Ole Miss defeated Memphis 45-14 Sunday. The Rebels got better as the game went on, much like Houston Nutt's teams do regularly in games and throughout seasons.
It's what good teams and squads that contend for championships do – get better as the games wear on and the seasons move on.
"I was pleased overall with the effort of our team," Nutt said. "We're going to take this week to get much better."
And that means both on the field and in the training room. The Rebels had a few bumps and bruises. And now that there is the potential of a flu outbreak, they'll be monitoring that closely with no game until Sept. 19.
"We'll see who is bumped and bruised and how bumped and bruised," Nutt said. "How sick are we? We know there is fever. We know there is sickness. They're checking to see what we have. All those things come into play now."
Ole Miss has been proactive in every aspect of the possibility of something like this happening, according to Shannon Singletary, Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine/Strength & Conditioning.
"Just like with other injuries and illnesses, Ole Miss Sports Medicine has established a protocol that involves both education and treatment for Swine Flu and/or Flu-like symptoms. Our athletes are instructed to report any flu-like symptoms to the athletic training rooms each morning. They are then seen by our team physicians and treated accordingly. Many of our athletes share dorm rooms or apartments with other students. We instruct any athlete with flu-like symptoms to isolate themselves if at all possible while these symptoms persist. This is usually for three days at the most."
There should be an update later today on the current situation.
It's early in the season for a week like this, but that's maybe just what the Rebels need at this point with 11 straight regular season games upcoming, starting with Southeastern Louisiana in Oxford a week from Saturday night.
"We missed too many tackles, but we'll get that down," said freshman linebacker D.T. Shackelford after the win against Memphis. "I think we were anxious and got out of position some, but we were playing hard and that's a good starting point. Also, we are not going to complain too much about any win."
The Rebels have now won seven games in a row. That's the longest UM win streak since 1990, a 9-3 Gator Bowl season. You have to go back to 1971-72 to find an eight-game win streak for Ole Miss football. Those two seasons, it got up to 10 in a row, beginning with a win over Southern Mississippi in 1971 and concluding with a win over USM in 1972.
Junior cornerback Fon Ingram's interception return for a touchdown prior to halftime Sunday that gave Ole Miss a 17-7 advantage at the break was key, according to Nutt, in making sure the win streak reached seven.
"His play was the play of the game, to get that momentum when we were struggling," said the Rebel head coach with a 10-4 record at UM. "Huge play going into the half."
Three Rebs made first-time starts Sunday. Sophomore RB Brandon Bolden, sophomore LT Bradley Sowell, and redshirt freshman TE Ferbia Allen all got the call and were in the lineup when things kicked off just past 2:30 p.m.
There were 17 Rebels who made their first appearances in the game – Allen, Shackelford, E.J. Epperson, Jesse Grandy, Melvin Harris, A.J. Hawkins, Dan Hoffman, Jason Jones, Joel Kight, Bobby Massie, Jared Mitchell, Pat Patterson, Andrew Ritter, Gerald Rivers, Brandon Sanders, Nathan Stanley, and Julian Whitehead.
"Awesome. I'm proud of them," Nutt said. "This is a good group, which we knew. I'm excited about how far they'll grow. We'll be talking about them as the season progresses."
With a 6-for-6 performance Sunday, Joshua Shene extended his successful string of extra points to 80, which is second all-time at Ole Miss. Jonathan Nichols (2001-04) holds the record at 117. The senior was also 1-for-1 on field goals against Memphis, which were the Rebels' first points of the game, a 27-yarder on Ole Miss' opening drive of the day.
The Rebels' next foe, Southeastern Louisiana, kicked off its season over the weekend in Hammond. The Lions beat Texas A&M Commerce 41-7. They host Union College of Kentucky Thursday night and will then have nine days before playing the Rebels in Oxford.
The contest marks the first of three non-conference football games this season in which the Rebels will play a first-time foe. The others, all at home, are UAB for homecoming on Oct. 17 and Northern Arizona on Nov. 7.
Ole Miss is 93-15-5 all-time in home openers in football.
When the Rebels do try to improve that record Sept. 19, they'll be doing so on new turf.
Ole Miss had the synthetic grass AstroPlay for six seasons and replaced it recently with FieldTurf.
"This new surface is just beautiful and is going to brighten up our stadium," Nutt said. "Our fans are going to love it, and most of all our players are going to enjoy playing on it."
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