Cotton Bowl looms for Ole Miss

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2008

OXFORD — Houston Nutt promised a “November to Remember” and on Friday the new Ole Miss coach delivered as his Rebels completed a 4-0 month capped by Friday’s 45-0 smashing of Mississippi State at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Ole Miss (8-4, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) has won five straight since a 24-20 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 18 in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels are the only team to beat No. 2 Florida (31-30). Florida plays Alabama Saturday in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Ole Miss’ next game will likely be the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 2. Both Alabama and Florida will head to Bowl Championship Series games while The Capital One Bowl, which has the first pick of the remaining SEC teams, will probably pick Georgia (9-3) for its New Year’s Day game. The Cotton Bowl picks second and its preferred pick is the next available team from the SEC West — Ole Miss.

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Either way, Nutt is just happy to have another game.

“I can’t wait to take this team to a bowl game,” Nutt said. “The last three or four weeks, this team has played at a very high level. These seniors don’t want the season to end.”

Senior defensive tackle Peria Jerry, a finalist for tonight’s Conerly Trophy award given to Mississippi’s top collegiate player in Clarksdale, agrees.

“This is just big for Ole Miss and our seniors. As for me, I really don’t care where we go. I’ve never experienced a bowl game, so anything would be great. Cotton Bowl sounds great to me,” said Jerry, whose previous Rebel teams combined for just 10 wins under former coach Ed Orgeron.

The South Panola product certainly made his presence felt in Mississippi State’s backfield on Friday. He led a defensive line push that resulted in 11 sacks of three different Bulldog quarterbacks. Jerry had two of the sacks and had two other tackles for loss as Ole Miss held State to minus 51 yards rushing.

“They tried to double-team me and I’d just split it. It seem like we were all in a race to the quarterback. We’ve become a totally different defense than what we were earlier in the season,” Jerry said.

“Our defensive line has really come to play in the last month,” Ole Miss starting safety Jamarca Sanford. “But really, we have all 11 players clicking.”

Sanford said Nutt and his staff is a big reason why Ole Miss is now looking forward to big things.

“Without a doubt, when he came in with his staff, it was a blessing for us,” Sanford said.

Offensively, Ole Miss was nearly as sharp as quarterback Jevan Snead led the Rebels to 31 first-half points. He finished with four touchdown passes.

“It was one of those days for us. We were ready to go from the start, just wanting to get that win. We had an extremely good game and it’s a great thing to be going to a bowl game,” Snead said.

Snead’s biggest hookup was a 72-yard touchdown pass to Michael Wallace in the second quarter. It was his longest completion since the 78-yard touchdown pass that beat Florida.

“He (Wallace) was so far behind the defender, you just don’t want to overthrow him,” Snead said.

“I knew we would play well, but I never expected this,” Nutt said of the final score. “The execution was there and the level of effort was there. Our defense has gotten better with each game. Right now, our defensive line looks pretty scary.”


Contact Jeff Byrd at