By PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The next game on the schedule is against No. 1, and that’s fine with Ole Miss players. If you can’t be No. 1, facing the giants can charge the batteries.
Fortunately for the Rebels, there’s a Saturday off before traveling to face top-ranked Alabama on Oct. 16 at newly-expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game time has yet to be set.
The week off should give some key players time to heal up. Three defensive backs sustained concussions, and center A.J. Hawkins left the 42-35 win over Kentucky with a stinger in the final seconds.
Alabama hasn’t lost a regular season game since a 17-10 defeat at Auburn in November of 2007, a streak that now spans 29 games.
“I thrive off these games,” sophomore fullback H.R. Greer said. “Maybe some other players get nervous, but I can’t wait, I really can’t.”
The Rebels have won in Tuscaloosa just once in their history, a 22-12 victory in 1988.
Two years ago Houston Nutt made his first trip to Alabama as the Ole Miss coach. For the Rebels, the second half of a 24-20 Crimson Tide win was better than the first, and Ole Miss had a chance to win on the last possession but turned it over on downs.
“Everybody wants to play the big teams like this,” tight end Ferbia Allen said. “If you’re lucky enough to be the team that beats them it feels really good.”
Two weeks prior to the 2008 game, Nutt led Ole Miss to a 31-30 win over No. 4 Florida, the eventual national champion. Ole Miss left Tuscaloosa and went on to win its last six games.
Nutt hedged when asked to compare the 2008 Gators and 2010 Tide.
“That’s hard to compare. Alabama is awfully good,” Nutt said.
Ole Miss is 0-5 against No. 1-ranked teams, though Nutt won his last encounter at LSU in 2007. The Rebels lost to that same LSU team 41-24 in Oxford, the last time Ole Miss has faced a No. 1 team.
For defensive tackle Ted Laurent, motivation is less about the ranking and more about the goose egg he has in the win column against Alabama.
“I’ve been at Ole Miss for four years, and we’ve never beat them. I’ve had many times losing to them boys. So what motivates me is not the fact that they’re No. 1, but the fact that we’ve lost to them three years in a row,” Laurent said. “I feel like this could be our year. We have to practice good, get in two good weeks against them, and run to the ball.”
The training room is a busy place this week. Defensive backs Brishen Matthews, Marcus Temple and Charles Sawyer all sustained concussions in the Rebels’ 42-35 win over Kentucky.
Temple and Sawyer ducked their heads while trying to get below the block of Kentucky’s fullback, Nutt said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in the training room. I’ve never experienced this many concussions before,” Nutt said.
Cornerback Jeremy McGee, injured with a concussion the week before against Fresno State, played sparingly against Kentucky.
Nutt said Matthews, a hard-hitting freshman who knocked himself out with a vicious lick on UK tailback Derrick Locke in the first quarter, pleaded to go back in the game Saturday but ended up spending the night in the hospital for observation.
In addition to the concussion trio, Hawkins is not expected to practice for the next couple of days.
The week ahead
n The Rebels went through their standard Sunday workout, a light routine designed to work out soreness and correct mistakes from the previous day’s game.
They were off Monday and will work today, Wednesday and Thursday. The team will have Friday and Saturday off and will resume practice Sunday with a bit more physical workout.
Nutt said work this week will include game preparation for Alabama but will focus more on the Rebels themselves, trying to expand the passing game and correcting mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or email@example.com