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September 18, 2011

Nutt, Rebels look to simplify offense, hold hope

OXFORD, Miss. -- Houston Nutt insisted Sunday his team is talented enough to win in the Southeastern Conference.

He said his players haven't lost hope and he added that he still expects good things to happen to this team.

The fourth-year Ole Miss coach acknowledged, however, that a review of Ole Miss' 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt Saturday confirmed what has been painfully obvious -- an offense unable to take advantage of opportunities, unable to protect the quarterback, unable to do much of anything.

A day later, as the Rebels turned the page to Saturday's game against Georgia, Nutt said he and his staff were going to give some new faces a look on the offensive line. And everyone on offense is going to be given a strong dose of simplicity.

"We're really looking hard at everything, at every position," Nutt said, singling out freshman offensive guard Aaron Morris as a likely candidate for increased reps. "…We're trying to do some things that we can execute, where we can score some points and move the ball."

Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said Saturday the Rebels must simplify the offensive playbook and gameplan. Nutt reiterated those thoughts Sunday.

"We feel like we need to cut some things down and get really good at things that we're going to be able to execute," Nutt said. "It doesn't do you any good to have a long playlist if you're not being able to call those. And that's really what we've gotten in to. We feel like we have a really good plan going into the game and we're not getting to call them all and we're having too many busts on things you'd think are simple."

That's the physical portion of the challenge that lies ahead. The mental challenge might be more daunting. Ole Miss' has now lost nine of its last 10 SEC games, and the scope of Saturday's debacle increased speculation that Nutt's tenure in Oxford could be in jeopardy. Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone called the Rebels' recent performance "unacceptable." All of that comes with nationally-ranked opponents Alabama, Arkansas and LSU _ not to mention trips to Auburn and Mississippi State _ still looming in the not-so-distant future.

"I've just been in it long enough to know that it's the next day," Nutt said. "It's the next game. It's get ready and forget about all those emotional feelings and all that. Let's go try to get better.

"You really just kind of hunker down with your coaches, your players. You hang on the rope together. You tie a knot in the rope and you hang on to it together and you believe there are going to be some good things to happen to us."

Nutt addressed the media Sunday before the afternoon practice. However, he said he talked to many "down" players on the bus back from Nashville Saturday afternoon and insisted "they still have a tremendous amount of hope and they believe in this team. I really think they'll bounce back."

Asked if he believed his team was talented enough to compete in the always-demanding SEC this fall, Nutt answered in the affirmative.

"I think it's fixable," Nutt said. "I just hope we keep everybody healthy, the ones that we have, and everybody keeps playing as hard as they can and keeps executing. I still feel like good things are going to happen to this team."

A LOOK BACK: Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7: Vanderbilt broke open a scoreless game midway through the second quarter and then blew out Ole Miss in the conference opener for both teams.

Vanderbilt led 21-0 at halftime and added a safety and a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 30-0 lead. Ole Miss scored with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter on Zack Stoudt's 47-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief.

Ole Miss managed just 85 rushing yards and committed five turnovers. Vanderbilt accumulated 387 yards of total offense, including 281 on the ground. The Commodores committed three turnovers, though Ole Miss could not capitalize on any of those chances.

A LOOK AHEAD: Georgia (1-2, 0-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC), 11:21 a.m., Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, SEC Network: (From UGASports.com/Rivals.com:) For a team needing some positive vibes, Georgia could not have a picked a better opponent for Saturday's game at Sanford Stadium than FCS member Coastal Carolina.

The Bulldogs' 59-0 win was certainly evidence of that, as Georgia posted its largest margin of victory under Richt and the most since 1994 when it crushed Northeast Louisiana 70-6.

"Any game, you come in just knowing that you've got to execute," wide receiver Tavarres King said. "That's what we did. We were working on all cylinders. That was pretty much the story."

Indeed it was.

The Bulldogs (1-2) accumulated 470 yards of total offense, including a four-touchdown effort by quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw for three scores and scored one on the ground before being pulled in favor of backup Hutson Mason after Georgia's first possession of the third quarter.

Mason made the most of his opportunity, scoring from 1-yard out before throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Orson Charles.

King (twice), Isaiah Crowell, Malcolm Mitchell and Carlton Thomas also scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs while kicker Blair Walsh established a career-best with a 56-yard field goal.

Crowell led the Bulldogs with 16 carries for 86 yards, followed by Thomas with 15 rushes for 71. Murray, meanwhile, was 18 of 26 for 188 yards, with Mason completing 6 of 9 for 68 yards.

Parker Welch even saw his first action and completed a 20-yard pass to Israel Troupe.

"It just felt good to win. We haven't won since last November (against Georgia Tech), so it's been a while," Murray said. "You've got to enjoy it and hopefully use this moment going forward in SEC play."

Defensively, the Bulldogs dominated play as well. Georgia held the Chanticleers (2-1) to just 112 total yards in posting the team's first shutout since Vanderbilt of last year.

"The goal today (for the defense) was to not let them get started," head coach Mark Richt said. "We wanted to dominate the line of scrimmage and not give them much space. If we did that, we thought we could frustrate them and have this kind of day."

Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett was duly impressed.
"Georgia is the team we thought they were. After watching the film and studying, we had the ultimate respect for them," he said. "We had a lot of mistakes against a really good team. They are a mighty good team and we think the world of Coach Richt and we wish the team the best of luck."

The lopsided score also enabled the Bulldogs to empty their bench, with 50 backups seeing action, including freshmen Ray Drew, Watts Dantzler and David Andrews.

"We were able to sub freely and give a lot of guys an opportunity to play," Richt said. "Everybody covets scrimmage downs. That was a good opportunity for them. I think the young guys played well."

From an offensive perspective, the first half could not have gone any better as Georgia scored touchdowns on all five of its possessions to grab a 35-0 halftime lead.
It didn't take long to get started, either.

After plucking the Chanticleers on the game's first possession, it took the Bulldogs just 1:45 to find the end zone, courtesy of Crowell who scored from 27 yards out on a handoff, straight off left guard and left tackle for a 7-0 lead.

Murray was responsible for the rest. One week after establishing a new career high for touchdowns with four, the redshirt sophomore came within one of tying the mark in the first half against Coastal Carolina, sandwiching scoring tosses of 32 and 1 yards to King around a 7-yard throw to Mitchell.

For good measure, Murray scored on a 1-yard run to help account for the Bulldogs' 35-0 halftime lead. Not that everything went Georgia's way.

In the second quarter, a 38-yard interception return by Bacarri Rambo was squandered, when the Bulldog safety fumbled at the end of the run. Later, a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Branden Smith was called back due to an illegal block by Corey Moore, although Georgia was still able to convert the drive into points on Murray's 1-yard pass to King.

Defensively, Georgia held the Chanticleers to just 48 total yards the first half.

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