However, tripping to Vanderbilt for the 84th time in series history, the Rebels will finally get their opportunity to prove the misfortunes of last Thursday are long since forgotten.
"It hurt us all. That was a tough one, one they didn't expect to lose, and it was a shock to their system," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said of the loss. "You could see it all the way through Sunday, but we, as a staff, have to get them out of that funk. We gotta go. Anyone can whine and look at the ground, but this season is too long and too difficult to allow yourself to do that.
"South Carolina is over, done, nothing you can do about it. Move on. Get better. Correct. When you lose a game and have a bad taste in your mouth, it's easy to let your guard down, but I have not seen that. I have seen an attitude of 'I'm going to get better - step better, tackle better, throw better' and all those things. I'm glad to see that reaction. Now, the only way to get that bad taste out your mouth completely is to win."
With a 36-17 win over Rice, Vanderbilt enters Saturday's matchup with an overall record of 2-2. The Commodores only losses have come by way of conference opponents, including a 15-3 loss to Mississippi State at home.
But as the series has proven thus far, the Rebels have no reason to take these Commodores lightly. Over the last 10 games played between the schools, the margin of victory has been 6.7 points.
Vanderbilt has tallied three wins in its last five games against Ole Miss, including a 23-17 victory in Oxford last season. In the loss, the Rebels surrendered six turnovers.
"They're a team that doesn't beat themselves. They're very sound," Nutt said. "We gift-wrapped one to them last year and still had a chance to win at the end, but we can't play that way and expect to win in this league. Our guys know that.
"The way our guys reacted this year (after a loss) was a lot different from the way they reacted last year. They had so much more pride about it. It hurt worse. The reality of losing was tougher on them than it was last year. Last year, when we started 3-4, it was like it was just another loss without the pain. This year, they hurt. To me, that's a good thing, but now let's go fix it and get that winning feeling back."
On the season, Vanderbilt is averaging 23 points per game.
Led by freshman running back Warren Norman, who has rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns on the year, the Commodores rank fifth in the SEC in rushing (201.0).
"They do a little bit of everything, but they usually start out running the football," defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "Their quarterback is athletic and has an outstanding arm, but they seem to be a run-first offense. They have the potential to hit you deep at any time with their pass plays. They play a lot of spread with four-wide and a tight end or an empty backfield."
Against South Carolina, a relentless pass rush proved too much for junior quarterback Jevan Snead and company.
Averaging three sacks a game, enough for third in the SEC, Vandy offers another stiff challenge for a much-maligned Ole Miss offensive line who surrendered four sacks in its previous outing.
"They play with a lot of energy and effort and they are strong up front," offensive coordinator Kent Austin said. "They run to the ball and are very sound schematically. They play with outstanding effort. We have to match, or beat, their effort. We also cannot have any assignment errors and we certainly can't have any turnovers."
So far, the Commodore defense has limited their opponents to fewer points, total yards and first downs than in 2008, when they ranked among the nation's top-25 defenses.
"We have to become more consistent, throughout. Our quarterback, receivers, backs and offensive line have to be more consistent," said Austin. "We have to eliminate the assignment errors. Right now, we are not good enough to have those types of mistakes and beat a good defense."
Ole Miss leads the series with an overall record of 46-35-2 and has won 12 of the last 16 meetings since 1992. However, Vanderbilt holds a 26-20-2 advantage in games played in Nashville, though the Rebels have taken five of the last seven.
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