By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – In spite of the turmoil with which the work week closed, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt says his team regained some focus on the practice field, focus his team didn’t have at the end when losing to Jacksonville State last week.
In search of their first win of 2010, the Rebels will take on Tulane tonight at 8 in the Louisiana Superdome, and they’ll be without a key member of their offensive line.
New Orleans native Rishaw Johnson was dismissed from the team Thursday for an unspecified team rules violation.
Third-year sophomore Josh Tatum is expected to make his first start in Johnson’s place tonight.
Regardless of the offensive line situation, Ole Miss players believe they’re about to pick up their first win. They are divided on whether they need to make a “statement” against Tulane.
Ole Miss (0-1) again finds itself heavily favored. Conference USA member Tulane (1-0) defeated Southeastern Louisiana 27-21 in its opener last Thursday.
Do the Rebels need style points? Not necessarily, says senior linebacker Jonathan Cornell, who brought the national champions into the conversation.
“A win is a win. The only thing that matters in the stat book is a ‘W.’ What if we were to beat Alabama only 10-8?” Cornell said.
Senior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe disagreed.
“A lot of people say a win is a win, but in my opinion, it can’t be too close. That Jacksonville State game should have been over with … it should have been over with! I definitely think the margin in this game, how big we win, is important. We definitely need to hang about three or four touchdowns on them,” Powe said.
The Rebels were hanging touchdowns in the first half against Jacksonville State but not in the second.
They finished with 48 points but required two overtime possessions to get there.
Ole Miss led 31-10 at halftime but had two turnovers and just three points in the final two quarters of regulation.
The statement Tulane players made this week is that they’re unconcerned with any statement the Rebels may try to make today.
“We’re more worried about ourselves,” Green Wave quarterback Ryan Griffith said. “We know if we play our game we can win.”
Certainly, the Rebels’ opening week supports that claim.
That’s why today’s game is so important, Powe says. It’s about more than scoring a lot of points against a team that has won just 10 of its last 37 games.
Said Powe: “We have to prove to people who we really are, show them how good our defense is and earn the trust back from our fans and this community.”