OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Not only is Ole Miss learning what it takes to win, the Rebels are learning how to celebrate after they win. The team's postgame celebration after beating then-No. 4 Florida 31-30 on Saturday included a Gatorade dunking that left coach Houston Nutt with a bloody nose.
Lesson No. 1: Hit the coach with the Gatorade, not the bucket. "They've got to get better at that," Nutt joked Monday. "I hope they get a lot of practice." After four seasons of downward spiral, the Rebels (3-2) celebrated hard after their first win over a top five team since 1977 and first significant victory since 2003 when Eli Manning led them to a Southeastern Conference Western Division title.
Players cavorted with the band afterward, the locker room was raucous and the Gators were left dispirited and in disbelief. The win snapped a school record nine-game SEC losing streak and caught the attention of the nation on a weekend when nine ranked teams lost.
Ole Miss received 13 points in the latest Associated Press Top 25, becoming the 12th SEC team to receive votes this season.
The game turned out to be more than just a win for the Rebels. It was the payoff they've been working toward since Nutt took over the program from Ed Orgeron and promised big change - as long as players promised to believe. Michael Oher turned down a contract likely worth millions in the NFL just so he could have a moment like the one he experienced Saturday.
The senior left tackle originally declared for the draft last season, but had a change of heart and returned. "That's the best decision I probably ever made because I wouldn't have gotten a chance to win in The Swamp Saturday," Oher said.
Defensive end Greg Hardy said the near misses against Wake Forest and Vanderbilt earlier this season due to penalties and turnovers had the Rebels on edge. "It's always a good thing to go out and win a game like that," Hardy said. "It rejuvenates the team. It picks up your spirits. We don't really want to say they were down, but you get bogged down in the season when you lose a couple of games, and it just picked us back up and kicked us off for the rest of the season."
And the rest of the season will be a challenge with six of the last seven games against SEC teams and three against opponents currently ranked. South Carolina was ranked after a season-opening shutout of North Carolina State, but fell out of the poll after losing to undefeated Vanderbilt.
While the offense has struggled in its last four games, the 3-2 Gamecocks' defense has proven stout with the team's losses coming by a touchdown each to Vanderbilt and Georgia. "You grow numb to it, to the level of defense, of athletes," Nutt said. "There's never a time when you come in Sunday morning and say, 'This is going to be easy."'