Ole Miss entered its third game of the season 2-0 in 2012. They were undefeated in the infancy of the Hugh Freeze era and excitement was at a fever pitch with big bad Texas coming to town. Oxford was packed in the week leading up to the game. Rebel fans could sense an upset.
For the young Rebels, better days were ahead as the Longhorns dismantled them 66-31. However, that loss served as a turning point. The Rebels were a different, better team following that loss.
“It was quite embarrassing, to be honest,” junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said of last season’s loss. “They came in and beat us like a drum.”
The Rebel defense was roughed up by the balanced Longhorn offense for 676 yards of total offense, 326 passing and 350 rushing.
“We had a lot of missed assignments, we weren’t as physical and we didn’t tackle real well in the first half,” Johnson said. “It was just a bad game. We played a bad game.”
After the loss to Texas, something ignited within the young Ole Miss team. The Rebels went on to big victories over Auburn, Arkansas and Mississippi State to become bowl eligible. And the Rebels came close to beating Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and LSU.
“It kind of got personal to a lot of people,” Johnson said. “And we finished our season a lot better than we played that game.”
That begs the question, what changes went on after that loss that led to a turnaround?
“We just couldn’t take anything for grant,” junior safety Cody Prewitt said. “Going into that game, we were a little high on ourselves and were a little overconfident.
“I think we know now that we’re going to have to take a lot of extra focus into that game and be physical and take ownership of that game early.”
However, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who had 15 tackles starting in place of an injured Denzel Nkemdiche last week, has a different reason as to why the Rebels will stand a better chance against the Longhorns in 2013.
“I feel like the whole team is in way better shape,” Bryant noted. “Just look at myself. I was 240 last year, now I’ve dropped down to 220. I can run, move. You can kind of just look at it with me. I’m doing different things and playing way better. I think we are just in better shape.”
With the confusion coming out of Austin this week, as far as who will start at quarterback for the Longhorns and the changing of defensive coordinators, Bryant said the players just have to trust the coaching staff.
“We’re just going to go in and take what our coaches give us,” Bryant said. “We leave that up to our coaches, and we prepare so that all we have to do is go out there and execute.”
Bryant also put into perspective just how important the upcoming matchup against the Longhorns will be as far as determining how successful the Rebels will be in 2013.
“To be honest, this is like our Mississippi State this year,” Bryant said. “I feel like we have to get revenge and go out there with a chip on our shoulder.”
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @JLgrindin and @thedm_sports on Twitter.