Ole Miss vs. Bama

Ole Miss versus Alabama. A game that has been greatly anticipated by the Rebel faithful for months is upon us. And the Rebels know it. Read about it inside.

Week after week, we hear similar comments about the next opponent being "just another game" with no more importance than any of the others.

In Monday's press conference/player interviews, that thread was absent.

When Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt talks of the Tide having no weaknesses. . .

When CB Marshay Green discusses how much more important it is to be disciplined this week than in any other week. . .

When DE Kentrell Lockett says it's a simple matter of "manning up" to a different level. . .

When QB Jevan Snead intimates the Rebels have to be mistake-free. . .

When OLB Patrick Trahan recalls starting as a true freshman for Auburn in the Iron Bowl and what an electric game that was. . .

When WR Shay Hodge, in evaluating Bama's secondary, notes "they don't do anything anyone else doesn't do in coverages, they just do it better". . .

. . . you know it's not just another game, not just that week's opponent, not just "next" on the schedule and certainly not for the weak of heart.

Playing the undefeated Crimson Tide, ranked in the Top 3 in the nation, is a special opportunity and to pretend it isn't would not make good common sense or be believable.

Nutt certainly didn't try to downplay the matchup in his press conference and his players who were available to the press corps didn't either.

About the only lighthearted moment was when Snead said Tide QB Greg McElroy had a t-shirt of his that "somehow found it's way in his bag" at the Manning Passing Camp and he wanted it back.

The rest was serious, dead serious.

"They are going to try to pound us and then play-action off that," said Lockett. "It's no secret. This game will be about us manning up. This game will not be for boys. It will be last-man-standing stuff. As Coach Nutt says, buckle both chinstraps."

While the Rebels were busy passing out praise of Coach Nick Saban's team, there was no feeling of awe in the air, just a healthy respect of the Tide's prowess.

"To be honest, I have been waiting on this game for a long time," said Green. "They are the ultimate challenge on our schedule. That is what makes this opportunity so exciting. We're going to play a lot of good teams, teams that can beat us if we are not at the top of our game. That's a given in the SEC, but we only have two on our regular schedule who are in the Top 5 in the nation - and one of them is this week.

"For us not to be tuned in and excited would be crazy, man. This game is what it's all about. This is a challenge that any competitive athlete would love to have a crack at."

The prevailing themes of the day, from every angle, were discipline and not making mistakes.

"Alabama thrives on their opponents making mistakes, and they seem to make very few of their own," Nutt explained. "They lull you into mistakes and all of a sudden you are down 17 or 21 points and out of your gameplan, scrambling to make up the difference. On offense, you can't have turnovers. On defense, you have to have discipline. On special teams, you have to do a great job of the field position game. Those are all basic to good football, but with a team as talented as Alabama, they are magnified."

Green seconded that emotion and train of thought.

"The corners have to help in run support, but you can't get sucked in. They will run, run, run, run and then you take your eye off the receiver and they play-action for a long pass. As corners, we have to be very disciplined, but I think that is the case with every position on the field - discipline."

Hodge has been a focal point of an Ole Miss-Alabama game - remember the reversed call of his TD catch two years ago? Of course you do. He knows what it takes in this contest.

"Their secondary does all the things that we see from secondaries every Saturday. They run the same coverages and disguise things they are trying to do in the same ways, but I have not faced anyone who does those things as well as Alabama does," Hodge noted. "You have to be mentally sharp and aware of everything when you play them. You can't take anything for granted."

Trahan got a look at the other side of the fence, so to speak, having played for Auburn against the Tide in the Iron Bowl.

"It was pretty crazy. I started that game as a true freshman and Auburn won, but it was a war," said Trahan. "I know it will be a war this weekend at our place."

While Lockett boiled most everything down to growing hair on their chest and being "assignment perfect," he said there is another factor in the game that is very important.

"The electricity of the South Carolina game was strong, real strong. Their fans helped them pull off the upset in that game, but we need more than that. We need what we fought against last year at Florida - I actually felt the ground move there," Kentrell noted. "I want to feel the ground move in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium."

Nutt said he expects to see an atmosphere equal to any in the country.

"I have heard the LSU game here in 2003 was as loud as any stadium anywhere. We need that type of enthusiasm against Alabama, but even more," he said. "We're going to need that 12th man, no doubt about it."

The Rebels have committed to putting their best foot forward. They understand the demand for a "clean" game. They know what they are facing and what will be required for them to come out on top.

They ain't scared.

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