Published November 20, 2014
For the most part, things have gone quite well for Mississippi's football program since coach Houston Nutt arrived on campus in November of 2007.
There have been two top-25 finishes. Two Cotton Bowl victories. And two successful seasons to heal the wounds from the three disastrous Ed Orgeron years.
But the Nutt era suffered its first true black eye on Saturday, when the Rebels inexplicably lost to Jacksonville State 49-48 in double overtime. It was the first time Ole Miss lost to a Football Championship Subdivision team in school history.
Nutt, like his players, appeared stunned immediately afterward. And that sick feeling hadn't changed on Sunday, as the coaches dissected the ugly loss.
"It's the toughest night and toughest film session I've ever had," Nutt said.
Now, with 11 games left, his charge is to make sure it doesn't define the season.
Although just about every facet of the Ole Miss football team had issues in the loss, the defensive collapse was most stunning. Ole Miss led 31-13 midway through the third quarter, but then Jacksonville State scored on its final six possessions, including touchdowns on the final five.
"I give all the credit to Jacksonville State for never giving up, but we played embarrassingly," linebacker D.T. Shackelford said. "That's not up to our standards at all."
Mississippi defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was given a three-year contract worth $500,000 per year in the offseason after his defense ranked among the top half of the Southeastern Conference in most major categories last season.
But that wasn't the case on Saturday, when the Rebels had a load of missed tackles and busted assignments.
"We're just better than that," Nutt said. "That's what's frustrating."
The Rebels were also hurt by three turnovers. One of them — a fumble by quarterback Nathan Stanley — led directly to a Jacksonville State touchdown. The Gamecocks had no turnovers.
Mississippi plays at Tulane on Saturday. It's the first time the two teams will face off since 2000, when the Rebels won 49-20 in Oxford.
"I told them that this is when we find out what everybody is about," Nutt said. "... There will be people on the outside trying to turn you into a locker room lawyer, but don't listen to them. Come back and just work."
Nutt said he doesn't expect to get much sleep the next few days, as the Rebels try to regroup from one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.
"The one thing I know about this group is you roll up your sleeve and you get back to work," Nutt said. "You turn everything off, get lost in your work and try to get rid of that sick feeling.
"There's only one way to do that. You've got to win the next one."