Commentary -

The improved Rebels were 4-4 heading into the 11th month of the year 2008. When it was all over, they were 8-4 and headed to a reputable bowl game. It was truly a November to Remember.

When Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt stood at the podium at his regular Monday afternoon press conference after getting the Arkansas monkey off his back in Fayetteville and with his team sitting at a dead-even 4-4, he talked of a November to Remember.

I casually glanced down at the remaining schedule. There, staring me in my bloodshot blues was the November slate: Auburn, LSU, UL-Monroe and Mississippi State.

"Our goal is to win out," Nutt told me after the press gathering.

I want some of what you are drinking, I thought to myself.

Sure, Monroe would be a walk, but the other three were all teams we had lost to last year and LSU in Baton Rouge seemed like a real pipe dream at the time.

But Nutt, who gets my vote for SEC Coach of the Year despite what Nick Saban has done at Bama, and his staff were resolute.

One at a time. Patience. Belief. Team. No weak links. Do the little things right. Reps, reps and more reps. Confidence.

Against Auburn, the Rebs were still spotty in places, but they defeated Tommy Tuberville's Tigers 17-7. While it wasn't pretty, it was a win and nothing compares to winning. Nothing.

In the tune-up game to LSU, the Rebels clicked in all three phases for the first time all year and swatted the UL-Monroe Warhawks, or whatever they are called.

To be honest, I had mixed reviews about that 59-0 thrashing. Sure, the Rebs looked good, but UL-Monroe wasn't very good, were they? After all, there is no comparison in the first Louisiana opponent we faced versus the second one in Red Stick, right?

All week leading up to the LSU game, the thought process was how tough LSU was physically, despite their obvious issues at quarterback and that they were coming off an ovetime loss to Bama and a miracle comeback against Troy.

They were still LSU. LS-freaking-U. And that was still Death Valley our troops were marching in to.

Many will point to beating Florida in The Swamp. Others to driving out Nutt's demons at Arkansas. But to me, the 60 minutes in Baton Rouge was the coming of age story of the 2008 Ole Miss Rebels.

In that 31-13 victory, which was never in real doubt by the way, the Rebels had arrived. The past four years were gone. The many painful losses were ancient history. The individualism was exorcised from their bodies collectively and a unified team surfaced.

Redemption had arrived and it was sweet. The chrysalis was gone and the butterfly emerged, flying freely.

Poor Mississippi State.

They were hurdling toward a disaster and didn't know it. The train was coming at 75 miles an hour and their car was stalled on the tracks.

A school record 11 sacks, 4 TD passes by Jevan Snead and a quarter of yawning later and the Rebs were victorious, 45-0.

A November to Remember was complete.

In talking with Houston Nutt late last night, he discussed how far this team had come since last spring, when they didn't know shoelaces from fishing line about winning.

As he always does, he deflected any praise from himself to his staff and his team, but make no mistake, the Rebels are now a carbon copy of the head man. Together. On the same page. Driven. Competitive. Optimistic. And they now know how to win.

The transformation has been an incredible journey.

Yes, there are regrets. Yes, there were potholes and pitfalls. But they are all outweighed by a wide margin by what was accomplished, by what was changed and by what now looks like a very bright future.

Nutt still has a hard time - deep inside - not lamenting the Vanderbilt game. He still flinches with the mention of the last-second field goal at Wake Forest. He still has a hard time fathoming South Carolina getting out of Oxford with a win.

But those memories fade to winning in The Swamp, defeating the hateful Razorbacks in his old hometown and, last but not least, the November to Remember.

Ole Miss football is fun again, and for that I am thankful to Houston Nutt, his staff and these players who bought in and delivered.

Hotty Toddy, with gusto.


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