OXFORD – November has been Houston Nutt’s best month as Ole Miss coach.
This time as the Rebels reach the month on a three-game slide, he’s hoping to find that November gear again.
Ole Miss is 7-1 in November the last two seasons, wins that helped propel the Rebels to back-to-back Cotton Bowls.
Having failed to find a win against the upper tier of the SEC West – the “A Team” portion of the schedule against Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn – Ole Miss is 3-5 overall, 1-4 in the SEC. The Rebels must win three of their last four games to avoid a losing season and qualify for a bowl game.
Ole Miss plays its final non-conference game this weekend against Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
“We never expected to be in this position in November,” Nutt said. “One thing you can’t control is injuries. I’m not trying to make excuses. The message to our players and coaches now is for them to realize we have a chance.”
Ole Miss is 2-1 in non-conference games this season, losing the season opener to Jacksonville State, then winning at Tulane and at home against Fresno State.
La.-Lafayette comes in 2-6 overall, 2-3 in the Sun Belt following last Saturday’s 38-31 loss at Ohio.
Nutt said he hopes to see more playing time for young players over the last four games, but he doesn’t anticipate taking a redshirt away from players who haven’t gotten on the field yet.
He also indicated a desire for more snaps for backup quarterback Nathan Stanley, but that would be dictated by game situations, he said.
“The biggest thing we have to do now is stay together, keep fighting and keep getting better,” Nutt said. “We are in good shape except for the injuries that keep occurring, and we can’t control the injuries. Staying ready and staying together are the things we concentrate on.”
Defensive players puzzled
• Defensive end LaMark Armour is puzzled at his unit’s inconsistency, particularly as it relates to tackling.
Getting the other guys to the ground was again something for which Nutt called out his team following its 51-31 loss to Auburn.
“The thing that disappoints me is I know we are different tacklers,” Nutt said.
The struggles show up in the numbers.
In tackles for loss – a calling card for this team in 2009 when the Rebels were first in the SEC, 11th in the NCAA – Ole Miss ranks seventh in the league, 34 in the nation at 6.63 a game.
That category ranks as one of the Rebels’ better efforts.
Other notable departments – among the 120 FCS teams and in the SEC — look like this for the Ole Miss defense:
Rushing defense (152.5 ypg), eighth in SEC, 61st in NCAA.
Pass defense efficiency (147.61 rating), 12th in SEC, 104th in NCAA.
Total defense (395.75 ypg), 10th in SEC, 81st in NCAA.
Scoring defense (34.4 ppg), 12th in the SEC, 107th in the NCAA.
“It’s just little things. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot, beating ourselves. We have to execute more,” Armour said.
Armour defined little things primarily as missed assignments.
“The missed tackles, I don’t know. We’re good at tackling. I just don’t know what happens there,” said Armour, shaking his head. “Stuff happens. I just don’t have an answer for that.”
• The Rebels received good news Monday when MRIs performed on linebacker Jonathan Cornell (hip) and safety Damien Jackson (knee) both came back negative.
Both players are expected to play Saturday against La.-Lafayette.
Defensive end Gerald Rivers did not have an MRI but has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, and his status for the weekend is unclear.
• Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is one of only five quarterbacks in the nation to average at least 50 rushing yards (53.6 ypg) and 180 passing yards (181.1 ypg).
Masoli was held to 29 rushing yards on 14 carries against Auburn. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal