Rodney Scott proved he's ready for prime time. Jevan Snead felt better about things offensively. Tyler Campbell puts Rebels all over the place in a comfort zone knowing that punting duties for a long time are in good hands – and feet.
Those were but some of the superlatives from Saturday night's win against UAB before a small but vocal crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
It was cold as the temperature dropped into the 40s in the second half. That explains to some degree, with the Rebels up 41-0, why less than half the crowd from the first quarter saw UAB's only touchdown of the night, which was in the fourth period's opening minute.
This was one of those games you get a win and move on. Actually it was more. It worked out like you hoped, at least from an Ole Miss perspective. Get that big lead heading into the final stanza and let some of the younger guys get some work.
Like redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley. He came here from Tahlequah, Okla., touted as a highly capable quarterback. During a 6-of-9 performance with one beautifully thrown ball of 38 yards to Grandy and a 22-yard touchdown pass on the very next play to Andrew Harris, his first TD reception as a Rebel, Stanley proved it.
Houston Nutt evaluated Stanley's game distinctly.
"He throws a beautiful deep ball with trajectory and gives the receiver a chance," said his head coach.
The Rebel defense, after trying but often failing to catch the elusive UAB quarterback, Joe Webb, early in the game, finally got things under control and arguably deserved a shutout. But of the Blazers' 230 yards rushing, 121 of them were Webb's yards.
Not known as a passer, Webb was still 9-for-15 with an interception.
A lesser quarterback and the Rebels might have gotten that zero on the visitor's side of the scoreboard. David Isabelle, the backup QB, got some significant playing time, too, and proved to be more than adequate. He rushed for 43 yards and was 3-for-5 through the air.
Mostly, though, this one was as much about the Rebels gaining some confidence as how big the margin of victory turned out to be. But let's face it, Ole Miss didn't need a 27-10 win. It needed a 48-13 final score, a game that was over by halftime, one that cold fans could look at each other as the third quarter rolled on and ponder a move to the car and home.
If Ole Miss fans feel a little better about things, the Rebels and their coaches feel a lot better. That much was obvious by their statements and their demeanor afterward.
But they can't be too happy too long. An Arkansas team proving to be better than anticipated by most is coming to Oxford for the early kickoff Saturday. And the Razorbacks, despite a mediocre record of 3-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC, appear more than capable of pulling off a win on any given Saturday anywhere.
And this one coming up won't be just any given Saturday. It's Nutt vs. Arkansas, part II.
Some involved will play it up. Some will downplay it. All, especially on the Rebel side of things, know the significance of winning it.
Or losing it.
A victory, just like last year in Fayetteville, could springboard Ole Miss to another stretch run like 2008. A loss and a trip to Auburn seems more daunting, although the Tigers appear more human these days than when they were 5-0 with a loss last week at Arkansas and a loss last night at home to Kentucky.
Still, Ole Miss hopes to carry some winning momentum to the plains for a Halloween matchup.
Bobby Petrino almost got a signature win at Florida Saturday, but the Mighty Gators prevailed in a closer-than-most-expected game, 23-20. He'd like to come into Oxford and win this one. His fanbase would love it, too.
Nutt wasn't asked about Arkansas in the postgame press conference. But he was on radio after the lopsided win against UAB.
"You know how I feel about that one," he said.
Everybody on both sides of the Mississippi knows. And they also know the importance of winning it to keep seasons of hope alive.
That goes for both teams.
And it should be a fun one.
Headliner with the Hogs
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