OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt spoke about the future of his program in generalities Saturday night, saying he’ll leave the specifics to an end-of-the-season news conference on Monday.
Nutt did not address the possibility of changes on his coaching staff following the Rebels’ 31-23 loss to rival Mississippi State.
Nutt was asked a big-picture question about “issues” he feels necessary to address to re-start the program in a forward direction.
“There are a few issues, but I’ll get into that (Monday). I want to talk to the team before they read it. I want them to hear it first,” he said.
The Rebels’ biggest issues this season have been on defense. They went into Saturday’s game No. 103 in the nation in pass defense efficiency, No. 107 in scoring defense and No. 101 in turnover margin.
Ole Miss lost team captain Kentrell Lockett, a senior defensive end, early in the season to a major knee injury.
Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said leadership has been the key missing element. Overall team speed has been a problem as well.
“We’d like to have more speed at every position. That’s something we’ll continue to address in recruiting,” Nix said. “In order to be a good defense you have to play fast. A lot of it is not only recruiting speed, but it’s the desire and the passion to get to the ball. A guy who runs a 4.6 can make the same impact as a guy who runs a 4.5 inconsistently.”
• Neither of the game’s two tailbacks who were within reach of 1,000 yards got there.
Ole Miss’ Brandon Bolden needed 68 yards, and MSU’s Vick Ballard needed 151.
Both of them set records anyway.
Ballard score an 8-yard rushing touchdown, giving him 16 rushing touchdowns and 17 total touchdowns for the season, both MSU records.
Ballard finished the night with 43 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Bolden ended with 45 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Bolden’s touchdown gave him 14 rushing touchdowns for the season to share the school record with Kayo Dottley, Deuce McAllister and Archie Manning.
• MSU quarterback Chris Relf connected with LaDarius Perkins for a 36-yard touchdown on a screen pass with 42 seconds left in the first half, giving the Bulldogs a 21-9 lead and establishing them in firm control. The play came after the MSU defense stuff an Ole Miss run play on fourth-and-1 near mid-field.
Key number – 344
• 344 – MSU freshman LaDarius Perkins had 344 all-purpose yards, the second-highest total in school history.
• The Rebels’ last shot at a win started at their 11 and began with some success, but a pass completion to near mid-field was negated by an illegal block, a 15-yard setback that killed the Rebels’ last hope.
• “We were trying to win the game. It wasn’t a hard decision. With this record you just put everything out there.” – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt on his decision to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 near mid-field late in the first half
• The Rebels’ season is complete. MSU will soon begin bowl preparations.
Golden Egg notes
• Ole Miss linebacker Jonathan Cornell tied a career-high with 12 tackles. … Linebacker-end D.T. Shackelford posted a career-high nine tackles. … MSU had 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. … Ole Miss had nine tackles for loss and two sacks. … The teams have now met 107 times with Ole Miss holding a 60-41-6 edge. … Dan Mullen is the first MSU coach since Allyn McKeen in 1939-1940 to win his first two games in the rivalry series.
PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal