One of the criticisms against former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt his time of year was that he did not understand the rivalry with MSU.
While coaching at Arkansas, Nutt never had an in-state rival. The Fayetteville campus barely recognized the existence of Arkansas State in Jonesboro and surely didn’t play ASU in football or other sports.
Add to that the facts that Nutt and his staff enjoyed great success against MSU while with the Razorbacks and steamrolled State 45-0 their first year in Oxford. State won the next three meetings with Nutt, all by Dan Mullen, who carries a 3-0 rivalry record into the weekend.
Competing against MSU was a talking point for Hugh Freeze when he was introduced as the Ole Miss coach.
“It is a little different (with Freeze), the words that come out of the coaches’ mouths are different,” Ole Miss senior defensive end Jason Jones said. “For the most part, they both pushed the issue, but I think coach Freeze has a more humbling spirit about it, letting us know what we’re not changing who we are for a team. We’re coming out to play ball.”
Jones says the Rebels’ best chance at breaking their losing streak in the series rests with their inward focus.
“I’m worried about us and not them. We’re fighting for something, and we know how this week is going to be, talk from them, bad talk. More than anything, we’re worried about us right now,” Jones said.
Freeze is focused on the Rebels’ focus too, as evidenced by his limiting interviews to one day. Earlier Monday he considered cutting off players altogether.
Maybe refocusing on the rivalry will help bring a different result for Ole Miss this weekend.