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Rebels look for first win against Southern Illinois

Petre Thomas/The Daily Mississippian

The Ole Miss Rebels will host the Salukis of Southern Illinois in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday at 5 p.m., as they look to get their first victory of the season.

The Rebels led 13-0, but suffered a devastating 14-13 loss to BYU in last Saturday’s season opener.

Southern Illinois, which went 5-6 a season ago with a 4-4 record in conference play, is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Salukis got off to a good start last Saturday defeating Southeast Missouri 38-10.

“All you have to do is watch the film to know that they are a scary bunch,” Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. “Their defense will blitz all night; they are really quick. We have a real challenge this week.”

The Salukis have 14 returning starters from last year’s team, and Nutt knows that his team needs to put the first game behind them as they head into this matchup.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Nutt said. “Our players have a real challenge in front of them.

“Our players and coaches felt we should have been 1-0. You can’t do anything about that right now, and we have to get ready for Southern Illinois and be 100 percent focused.”

Sophomore quarterback Barry Brunetti started last week against BYU, but during the game, junior quarterback Zack Stoudt got his chance and took full advantage.

“We will start Zack Stoudt (this week),” Nutt said. “He will start the game, and we’ll see how everything else flows as far as practice.”

But don’t be shocked to see junior quarterback Randall Mackey, who was suspended for the season opener, get his shot as well.

“We’ll see where Randall Mackey is, but, right now, we’ll go with Zack,” Nutt said.

Stoudt will need to be the leader of the offense this week, while senor running backs Brandon Bolden and possibly Enrique Davis are out with injuries. The Rebels will be looking mostly to sophomore Jeff Scott and junior Devin Thomas to carry the load on the ground this week.

“We were really disappointed,” Stoudt said of the BYU game. “We do have confidence coming out of the game.”

While the team is 0-1, Stoudt said the Rebels will be playing as if they are 1-0.

“I think that is exactly what we need to do,” Nutt said. “We do have confidence, so we’ll feed off that as we go into this week and get our first win.”

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was proud of the way his guys played last week, but he knows they can still do much better.

“I think (we can correct) a lot of things that we gave up in the ball game,” Nix said of the defense. “Such as third downs, lack of execution, a couple of big runs and passes where guys weren’t putting their eyes in the right place.

“We try to go back and re-emphasize the little things and being consistent at doing them.”

This week, a couple of younger guys may get the opportunity to show the coaches what they can do in a game situation.

“I think they’ve improved,” Nix said of the younger guys on defense. “The guy that I’ve been really impressed with this week is Keith Lewis.

“I think he has shown up more than he had all through camp.”

Overall, Nutt expects his team to eliminate the little mistakes that resulted in the fourth quarter collapse last Saturday.

“We’re excited about this week – the way they bounced back, good attitudes and good enthusiasm,” Nutt said. “We can’t wait to get back out. We’ve been a lot better (this week in practice).

“We’ve corrected a lot of things, and now, we just have to take it to the field.”