The opening day of the 2010 football season ended in shock and disappointment for the Ole Miss football team. Houston Nutt summed it up when he stated, “Without a doubt, it’s the worst loss of my career." Not only is this the worst loss in Nutt's career, but he also has to know that this loss is ultimately his responsibility.
Hindsight is 20/20, as the the old saying goes. I'm sure there are a lot of things that Houston Nutt would change if he could go back to Saturday, but no one can change the past. All the Rebels can do now is try to reach deep down inside and find a way to overcome this monumental letdown.
Ole Miss's response to this devastating loss will show the team's real character. A lot of factors played a part in Saturday's loss to Jacksonville State. The team was completely flat in the second half. Many have blamed the defense, but don't forget that the offense only scored 3 points in the second half before overtime.
The coaching staff, and especially Houston Nutt, should have recognized that the team was flat.Nutt should have sensed that momentum was changing in a dangerous way. A good coach would have seen these factors and taken steps to control them immediately, but Nutt did nothing but continue with his conservative play.
Now, Rebel fans get to see just what kind of character their team truly has. Do the Rebels have enough heart and character to bounce back from this devastating blow? Will Houston Nutt and the coaching staff step up and take responsibility for their poor coaching effort and do what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again?
The next four weeks will dictate the direction of the Ole Miss football program. The Rebels must win convincingly over Tulane, Vanderbilt, Fresno State, and Kentucky. Anything less and this is going to be a long miserable season for Ole Miss.
As strange as this may sound, this is where Ole Miss's decision to make Jeremiah Masoli part of the team may really benefit them. Last year Masoli's Oregon Ducks were in a similar situation. The Ducks lost their opening game to Boise State and went on to have a 10 - 2 regular season, capped off with a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Masoli's experience from last year, losing his opening game and leading his team back, could be exactly what the Rebels need at this time. He has been in this position before and successfully overcame the disappointment. Now the Rebels need him to step up and take a leadership role.
While it is true that losing to Boise State is quite the same as losing to Jacksonville State, the emotional disappointment is the same. Masoli's experience and leadership may be more important to the Rebels season than his talent. The next four weeks will tell.
Ole Miss now has something to prove. Will the Rebels man-up, make adjustments and have a successful season despite this heart-breaking loss or will they hang their heads and sleepwalk through a miserable season? Will the coaching staff wake up and do their jobs or continue along the same path of mediocrity that Houston Nutt has become accustomed to over his coaching career?
One thing is for certain, if Houston Nutt and Ole Miss do not get their act together over the next four weeks, things will get very ugly, very fast. It is time for the Rebels to quit worrying about the Masoli soap opera, and start focusing on football. Ole Miss needs Masoli and the other seniors to be the experienced leaders that they should be.
The time is now. The Rebels have to leave the Jacksonville game in the past and start the 2010 season over again on Saturday against Tulane. Another let down like this will spell doom for the Rebs season, and should earn Houston Nutt his walking papers. All of a sudden the Tulane game has changed from a sleeper to an very meaningful game on the 2010 schedule.
Who would have ever thought a few months ago that the Jacksonville State game and the Tulane game would be so important to this year's Ole Miss football program? There will be a lot riding on Saturday's Tulane game for Houston Nutt and the Ole Miss Rebels.