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Ole Miss back at practice quickly after loss

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt expresses his frustration against South Carolina in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt expresses his frustration against South Carolina in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Erik Campos/ecampos@thestate.com

JACKSON, Miss. | Houston Nutt wasted no time starting to fix all the problems he saw in No. 4 Mississippi's 16-10 upset at South Carolina.

The Rebels arrived home in Oxford around 3 a.m. after the disheartening defeat, coaches were up early to watch film and the players were on the practice field in the afternoon, less than 24 hours since kickoff Thursday night. After all, the tape showed a lot of work to do.

"After watching the film, it is very disappointing and hard to swallow," Nutt said.

Ole Miss (2-1, 0-1 SEC) resembled the Rebels of a year ago, making mistakes that cost them games early in Nutt's first season. Nine penalties wiped out a touchdown and gave South Carolina (2-1, 1-1) life repeatedly — a fumble ended one late drive and the offense looked disorganized at times.

Those are mistakes that can be fixed for the most part, though. The biggest problem appeared to be with an offensive line that gave up four sacks and was beaten in key situations by Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews, who split the bounty in the Rebels' backfield. Norwood also had two quarterback hurries.

Ole Miss is replacing three seniors along the line and it was the main source of worry in the offseason. The focus was often on Bradley Sowell, the sophomore expected to replace all-American Michael Oher.

Sowell, like most college football players, had trouble with Norwood. The linebacker-defensive end moves around and attacks an offense from different positions. Sowell wasn't the only player beaten by Norwood. In fact, Norwood was triple-teamed once and still came up with a sack.

"There were times when we were trying to chip, which means the running back tries to help," Nutt said. "There were times when Norwood still won that battle. That was discouraging."

Sowell was getting attention Friday for comments he made after the game when he appeared to say he was glad Ole Miss' visit to the Top 5 was over: "I'm glad its gone, so we can get back to working and win some ball games. You can't really pay attention to that anyway. I'm glad it's over with so everyone can just stop talking about it and play ball."

Visits that high in the poll have been a rare thing in football-mad Oxford. The Rebels hadn't been ranked in the Top 5 since 1970 and their eight-game win streak was the longest since 1971-72.

All is not lost, though. The Rebels could still win their division, still make it to the SEC title game, still play in January. But only if the lessons coaches handed out Thursday sink in as they started to prepare for a game at Vanderbilt next Saturday.

There were mistakes in every phase. The defense played very well, but there were still problems in pass coverage that included pass interference penalties that kept South Carolina moving. And the special teams failed on a fake field goal after appearing to miss a block.

It was the offense that was of most concern, however. Everyone seemed to struggle, including quarterback Jevan Snead, who completed 7 of 21 passes for 107 yards. Nutt said Snead was hampered by South Carolina's pass rush, but that he also anticipated pressure that wasn't there at times.

"I am going to tell him that there is a whole lot of football left," Nutt said. "We all know we can do better. It is not all him. What's important is that we don't worry about anything. Let's correct the mistakes, let's correct the things we can correct. Let's handle the things that we can handle and go get better."

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