Ole Miss will finally get into a routine in the coming week as the Rebels (2-1, 0-1 in the SEC) play only their second game this season on Saturday next week in Nashville. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 in the SEC) plays Rice on the road this Saturday.
The Rebels opened on Sunday before Labor Day, drew a bye week the second full week of the season which saw 31 players effected by the flu and limited in practice, then played Southeastern Louisiana last Saturday before losing Thursday to South Carolina, 16-10.
"It has been a very tough September with the way things were laid out - Sunday, the flu and Thursday night," head coach Houston Nutt said in a hastily arranged media teleconference late Friday. " The other thing that was really hurtful for our team was to lose guys like Andy Hartmann and Gerald Harris."
A widely accepted axiom in coaching circles is a team realizes its most significant improvement between its first game and its second game, and Nutt said that his team likely hasn't realized that improvement due to the unusual schedule, but could see that this coming week against Vanderbilt.
"We know how tough Vanderbilt always plays us," Nutt said. "It's going to be a real challenge and we are looking forward to it. That's the thing about this game, you can't wait to get back out on the field. You want to get back out on the field and you need that dose of medicine. That dose of medicine is a victory."
Vanderbilt has won two straight in the series and three out of the last four in a series Ole Miss largely dominated during the Billy Brewer and David Cutcliffe coaching eras.
Back to a routine: Nutt said that his Rebels will get an early jump on preparing for Vanderbilt by starting practice on Friday.
"We'll work for about 50 minutes today indoors (in the Indoor Practice Facility)," he said. "We'll just work to get the soreness out and on some conditioning. We'll also look at the film. The players are meeting now to go over the film with the players."
After Friday's workout, the team gets an off day on Saturday before resuming a normal weekly routine on Sunday. Sunday's practice will including lifting and workout."
The Monday through Friday routine will be the standard schedule with Friday being a travel day to Nashville.
Simon out for the year: True freshman Tim Simon went down with a leg injury late in the South Carolina game and Nutt said the prognosis is not good.
"Tim probably has a torn ACT," Nutt said. "I really hate that. He will be out for the season. D.T. Shackelford has a very bad sprain. I don't know how long he will be out. Everybody else is a little bruised up but ok."
With play limited to only three games, Simon likely will be eligible for a medical redshirt, but documentation will have to be sent to the NCAA for approval, which is normally routine in cases involving serious, season ending injuries."
Neither Harris nor Hartmann played on Thursday and Hartmann was projected to be out for two weeks, which likely puts him on track for a return against Alabama at the earliest. Harris is more in a day to day holding pattern and likely will be evaluated later in the week before a decision is made.
Defensive lineman Greg Hardy showed good mobility against South Carolina and little or no effects from the ankle sprain he suffered against Memphis. He had a late game sack against the Gamecocks that saw South Carolina go three and out on the possession, giving the Rebels a chance for a late game winning drive.
Sowell on the hot seat: Starting left offensive tackle Bradley Sowell probably didn't select his words carefully when he said that he was glad the hype surrounding Ole Miss' No. 4 ranking was over.
"We can just concentrate on playing football and getting ready for Vanderbilt," Sowell said.
Making the situation worse for Sowell was his play against South Carolina, where his play contributed directly to at least two sacks of Jevan Snead and the Rebels had trouble running the football in short yardage situations.
However, Nutt came to Sowell's defense to some extent on Friday.
"(Cliff) Matthews and (Eric) Norwood were the best we have seen so far," said Nutt about South Carolina's defensive linemen. "That was a tough matchup for us. It really threw us off balance. There were times when we were trying to chip, which means the running back tries to help. There were times when Norwood still won that battle. That was discouraging. You have to give Norwood a lot of credit. He is punt rusher, a defensive end and linebacker. He plays it all, which we knew, and he did a great job for them. That was a tough assignment for Bradley Sowell. He will get better on his drops and sets. He will learn from this one. It was just a very tough night."
Snead also takes some heat: After going seven for 21, Jevan Snead was also the object of fan criticism and some critical media.
Nutt plans to attempt to settle his junior quarterback headed into the Vanderbilt game.
"I haven't talked to him yet," Nutt said. "I will talk to him here in about 30 minutes. I am going to tell him that there is a whole lot of football left. 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."
Nutt also said that the lack of protection impacted Snead.
"I thought there were times where the pocket collapsed on Jevan, but Jevan also probably anticipated the pocket collapsing a couple of times and he didn't throw a couple balls the way he normally throws," Nutt said. "We are going to go back out here today, show them the film and get better."
52 times: While there may have been a handful of plays that impacted the outcome of the game, including Brandon Bolden's early touchdown run that was called back for holding, the staff found many more, including an apparent face mask violation that wasn't called by the game officials.
"We saw that this morning," Nutt said. "That would have been another nice 15 yards in their territory. It would have made a big difference in the ballgame. We will send that in, but there is nothing you can do about it. That was a pretty obvious facemask. It's a huge play. If we get the ball in their territory, it is a whole different game. It's just like the first touchdown. If we score that first touchdown and we get the crowd a little quieter, get seven points on the board with the way our defense was playing - that's a different game. There are about 52 things on there that will blow your mind when you go back and watch this on film. If things just would have happened a little bit different in our favor, we would be a little happier today."
Kick-off set: Next Saturday's kick-off for the Vanderbilt game was set last week for 6 p.m. (CT) with the game to be broadcast on ESPNU.