Facing a third-and-long on the Florida 18 yard line, trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt and Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin shook the cobwebs off the Rebel screen game.
Florida, who had given the Rebs the ball on a turnover in Gator territory, had their ears back anticipating a pass down the field. They were determined to get to Reb QB Jevan Snead, sending six pass rushers.
The Rebel OL held their blocks for one count then let the Gator rushers charge Snead, selling the screen.
Junior TB Cordera Eason slipped out of the backfield to the left side. Snead lofted a pass barely over the outstretched hand of a Gator defender, who was trapped in no-man's land once the aerial gently arced out of his reach.
Eason gathered in the pass and headed to the goalline. . .
"We have a good screen package, but we've been waiting on the right time to call it. Screens only work against certain defensive looks and we got the look we were waiting on," Eason said. "It was a perfect call.
"There was one defender in front of me, but he was down low. I knew I could jump him. When I cleared him, it was a tight rope down the sidelines. I thought I might have stepped out, but the replay showed I didn't."
After imitating Georgia's Knowshon Moreno by hurdling a Gator defender, and getting into the end zone, the play was reviewed and the ruling of a touchdown on the field stood the review test.
"What a great call," Eason continued. "In the heat of the moment to come up with that call when we hadn't run a screen in two weeks - it was perfect, just perfect. We caught Florida being too aggressive and it was over. All we had to do was execute and Jevan made a perfect touch throw.
"We have more screen plays in our arsenal, but you have to be selective when you call them. We ran one against Wake Forest and they were ready for it. Florida wasn't."
Eason, freshman Brandon Bolden, junior Dexter McCluster in the Wild Rebel, and to a lesser extent freshman Enrique Davis are getting the bulk of the rushing attempts. Cordera thinks the combination is working just fine.
"It's a blessing to have guys like that on the team who can help carry the load," Eason noted. "They are great backs and they will only get better. I am amazed they are only freshmen. When they get everything down pat, we are going to be hard to deal with and they get better every practice.
"It feels good to always be fresh in the game. We are all more effective because we all have fresh legs."
Eason is happy with his progress thus far through five games, but he expects more of himself as each contest ticks off.
"I started slowly in the first couple of games, but I think I'm getting into a rhythm now. Even though I am a junior, this is my first real action too, so in some ways I am like a freshman," he explained. "Now, I feel like I am going downhill more and figuring out things more and more each week.
"I'm very pleased with my progress in the passing game too. I worked hard in the offseason to make sure my hands were where they needed to be and it's paid off. Jevan has come to me in some key situations and I've been able to hang on to the ball and make things happen."
The Rebels have been one play away, figuratively, other times in Eason's career and haven't been able to pull out any big, close wins until last Saturday.
"We were so close against Wake Forest and Vandy this year. It is big to finally come through. I have a little different take on it though," he said. "I think we wanted it so badly against Florida when the opportunity came up that we just would not be denied again. We finally had enough of just playing close.
"We talked about it last week. We vowed if we got in that situation again that we would not let it slip through our fingers again. We had a long talk after the Vandy game last week. We had enough of not getting it done. It was all on us. Our coaches have put us in position to be undefeated. We had failed them and ourselves twice and it wasn't going to happen a third time."
Eason said the team leadership has paid off.
"Peria Jerry says the most, but this year everyone has spoken up at one time or another. We have that kind of respect on the team now where nobody is afraid to speak up when something is on their mind," Eason said. "I think that has made us tighter as a team."
As big a boost as the Florida game was to the team, Eason said the Rebels still have a lot to prove.
"Anybody can win one big game. It happens every Saturday in college football," he closed. "We have to prove that we are more than a one-hit wonder. We have to prove that was not a fluke and that we intend to make noise the whole season.
"The ball is in our court now. We've shown we can do it. Now we have to show we can continue to play winning football."
Cordera Eason -
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