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Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

HEAD COACHES NEWS CONFERENCE - OLE MISS HEAD COACH HOUSTON NUTT

HEAD COACH HOUSTON NUTT

On being in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic:
“For our players and their first bowl experience, it has been an outstanding week. … They’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I really appreciate the AT&T Cotton Bowl for letting us be here. From the food to the functions, it has been awesome. It’s also a privilege to play against a great football team. I’ve always admired the things Mike Leach has done. From the quarterbacks to the receivers to their defense, they have an excellent football team. It’s easy to see why they’re ranked. … We have a tremendous challenge, but we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere.”

On the changes since Nutt was last at the Cotton Bowl Classic seven years ago:
“It seems like everything has been upgraded. … From the hospitality room to the food, everything has gotten better and better. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.”

On memories of past Cotton Bowl Classics:
“Mom had black-eyed peas going and cornbread. We were getting ready to watch the Cotton Bowl. There’s no question about that. I remember great games – not good games, great games – when I was growing up. To have the privilege of already having coached in this game twice (2000 and 2002 when at Arkansas), it just brings back great memories. It all started for me at a very, very young age.”

On what All-American OT Michael Oher and All-American DT Peria Jerry have meant to the Ole Miss program:
“They’re good, solid people. Michael had a chance to leave early. He came back and just really took ownership of the team. He did everything we asked him to do. … Michael is pretty quiet. But he really just married the weight room and really made a commitment. Peria is probably a little more vocal. He’s really quite a leader. He does it by example. He’s not afraid to jerk somebody into line and tell them to get going. Both of these guys, in the locker room and in the weight room, you can’t say enough about those two guys. They’re just real winners.”

On whether Ole Miss is motivated since it’s the underdog:
“All year long, we’ve pretty much been an underdog. Coming in, our guys had nothing to reach back for and say, ‘That’s how we do it.’ We had to change that part of it. They walked in the room and they looked good. We had some good athletes. But football is more than that. … The thing that our staff is proud of is that we finally stopped beating ourselves. There were two or three or four games that we were really in the charity business – let’s give away this ball, let’s hit somebody in the back at the wrong time and all of those things that get you beat. We have kind of flipped that. Guys started believing. There’s nothing like that celebrated locker room. I don’t think they think about the fact we’re 8-4 and playing against 11-1. We know that. We know they’re fast and how well they throw the ball and all of those things.”

On beating Florida, 31-30, a week after losing to Vanderbilt:
“We’re about a 31-point underdog. We ask, ‘Is there any way we can go to this game in The Swamp and play without a penalty, play without a turnover and see what happens?’ … Florida had not turned the ball over one time and had gotten nine. We got three turnovers that day. We executed and took care of the ball. Finally, that’s when the light came on. We decided we could be a pretty good football team if we did things the right way. We built off that and got better and better.”

On highlights of the week thus far for the Ole Miss players:
“It’s everything. We were back in Oxford and the Cotton Bowl sends us a TV. The players are hanging on every word because it’s their first experience. It’s like kids around a Christmas tree. What’s next? What are we going to get to open up next? You ought to hear our guys talk as they walk into their hospitality room: ‘We get to play with these video games, this basketball? We get to eat this food? This is ours?’ It’s that attitude. It has been awesome. It has just been a tremendous experience, and they’ve loved every minute of it. … I’ve experienced a lot of bowls, but this group just does such an outstanding job. Our players go around with a smile on their face every single day because they can’t believe it.”

On having Texas Tech as an opponent:
“Two things are underrated. One is their running game. Don’t think for a minute that they can’t run the football. Those backs run hard. The other is their defense. Their defense is underrated. … With their splits (on the offensive line), things are so different. This is a different, different deal. I really believe that one of the reasons that Coach Leach is so successful is that it’s different. It’s hard to prepare for because not everybody runs this. The way they mix it up – the screens, the tunnel screens and you can’t forget about the run.”

On the play of QB Jevan Snead:
“The first two or three games, he was trying to be Superman. He’s a strong-armed guy He thought he could throw the ball through a keyhole. He didn’t always take what the defense gave him. He really tried to force some things. I think the game slowed down for him. He really started to manage the game about the fifth game. We’ve got to remember that this is really his first year. He played a little bit at Texas (as a true freshman in 2006) but not much. He had to lay out last year. So this is his first year. I’ve just really been proud of Jevan. The last four or five games, he has really been accurate and taken care of the ball. He has managed the game, controlling the traffic on and off the field with different personnel groupings. … But the biggest thing is that he finally figured out, ‘I don’t have to do it by myself.’ I think that’s the key.”

On preparing the Ole Miss defense to face the Texas Tech offense:
“When you’re going against a high-powered offense, there is a respect there. The only thing we know how to do is to go to work. You go practice and do the best that you can. … Our scout team has done a good job. Now, we don’t have a Michael Crabtree running routes every day. Not too many people do. That’s the difference. When Jan. 2 gets here, all of a sudden the big receivers are live and in color. It’s a different speed. That’s what’s tough. … But it’s about preparation. You do the best you can and challenge your guys that this is the biggest challenge of their life.”
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