Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's weekly press conference was moved up a day, to Sunday, due to the short week and Friday kickoff of the Egg Bowl.
Nutt's Opening Statement: I was really proud of our team. The players played extremely hard last night for four quarters. We were able to stop a big back and very good OL and that was our first goal. Our kicking teams did a tremendous job against Trendon Holliday. And I'll tell you guys, Peria Jerry - he's an All-American. He's a First-Team All-American if you have ever seen one. He's one for sure. He deserves to be talked about. He's a special player who plays every single play. He's disruptive. He's going to stop the run, pressure the quarterback and do it all by playing with great pad level and fundamentals. Our entire defense is coming together better. They were outstanding. Our offensive line got better as the game wore on - they protected well. We had a hard time running the ball early, but we were going against a very good defense. As the game went on - as Jevan Snead - hit some passes, they had to back off us a little and our run game improved. Jevan played his best game by far. He checked two or three plays - the one to Markeith (Summers) on the sideline was a check - we had a run called there. That was a huge play. He was accurate and we weren't afraid to give him the things we were asking him to do. He's putting the ball where either we get it or nobody does. Now we have to put that one to bed quickly and focus on Mississippi State.
Q: Is this the Jevan you have been kind of waiting on to emerge?
HDN: No question. We always knew from spring he had a good arm and a good head on his shoulders. He just needed experience and time to make the game slow down. He needed to learn to have a short memory. All those things he put together in a very hostile environment He executed, he ran the huddle, he managed the offense and he threw some beautiful passes. The deep balls were even there. He didn't leave any passes out there yesterday.
Q: How is his shoulder?
HDN: He is sore today, but he said he was fine yesterday so we let him play. He's a tough guy, a real tough guy. I am always telling him to slide and stuff like that but it's just not in him. He wasn't going to come out of that game yesterday. We believe he will be ready to go Friday.
Q: Did you expect the DL and OL to be as good as they have developed this year?
HDN: On defense, I didn't know we'd have this many battle ready at this time. Coach Rocker deserves credit for getting all of them ready. When we didn't have Ted Laurent and Peria Jerry early, he just got some more ready like Lawon Scott, Emmanuel Stephens and Kentrell Lockett. He got Marcus Tillman ready at DT just in case. When we got those guys back healthy, you see great depth and a good DL. On offense, we were just hoping we didn't get anyone hurt because we don't have the depth there we have on defense. We could move Maurice Miller or John Jerry around, but we didn't have more than six or seven ready. I like our top six and the addition of Bradley Sowell at tight end - he helps us a lot out there when you put him next to John Jerry. When you put him and Jerry side-by-side, that's an SEC side. That gives you a big lift.
Q: Talk about your special teams more.
HDN: All my assistant coaches are coaches of the year to me, but James Shibest especially because of the time it takes to coordinate the coverages against these SEC return men like Holliday and Brandon James and Arenas, on and on. This week, it will be Pegues. We have been able to contain them all to this point and Shibest has done a tremendous job with that part of the game.
Q: What does it mean to break into the Top 25 of the AP poll?
HDN: I think it helps recruiting. It gives us more exposure and recognition of what we are trying to do here. I just want our current players to stick to what got them here and forget about that for now though. What got them here? Being unselfish and being team players. To focus and be intense for 60 minutes. A ranking helps everything, but especially recruiting.
Q: You have never had an in-state rivalry like MSU - are you ready for that?
HDN: I think you can throw the records out. I knew from the moment I got here that some of the state is MSU; some of it is Ole Miss. The rivalry is there and it will be the most competitive game of the year. Forget the records. It's going to be a fight. Our players will understand before 4:30 today that this is the biggest game of their careers. I have never had an in-state rivalry as a coach, but I can feel what it means. It's so competitive and everything is bigger. This will be talked about for a full year from Friday. I get that it's big, and I know how tough it will be. I have to go back to my playing days and early coaching career at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Those are wars.
Q: How do you get the bowl speculation out of the heads of your kids?
HDN: We did that last week when they became bowl eligible. They know the more they win the better things get in the bowl picture. Just play ball and don't worry about bowls. They will take care of themselves.
Q: What are your thoughts on MSU TB Anthony Dixon?
HDN: Anthony is a tough, hard running back and you have to do a good job on him. He's faster than you think. It will start with the DL - they will have to do a good job. There is no secret they will put the ball in his hands - we know that. We will have to stop the run.
Q: Talk about your practice schedule.
HDN: Everything is moved back a day. Monday is Tuesday, Tuesday is a normal Wednesday and Thursday will be like a Friday. We'll do everything the same but not take tomorrow off from practice. Thursday, we will go to Tupelo and have Thanksgiving Dinner there for the players and coaches and all our families and their families - as many as can get there. Our family dinner will be in Tupelo on Thursday in Tupelo.
Q: Do you have to guard against a letdown after this big win?
HDN: I'm hoping we can use after the Florida game to guard against a letdown, plus I think we are a more mature team than we were then. I think we have better leadership now. This is a big, big week for a lot of reasons. We have rankings, bowls and a lot of recruits coming this weekend. We need to stay focused because this is a big week.
Q: If you have a lead in the second half and fourth and short, will you consider punting? (Laughs)
HDN: We'll do the best we can for our team. Next question. (Laughs)
Q: Are you starting to like Red again now after yesterday?
HDN: I like Red now. It looked real good on TV contrasting those Navy helmets and Grey pants.
Q: What is your magic wand for all the success you have had in November in your career?
HDN: There is no magic wand. It's about finishing a season. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. It's about taking your focus and intensity to another level. It was easier with this group because once they tasted it, they wanted it more and more. They are hungry. It's about how you approach practice and meetings and doing the little things. We talk to them all the time about doing things right and doing the little things. We haven't had a lot of penalties and turnovers in the past few weeks like we did earlier in the year. All those things add up and it equals wins.
Q: Talk about FS Kendrick Lewis.
HDN: He has been outstanding. We didn't see that in spring, but when Johnny Brown got hurt in camp Kendrick really stepped up. He's also a guy who wants to be on everything on special teams if you will let him. He got a fake punt pass yesterday and that was huge. Sometimes starters don't want to work on special teams. Not Kendrick. He's gotten better and better. He's now playing the ball better for us.
Q: Do you have to ration out your motivational tools and be careful with how you try to motivate kids week after week?
HDN: We just go by experience and get the team ready the best we know how. My staff is a big part of that. The team has to take care of their business each day and those signals have been good. They are paying attention to details like treatment in the training room, scheduled workouts, all those things. My antenna is always up to guard against sloppiness in everything and if you have a team that does those things you ask them to do, the motivation to play well is easy.
Houston Nutt Press Conference -
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