Ole Miss senior Fullback Jason Cook, one of the permanent team captains for the 2008 Rebels, has seen a lot of lows and not many highs in his career.
Midway through his final campaign, what are his thoughts on the squad as they reach the midway point and get a needed open date break?
"We are a motivated team and that starts with Coach (Houston) Nutt. When you treat players like men and treat them the right way, it's not hard to get players to play hard for you," said Cook. "We still have some growing to do in some areas, like how to react to adversity and taking care of the ball better, but even that is completely different than it has been in the past."
Cook said there's a chain of command on the team that has been reinforced by Nutt that he is seeing dividends from.
"When things go wrong, he looks to his staff and to the older guys to provide leadership and echo his message of staying together," Cook noted. "He looks to us to be the catalyst of a positive response in tough times and to help keep the guys up.
"As great a coach as he is, he's only one man. That's when things fall on our shoulders to lead and make sure everyone picks up the rope and runs with it."
One of the main culprits of the Rebs' demise in their three losses is the turnover situation, almost epidemic at times and always costly.
What more can the staff do to stop the bleeding there?
"Nothing," said Cook. "Ultimately, they are not on the field playing. We have to do that ourselves. We have to take ownership and protect the ball. They have drilled it and preached it, now it's up to us to execute it.
"But I think we are fine as a team if we can eliminate those mistakes. When we play clean, we are pretty good. We just have to play clean more often. If we stay on the same path we are on and control the turnovers, we will have a real good season."
Cook is happy to get an open week at the halfway mark of the season.
"I think every open week is good, but this one was perfect because we are exactly halfway through the season," Jason explained. "We can heal a little and regroup. Even though we are pretty healthy right now, we can use a little rest."
Cook has not been surprised the Rebs are relatively healthy this late in the season.
"Coach Nutt takes care of us in practice so we will be able to play fast in the games," said Jason. "In my five years here, I have never felt this good ever after six games and it's because of the way he protects us and gets us ready for the games and not for a midweek scrimmage. The lack of injuries and being fresh during games is something new for us and it's all good. It feels good to be able to get on the field on Saturday and feel like the opposing team is going to get your best instead of being worn down and beat up and still expected to give your best performance in games."
This Rebel team has had some issues facing adversity, as Cook attested. That's getting better, he feels, but there is also the issue of having a "killer" instinct.
The Rebs have had two chances to essentially finish off an opponent early - Vandy and SC - but they did not do it. How does a team gain that quality?
"That's a good question. I think the inexperience of being in that position has hurt us, but we have to look at the big picture right now. We have already won as many games as we did all of last season. We have already knocked off a very good team in Florida, which we didn't do in my previous four years, so I see us making strides," he closed. "We just have to keep working and growing and one of these games where we have the opportunity, we will finish someone off the way we should have finished off Vanderbilt and South Carolina. It's coming. I really believe that and I think every person on this team believes it."
Jason Cook -
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