eliminated being 5-0 at this point, but just like the agonizing setbacks since Eli, the past is irrelevant.
The Rebels are halfway to postseason eligibility and bowl number one under Nutt.
Saturday was a shocker, but maybe it shouldn't have been. Nutt hinted at it Monday, and there is no reason not to believe him.
He has a knack for this type of thing.
OM Spirit Top Stories
Door Cracked for Bowie?MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In a rather tumultuous 2016-17 recruiting cycle for Ole Miss, four-star wide receiver D.D. Bowie has been one of the few constants.
OM Spirit10:50 PM
Ole Miss Making Push for WhiteMONTGOMERY, Ala. — Sure, three-star safety Kam White is listed as an Iowa State commitment, but make no mistake, his recruitment is far from over.
OM Spirit10:03 PM
First SEC Offer for 4-Star LB SanogoScout has an update with four-star inside linebacker prospect Mohamed Sanogo, who has just been extended a major scholarship offer.
Scout Football2:41 PM
Does Avery Already Know Ole Miss' Next DC?MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Ole Miss is 10 days into its search for a new defensive coordinator to replace now-retired Dave Wommack.
OM Spirit2:37 PM