By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ten games into the season and a win away from bowl eligibility, there are familiar story lines for Ole Miss this week.
The Rebels must put a final-seconds loss behind them and must prepare to face a top-10 SEC opponent on the road.
They’ve had success with the first challenge, less with the second.
After losing a 10-point lead in the final 6 minutes and falling 30-27 to Texas A&M, the Rebels rebounded the next week to snap a 16-game SEC losing streak with a 41-20 win over Auburn.
Their visits to top 10 foes have resulted in big losses even though the Alabama game – a 33-14 defeat on Sept. 29 – produced confidence by how the Rebels competed. The other trip was a 37-10 loss at Georgia on Nov. 3.
This week the Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) face traditional rival No. 8 LSU in Baton Rouge.
Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche says the mindset is different from the first time the Rebels faced a similar task.
“We go into the game like, ‘We can have this one,’ and we just have to play hard for 60 minutes. With teams like that, it brings the best out of us, and being away brings the best out of us.”
LSU was ranked No. 1 last year when it led Ole Miss 21-0 in the first quarter and went on to win 52-3 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
It was the second of three games in which the Rebels were outscored 110-13 after Houston Nutt’s firing was announced.
“We shouldn’t even have been in that situation if we’d have played harder,” Ole Miss cornerback Charles Sawyer said.
Sawyer expects more effort from the Rebels in Baton Rouge after a good week of practice in spite of an emotional 27-26 setback to Vanderbilt, another lost opportunity to secure a bowl bid.
“As teammates and brothers, we’re going to depend on each other,” he said.
He likes the idea of playing LSU on the road.
“The thing that motivates you is like, ‘Man, I know if we win, this whole stadium is going to be quiet.’ Or if we’re sitting on the sidelines, and we see people filing out that have on LSU colors,” Sawyer said.