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The Houston Nutt era: 3 up, 3 down

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian

Highs:
Victory in the Swamp
In just his fourth game as the coach of the Rebels and coming off of a 23-17 home loss to Vanderbilt, Nutt secured his first signature win for Ole Miss with a 31-30 victory over No. 4 Florida. A Kentrell Lockett-blocked extra point proved to be the difference on the scoreboard and Marcus Temple stopped Tim Tebow on a fourth-down run to seal the victory. The win became even more impressive as the Gators went undefeated the rest of the season and won the BCS National Championship.
45-0 statement win in Nutt’s first Egg Bowl
Nutt made a great first impression in his inaugural Egg Bowl as Ole Miss dominated an out-manned Mississippi State team to the tune of 45-0. The Rebels’ defense was the story of the game, holding the Bulldogs to -51 yards rushing and 37 total yards while recording 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The Bulldogs crossed the 50-yard line only once during the game. Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom resigned the next day.
Back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins
At the close of the 2008 regular season, Ole Miss was invited to the Cotton Bowl and defeated No. 7 Texas Tech, 47-34, to finish the season with a record of 9-4. The next season, Ole Miss returned to the Cotton Bowl, despite losing to Mississippi State to close out the regular season. The Rebels faced off against No. 19 Oklahoma State and won a rather sloppy 21-7 game. The back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins were the first consecutive January bowl victories in “50 years, 50” for Ole Miss as Nutt put it in one of his 2010 press conferences.
Lows:
Stunned by Jacksonville State in double overtime
Ole Miss opened the 2010 season at home against Jacksonville State, a FCS team. The Rebels led 31-13 after three quarters, but the Gamecocks rallied late and outscored Ole Miss 21-3 in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. In the second overtime, Jacksonville State got within one after 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-15. The Gamecocks elected to go for two and won the game, 49-48, on an even more unlikely two-point conversion. This devastating loss sent transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and Ole Miss into a tailspin that lasted the entire 2010 season.
Back-to-back Egg Bowl losses
After the Rebels’ shutout win in Nutt’s first Egg Bowl, the next two games didn’t turn out so well. The 2009 game was Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen’s first Egg Bowl at the helm, and his spread option attacked shredded the Ole Miss defense for over 400 yards in a 41-27 victory that ended with the Bulldogs kneeling the ball twice at the Rebels four-yard line to end the game. In 2010, two late Ole Miss touchdowns made the game look a lot closer than the 31-23 final score showed. With his second win, Mullen became the first Mississippi State coach since 1940 win his first two Egg Bowls. These past two games in the series has shifted the momentum between the two programs from Oxford to Starkville.
The first of two bad road losses
While Ole Miss’ loss to a bad Kentucky team last Saturday gets a lot of the attention in terms of Nutt’s coaching status, the loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville is when warning bells first started sounding. All week, Nutt gushed about how great the team practiced and how prepared the Rebels were, and then Ole Miss laid an egg and got blown out, 30-7 in Nashville. The Rebels were shut out up until a late touchdown with just over two minutes left. The Commodores are much improved this season under new coach James Franklin, but this loss was inexcusable and signaled the beginning of the end.