Ole Miss won the skins last week against Florida in a stunning upset. But Saturday against South…
Kendrick Lewis -
Ole Miss Free Safety Kendrick Lewis celebrated just as hard as any Rebel player after Ole Miss upset Florida 31-30 last weekend in Gainesville. But when he got back home after the team was greeted by Rebel fans at the Tupelo Airport and then again at the IPF, the talented junior put it all behind him. "That game showed this program is moving forward and going in the right direction, but we have to keep taking those steps for the Florida game to really have an impact," Lewis noted. "We don't want to be a team that beat Florida and then didn't do anything else. Then, we would be called flukes. It would defeat the purpose of what we are trying to do here." Lewis said the high of the Florida game was offset by the lows of the Wake Forest and Vandy losses. "In college football, it seems everything evens out eventually," he explained. "We were very discouraged when we didn't put Wake Forest and Vandy away - we could have and should have, but we didn't. It was really discouraging to us because we knew in our hearts that our coaches had put us in a position to win them both. "We were determined not to let that happen again, not to let down our coaches and ourselves again. We were tired of being close and not closing the deal. You can't take it back, so all you can do is move forward. I have to admit, I looked back after those two games and did some soul-searching. I think we all did, and we all vowed the next time we got in that position we were going to make it happen in our favor." As depressed as the team was after those two early setbacks, he said there never was a time the team almost broke before they got something to go their way. "The coaches kept telling us that it would come, that we were a pretty good team and to keep digging," he said. "We knew in our hearts that we had enough talent to pull off wins like the Florida game. It helped us when the coaches stayed on our side when we came up short against Wake Forest and Vandy." The Rebels face another challenge in South Carolina at 1 p.m. Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Lewis knows the Rebs have their hands full. "From a defensive standpoint, we know South Carolina is just like every SEC school - they have a lot of weapons. Jared Cook, Jason's younger brother, is a load at tight end. They use him in so many ways and try to create mismatches with him. He's 6-5 and can run," Kendrick stated. "Kenny McKinley was injured against Vanderbilt. If he comes back against us, we know what kind of player he is at wideout. They also have a really tough running back in Mike Davis. He's strong. You have to wrap him up or he will run right through you. "If you ask anyone who plays in the SEC, they will tell you the same thing. There are no days off. Every game is the ultimate challenge and that's why all the players on all 12 teams in this league choose this conference." Kendrick has evolved from a below average tackler last year to the second-leading tackler on the team, thus far, this season. He has 39 stops, second only to SS Jamarca Sanford's 43, one interception and one fumble recovery. "I worked very hard on tackling in the spring. That was my weakness as a sophomore and I knew if I was going to earn playing time I was going to have to improve that phase of my game," he said. "I'm still working on it, but I have improved a lot. "I'm more aggressive and more physical this year. My form is also better. I have learned to become a better tackler by taking a different demeanor and by using better technique." Lewis was the number two free safety early in fall camp, but when Johnny Brown was injured and missed some time Kendrick stepped in and has not given the top job back. "I think we have a real good rotation going now. Johnny is a terrific player and can come in for me or Jamarca and we don't miss a beat," he ended. "We just have to keep pressing forward and getting better, play by play, week by week."
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