The only thing worse than playing poorly is playing with no emotion or effort. That's especially true in a big game with a lot on the line.
That's what seemed to happen last week when Ole Miss failed to mount much of a fight in a 35-3 loss to Arkansas that put an end to any chance for the Rebels (3-6, 2-4 SEC) to finish with a winning record or a bowl.
"It was a very disappointing loss because everything was in place," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. "We were fighting to stay eligible for postseason and were playing to improve our Southeastern Conference record. Playing well in the month of November is critical because that's what people always remember. We played like a team that didn't know what was at stake."
"Me, personally, I think some guys maybe quit; just gave up (after the hot start by Arkansas)," Ole Miss defensive tackle McKinley Boykin said. "But we should have just kept on playing as a team. You have to keep battling through."
After the Arkansas debacle, it's hard to imagine the Rebels doing a lot of battling through the rest of the program's first losing season since 1996.
"It's going to be difficult," Cutcliffe said. "I told them there is nothing magic I can say to make them feel better right now. None of us feel good. It's a miserable feeling."
The Rebels' best chance at salvaging something positive and finishing strong is the fact that both remaining games -- at LSU on Saturday and against Mississippi State at home on Nov. 27 -- are rivalry games that mean more to Ole Miss fans than any other games on the schedule.
"The LSU and Mississippi State games are still huge. They are our biggest rivals and we have challenges in both ballgames," Cutcliffe said. "Like I said, they remember what you do in November. A win in these two games won't make us bowl eligible, but these last two games should be all about pride and the program."
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