Call it scrimmage-like, if you will. Junior quarterback Jevan Snead accounted for four touchdowns, two rushing and two passing, while finishing 16-of-29 for 235 yards and no interceptions. Senior wide receiver Shay Hodge notched his second straight 100-yard receiving game, with a career-high 169 yards on seven catches with two scores of his own.
Though sluggish in the game's early stages, the score tied 14-14 midway through the second quarter, the Rebels held their opposition under 18 points for the seventh time in nine games. Ole Miss is allowing just 15.8 ppg this year and 14.3 over its last 13 contests.
All in all, the team's sixth win of the season didn't mean much, if anything.
Ole Miss still remains one win shy of bowl eligibility, as Northern Arizona represents the second FCS team the Rebels have beaten this season. They throttled Southeastern Louisiana 52-6 in mid-September, and by rule only one of those wins can count toward a possible berth in the postseason.
And so, Ole Miss moves on with three games remaining no worse for the wear.
"It's always exciting to win," head coach Houston Nutt said. "That was a very difficult week. When you come off a loss as hard as that was to swallow last week in the SEC and you jump out of the SEC, it's very difficult to get your guys ready to go. Not that there's disrespect for Northern Arizona because there's not. They played extremely hard."
When taking to the field for its opening possession Saturday, the Ole Miss offensive line had a much different look than in weeks before.
For the game, left tackle Bradley Sowell and right tackle John Jerry were suspended due to missed classes in the spring. Nutt said in his postgame press conference that, initially, each was expected to sit out against SELA. However, due to a rampant case of the flu throughout the team in weeks before, their suspensions were pushed back until later in the season.
From left to right, the Rebels saw Reid Neely replace Sowell at left tackle and sophomore Alex Washington slide in for Neely at left guard. Daverin Geralds and Brandon Green remained in their usual positions of center and right guard, while true freshman Bobby Massie saw his first extensive action at right tackle.
"We had to make four moves, and this was very tough as thin as we are," Nutt said. "I was really proud of Bobby Massie. I thought he did a really good job. He stayed on his blocks. Reid Neely is so smart we could move him to any position, so we moved him to left tackle. He'd been playing guard for us, and we put him out there on the edge. That was good. And then Alex Washington."
At 6-foot-8, 330 pounds, Massie, a former four-star standout from Hargrave Military Academy, was expected by many to make an immediate impact upon his arrival at Ole Miss.
However, the Lynchburg, Va. native's development has been slower than anticipated, leading to limited action for the freshman thus far.
"The speed of the game is a lot different, but I think I did pretty good for my first start," said Massie of his performance. "It's all about playing faster - physically and mentally. I was glad to get this shot. My run blocking was pretty good, but I still need to work on my pass protection. I'm just like any freshman. I just need to get reps and keep building. Tonight helped my confidence, though."
For the first time since his departure in January of 2008, former Rebel quarterback Michael Herrick made his return to Oxford under center for NAU.
Though his first attempt was intercepted by Ole Miss defensive end Marcus Tillman, Herrick, who was a member of the Ole Miss football team during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, fared well on 20-of-31 passing for 233 yards.
"It was a little weird at first," Herrick said. "When we were driving in, we drove by the house I lived in. That was a little weird to see. I'm glad I got to play. Coach (Jerome) Souers gave me the opportunity to play football at NAU. I was a little amped up and happy to be here. It was a lot of fun."
"Michael did a nice job spreading the ball around against us," Rebel defensive end Kentrell Lockett said of Herrick, who led the Lumberjacks to two scoring drives in the first half. "He's bigger and smarter and he's letting the ball go."
On to Tennessee:
The underlying plot line is undeniable.
When Ole Miss welcomes Tennessee this weekend at 11 a.m. on CBS, not only will the Rebels be vying for a shot at bowl eligibility, but also to claim victory over their previous head coach who oversaw merely three conference wins in 24 tries at the helm.
Now the associate head coach/defensive line coach for the Vols, Ed Orgeron's term at Ole Miss was nothing short of disastrous, including an 0-8 campaign in his final year in 2007. Orgeron's teams won 10 games combined in three seasons, though they had several close losses against ranked teams.
And if you ask around the Ole Miss locker room, emotions of a tumultuous tenure still run deep.
"It's a big game for bowls, but it's a big game for character and I would say pride," Lockett, a former Orgeron recruit, said. "It's about getting this nasty taste from the past two years about this guy. It's kind of like a revenge factor, not necessarily to him, but to the team that he's associated with now. It's going to be a little personal.
"It's personal now. It's a game, but it's on a whole different level. There's a personal aspect to the game. A lot more things are on the line than actually just a game and bowls and all this."
In the week ahead, the biased and unbiased chronicles of Orgeron will be detailed ad nauseum. Fairly or unfairly, varied talk of dissention is sure to take place amongst outside pundits.
But atop all others, a win means much more to the players he once coached.
"The first one against Tennessee is kind of personal," Hodge, also a former Orgeron recruit, said. "Coach O never did anything to me, but the way I saw him treat some people, I know some guys are going to come out with a real fire in their belly and get after them pretty bad."
"Great guy, but he just wasn't that head coach," said Lockett. "He was a great D-line coach, but he wasn't that head coach. I haven't talked to him since then. I might get a chance to talk to him after the game Saturday, might not. But life goes on, you know?"
Notebook: Turn the Page
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