Cotton Bowl coverage

How did the Rebels beat the number 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders? Let us count the ways. There were many reasons, but most of them led back to coaching and the gameplans conceived by OC Kent Austin, DC Tyrone Nix and their respective staffs.

It wasn't an accident that Kent Austin's offense ran up 515 yards of total offense against Texas Tech in the Rebs' 47-34 win over Texas Tech.

It wasn't a fluke that Tyrone Nix's defense contained, arguably, the nation's best offense, forced some turnovers and kept the game from being a track meet.

And while a great deal of the credit has to go to the players and their heroic efforts in the win, a lot of this one boiled down to coaching.

Preparation, gameplanning and matching wits with the Red Raider staff - all excellent.

"I have to give a lot of credit to my staff for the way they prepared the team and the gameplan they came up with," said Houston Nutt. "I also have to credit everyone on the staff for keeping their composure when we went down 14-0 in the first quarter due to a couple of turnovers.

"The staff did an excellent job."

Indeed.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rebel scoring machine had to overcome an early deficit and shaky start that included two early miscues.

"I was most proud of the way we responded when we were down two scores. We didn't panic or throw in the towel. We scored twice and got back in the game," Austin noted. "We captured the momentum back and that's not easy to do against a team like Texas Tech.

"I wish we could have those three turnovers back, but I'm really proud of the way our guys stayed focused and continued to battle."

Once the Rebels evened the score and gained some momentum, it was mostly Ole Miss from that point on.

"We wanted to control the clock and run the ball and that's exactly what we did in the second half. I think we had the ball 35 minutes and that's what we needed to do against Texas tech - keep their offense off the field and score points as we did it," Kent continued. "I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game and that was another key in our success. I was pleased with the run-blocking and the pass protection, for the most part."

The Rebels had not thrown much to the tight end this year, but in the Cotton Bowl, junior TE Gerald Harris caught two touchdown passes.

"We thought we could get Gerald open on the naked bootleg and that worked. We also had a special play to him we had worked on all year that scored. We ran it a couple of times earlier this year, but I thought maybe Texas Tech might not have that one on film," Kent stated. "Jevan threw a great ball on that one. I'm proud Gerald. The game played out to where the tight end was open in the coverage a couple of key times and Jevan saw him both times and Gerald made great plays.

"Both times Gerald broke tackles to get the ball in the end zone."

Austin was impressed with Snead's play throughout the game.

"He has matured tremendously this year, he really has. To be down 14-0 and put two drives together like he did is a mark of maturity," Austin said. "He made good decisions pretty much the whole game. He wisely threw the ball away a couple of times and I'm not sure he would have done that earlier in the year.

"Jevan did what we needed and showed a level of maturity he didn't have earlier in the year. I still feel his best football is ahead of him."

Austin deflected all the attention to the players, which is normal for him, but the gameplan he and his staff devised was nothing short of perfect.

The reverse flea-flicker out of the Wild Rebel that led to the Rebs' first score caught Tech totally off-guard. . . The two passes to Harris surprised everyone, probably including Gerald. . . The run game was good for five yards a pop. . . The passing game netted 16 yards a completion and Rebel receivers were put in a position to operate after the catch. . . It boiled down to the lowest denominator of football - hit them where they ain't. And it worked masterfully.

"It's all about winning. We think we can win every week. It doesn't always work out that way, and we understand that, but our goal is to win and to win you have to score one more point than the opposition, no matter how many points that is," he explained. "We felt we had a good gameplan, one that would put us in position to score, but the players had to execute it and they did."

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix was asked how he was going to replace DT Peria Jerry next season. Coincidentally, Jerry was walking by in the interview room.

Nix, usually somewhat reserved in postgame media surroundings, grabbed Peria abruptly and put a big bear hug on the All-American.

"How do we replace Peria Jerry? I don't know, man. I really do not know. I wish I had him back," Nix noted. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate this young man."

But Nix, obviously overcome with joy, did not stop with Jerry.

"I think it speaks for our kids' character the way we started the game and the way we finished it," Tyrone said. "We were down 14-0 and they never quit. It never fazed them. They never lost their composure and neither did anyone on the staff.

"Then, at the end, when some tempers flared, our kids kept their sportsmanship and finished the game in strong fashion. I was very proud of that."

The challenge for the Rebel offense was to outscore a high-powered Tech offense. The challenge for the defense seemed more daunting - trying to contain the highest-scoring offense in the nation.

Mission accomplished.

"We took all the talk about how great Texas Tech is as a challenge. We took it as a challenge as coaches and players," he said. "Ninety percent of the country said we couldn't do it.

"We didn't have much respect going into the game, but maybe we earned some today. We are off to a great start for the 2009 season. Hopefully we'll get some great recruits in here and coach them up to keep this ball rolling."

Nix told everyone all week what the Rebel defensive gameplan would be. Pressure Tech QB Graham Harrell and mix up the coverages, including throwing man coverage at the Red Raiders, a dangerous proposition, it seemed, but it worked like a charm.

"As the game progressed, we were able to get more pressure on them and we forced a couple of interceptions," Nix reviewed. "There were no secrets. We just went right at them and kept going at them. Finally, it paid off."

Yes, it did.

The gameplans on both sides of the ball were sound, the preparation for the game was outstanding, the execution by the players was above par for the most part, and the game the coaches called was primo.

It doesn't get much better than that.


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