By David Brandt/The Associated Press
OXFORD — Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said Monday that “everyone who loves Ole Miss is clearly frustrated” about the progress of the football program.
Coach Houston Nutt said the blame starts with him.
Boone met with Nutt on Sunday after the Rebels were embarrassed in a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt and discussed the future of the program. The loss to the Commodores left the program in disarray and fans calling for Nutt’s resignation.
Boone said the “rare circumstances” stemming from the Vanderbilt loss led to Sunday’s meeting. He also questioned the team’s attitude during Saturday’s loss.
“I don’t want our coaches walking around on egg shells if they see me — start looking down or looking away.” Boone said. “I want us to step on some eggs. I want us to come out with some fight and some fire.”
Nutt is in his fourth season at Ole Miss. The first two seasons produced 18 combined wins and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories, but since then it’s been a disaster. The Rebels have lost nine of their past 10 Southeastern Conference games, including two to Vanderbilt and two to rival Mississippi State.
The coach said Monday that there was no excuse for his team’s poor play. Nutt showed little emotion during Monday’s press conference as Boone discussed the state of the football program.
Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC) hosts Georgia (1-2, 0-1) on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Bulldogs have won seven straight in the series, dating back to 1997.
“Anyone who was disappointed on Saturday, you can multiply it 99 times for me,” Nutt said. “It all starts with me. I appreciate Pete Boone meeting with the staff and myself and I appreciate what he did the last 24 hours. But now the bottom line is it’s up to us as coaches and players to do our job.”
Nutt is making about $2.7 million this season in the first year of a four-year contract. Boone has previously said Nutt’s current buyout is around $6 million. That buyout diminishes the longer Nutt remains the coach.
The salary pales in comparison to the $150 million fundraising campaign Ole Miss started during the summer that will add improvements to the football stadium and build a new basketball arena. Boone admitted the embarrassing football losses have an adverse effect on potential donors.
“I don’t think there are any broken bones, but there’s some bruises,” Boone said. “This is certainly not the way that most successful campaigns would kick off.”
Boone is taking his share of the blame as well, with fans calling for his dismissal. A group that calls itself “Forward Rebels!” took out a full-page advertisement in several newspapers on Monday blaming the current problems on the school’s administration.
“I saw the ad,” Boone said. “I’ve been in the business close to 15 years. I’m not paying that much attention to it. There’s things that are more important to me than that.”
Boone, Nutt and the players said they’re trying to tune out any outside criticism and focus on making the football program better.
There’s plenty of work to do — especially in trying to rebuild an offense that was awful against the Commodores. The Rebels managed just 234 total yards in Saturday’s loss. Quarterback Zack Stoudt threw five interceptions, but wasn’t helped by an offensive line that had trouble keeping the pressure away.
“It’s about execution,” Nutt said. “Everybody getting their block and doing what they’re supposed to do. Having 11 people doing it the right way on every play. We’ve been having about seven. You can’t do that.”
Stoudt is still listed as the starting quarterback on Monday’s depth chart. Nutt and offensive coordinator David Lee have discussed shortening the Rebels’ playbook, but Stoudt said he didn’t think changes were necessary.
“I think everything we have in the playbook we can do well,” Stoudt said. “We just have to go out and actually do it. We’ve got to stop talking about it and just freaking do it.”
Boone isn’t necessarily expecting miracles. He didn’t even mention a win against Georgia. But he made it clear things would have to change.
“I expect our team will come out and fight,” Boone said. “I expect our coaches to have a lot of enthusiasm. I think our fans will come out and support and be loud. I think it will be a totally different team than we had” at Vanderbilt.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP
Updates from Ole Miss Football Press Conference with Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone and football coach Houston Nutt on Twitter: @parrishalford
Here are some of Athletic Director Pete Boone’s comments …
Boone: It’s early in the season, but this was a good time for meeting with Nutt. We have some rare circumstances.
Boone on Forward Rebels ads. “There are things to me that are more important than that.”
Boone says his focus is on taking care of the Ole Miss program. “We need to be together, to fight together.”
Boone: I’d prefer to let Houston talk about “suggestions” from the meeting. Boone says would like to see more fire, attitude “in some eyes.”
Boone says he expects to see Saturday a “totally different team” than the Rebels appeared to be in Nashville.
Boone spoke for 13 minutes, 17 seconds. Nutt’s up now.
Nutt: It’s up to us as players and coaches to do our jobs. We have to be better on offense. That’s the bottom line.
From this morning …
The group Forward Rebels today begins what its website calls its “fall campaign” with a full page ad in the NEMS Daily Journal and other newspapers.
The ads were purchased prior to the football team’s 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt Saturday.
Here’s some of the text:
“A cloud hangs over us. We’re told we’ll never compete in the SEC. That we lack the talent. The fan support. And the funding.
We respectfully disagree.
We believe that Ole Mss can compete in the SEC. And win championships.
We believe that our coaches are not the problem. Or our athletes. Or our fans.
The Ole Miss Administration is the problem.
Our leadership has failed us. And our leadership must be held accountable. Our coaches and athletes deserve it. Ole Miss supporters deserve it.