Even during the holidays, there is no rest when you’re in the middle of preparing for one of the biggest games of the season.
On Saturday, the Rebels had the first day of bowl practice at the Georgia State campus. Just a few days away, and the Rebels are already mentally and physically preparing for a showdown against the Horned Frogs in less than four days at the Georgia Dome.
For some, it will be the beginning of a new era for Ole Miss football and for others it will be the final chapter in their collegiate career. In games like this we often forget that there is more than just trophies to be played for but rather things that can change the face of our program beyond this season.
Here are some of the highlights from a few of our Rebels on the keys to tearing down TCU, importance of the game, and the senior take on it all.
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss defensive tackle
On containing TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin
“We have to stay in our rush lane and not try to do too much. We have to stay in our lanes. Coach (Chris) Kiffin has been talking to us about bull-rushing from the inside and let the outside guys be free to make sure he doesn’t get out of the pocket. We have to rush as a unit and stay on top of thing.”
On this game as a launching pad into next season
“It‟s a big game for our program, so we want to get this „W‟ and this game is going to set up for next year and big things to look forward to.”
On the step to take to be in the four-team playoff next season
“We have to take every game, one game at a time. Sometimes during this past season, we started looking ahead and we started overlooking some games, and it caught up with us. Overall, we have to take every game as one game and focus. If we do that, we‟ll have a good chance of winning.”
On performing up to his potential
“I could have done some things better, of course. There‟s always room for improvement. I‟m playing every snap 100 percent. I‟m always going, I always have a motor on me, and I‟m always trying to make things happen, freeing up other guys or me making plays. I want to do anything that will disrupt the game. I want to be in the backfield as much as I can. I want to be very productive in any way I can.”
On playing in a New Year’s Eve bowl game
“I like bowl games because you spend the whole week with your team and your prepping all week and having fun and having competitions against the other team. That‟s fun. It‟s a good experience.”
Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss linebacker
On playing on a bigger stage in a bigger bowl game
“We‟re going to have a lot of fun, nights and everything, but I look at it as big players make big-time plays in big-time games. This is a big-time game, so all the big players have to step up and make big plays.”
On where his senior season ended compared to his freshman season
“It‟s crazy, man. From going 2-10, to maybe going 10-3. If we win this game, we‟re going to be 10-3 and that would be one of the few times in Ole Miss history this team has won 10 games, so it‟s crazy.”
On enjoying his last bowl game
“I‟m just having fun, enjoying the festivities and enjoying everything that we‟re doing. I‟m having fun with it. It‟s great that we can show up in a city like this and have a good time and go play a game in front of a lot of people.”
On the end of his college career
“You‟re going to remember things like this. That‟s why I have been taking pictures and recording a lot of stuff and doing a lot of things, so I can remember these times. This is the Peach Bowl. If you can‟t get hyped for this game, you can‟t get hyped for anything.”
On this bowl game compared to the last two bowl games
“Every year has been growing. We went from Birmingham, to Nashville, and now we‟re in the Peach Bowl. It‟s just rising. You have to take ladders. Instead of taking a step up, we‟re taking elevators and we‟re taking floors up.”
Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss offensive tackle
On his health
“I feel good. I feel excellent. Having a few days off was good.”
On his earlier injuries
“I‟m getting old, man. Everything was hurting. Mainly, it was just my right shoulder, having a torn labrum, but I feel better since I have healed up and had some treatment.”
On lessons learned from looking past teams earlier this season
“I especially think we looked ahead against Arkansas, worried about Mississippi State. That‟s a big lesson learned. You can‟t overlook any team, not even the weakest team. You can‟t overlook a team. You see what Arkansas did to us.”
On looking at themselves as a national championship-caliber team going into next season
“I look at ourselves as if every day, we could win a national championship.”
On this game as validation prove they were as good as the first part of the year
“I feel like we get this TCU win, it will put us in a position that will get our confidence up. Our confidence will go up beating TCU because they are a great team.”
On losing confidence earlier in the season
“We lost a little bit of confidence when we lost to Arkansas, but it‟s been building back up since we won against Mississippi State.”
They wished for it, waited for it, and now the Rebels are working to bring home more than just a bowl trophy back to Oxford. They are playing for pride, tradition and a team that has worked tirelessly to get them here.
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.