If anyone can relate to Patrick Trahan's emotions this week, it's Houston Nutt.
Nutt, who spent 10 seasons at Arkansas, coached against the Razorbacks this past Saturday in Fayetteville. Nutt's new team, Ole Miss, won, 23-21, capping an emotional week in Oxford.
This week, it's Trahan's turn to experience "Old Home Week," only it's Trahan's former team making the trip to his new home. Trahan, Ole Miss' junior outside linebacker, spent two years at Auburn before transferring to Northwest (Miss.) Community College. On Saturday, Ole Miss (4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference) entertains Auburn (4-4, 2-3) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Unlike Nutt, who spent last week downplaying his first meeting with the Razorbacks, Trahan is skipping the diplomacy.
"I had this game definitely marked on my calendar," said Trahan, who has started one game while spending most of the season as the oft-used backup to Ashlee Palmer. "It's one of the most important games of the year for me. Every game is important and I give 100 (percent) but it means a little bit more.
"I've definitely looked forward to it. I definitely want to make a lot of plays and make a lot of plays. It's definitely important for me to have a good game this game."
Trahan, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Baton Rouge, La., played in 13 games for Auburn in 2006 and won a starting job in the spring of 2007 before he was deemed academically ineligible for the 2007 season. That led to a falling out between Trahan and the Auburn staff. In February, despite overtures from Auburn to return to the Plains, Trahan signed with Ole Miss. Through eight games, Trahan has 11 tackles and no regrets.
"I think it was the best decision for me to come here," Trahan said. "As far as the situation with the coaching and everything, I prefer to be here and I think it's a better situation for me. It really wasn't about that."
Even though the statistics aren't gaudy, Nutt said Trahan's contribution to the Rebels shouldn't be understated.
"The thing that he's doing so well right now that probably goes unnoticed is his special teams play," Nutt said. "He creates havoc on that kickoff team. When he's in there, he's done some very good things, but this game is different. There are a lot of formations, a lot of no-huddle, a lot of scenarios. If it was just one formation, it'd be no problem, ready to roll. I've been proud of him. He'll get better this week. He'll be all right."
As for playing his former team, Nutt's advice to Trahan is to "take one game at a time and try to get better at practice and try to focus on what you can control. The only thing he can control right now is preparation and his practice. Otherwise, you can get caught up in a lot of different things."
Trahan said he has kept up with the Tigers this season, but he didn't seem eager to discuss whatever relationships he may still have with Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville or his staff.
"I talk to a lot of guys and they let me know what's going on," Trahan said. "I've watched their games just to see my friends playing, so I've got a good handle on what's going on over there. I don't have everybody's number but whenever somebody hits me up on Facebook.com or something, I don't have any problems with anyone on the team. Everybody who was my friend then is still my friend today."
Tuberville fired former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin at mid-season. Steve Ensminger has been the acting offensive coordinator in his place, and that has meant a return to an emphasis on the running game.
"They're running that ball more," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "They're getting their hand in the dirt and coming off. They're more two-back, two-tight end and coming off. In the past, they were spreading it all over the place with four and five wides and the running backs out doing a lot of empty (backfield formations). They've committed themselves back to running the football. It's old-style Auburn."
"That's something I've been looking forward to," Trahan said. "That when I came of age, playing against that two-back system, so I'm ready to be back there."
Trahan is also eager to be back in the postseason. He played in the Cotton Bowl after the 2006 season, and the Rebels are two wins away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2003 campaign.
"I definitely want to get back to a bowl game," Trahan said. "None of my teammates have been to a bowl game. It's something I've experienced and it's something that I know a lot of these guys deserve to experience. I think if we keep playing together like we've been playing, with one heartbeat and everything, I think we'll be able to do what we need to do to be in a good bowl."
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