Knowing The Enemy 2014--Old Miss
Record: 7-0, 4-0 in SEC
by Bryan Follins
Note: For the sake of political correctness, the “official” mascot for Old Miss is the black bear. However, to this writer, they will always be the rebels. Old habits die hard.
The Purple and Gold ride a modest two game winning streak into Tiger Stadium this Saturday to face a formidable opponent, Old Miss. The Rebels are undefeated for the 2014 season, and for good reason. They have a very good football team. When thinking of a Hugh Freeze team, it is easy to think offense. This is not the case with the 2014 version of Old Miss. It is not to say the offense is not good, because it is, but their defense is stronger.
Old Miss is eighth in the country in total defense. They play fast, hard, and physical. They are deep. They love to hit people. In four SEC games, they have 29 tackles for losses, tfls, which averages to just over seven per league game. The Rebels had seven tfls against Alabama. They lead the country in scoring defense, allowing only 10.6 points per game. Old Miss is sixth in the land in rushing defense allowing 97.1 yards rushing per contest. Opponents average 2.85 yards per rush against Old Miss. The Johnny Rebs have allowed six offensive touchdowns for the entire season. They lead the country with 15 interceptions, three returned for touchdowns.
Freshman Marquis Haynes, a 6-4, 220 defensive end, is tied for third in the country in forced fumbles, with three. Haynes is tied for 10th in the nation with 6.5 sacks. He is second in his position on the current Rebel depth chart behind junior C.J. Johnson, who has three tfls and two sacks for the year. Sophomore defensive tackle Robert NKemdiche has two tfls and two sacks for the season. Senior nose tackle Bryon Bennett has four tfls and two sacks for the year. Nickle back Tony Conner leads the team in tackles with 42, 22 unassisted, and has four tfls.
The linebackers are not bad. Deterrian Shackleford, who has graduated, has 34 tackles, 18 unassisted, with three tfls and two sacks this season. Junior Denzel Nkemdiche has 26 tackles, nine solos, with 3.5 tfls this campaign. Sederius Bryant, a hard hitting senior linebacker, and spark plug of the 2013 defense, is also available.
Senior Rebel cornerback Senquez Golson leads the country with seven interceptions. Senior free safety Cody Prewitt has 35 tackles, 27 solos, and three tfls. Junior rover back Trae Elson has 31 stops, 21 unassisted, and two tfls.
There are good defensive players on the bench. The Rebel defense actually resembles the Purple and Gold defense of a few years ago.
Senior Bo Wallace is the Old Miss quarterback. In the past Wallace was prone to interceptions . The good news is, he has thrown six interceptions this year. The bad news is, he has not thrown an interception in a month. Actually, Wallace is ninth in the country in passing efficiency. He has thrown 17 touchdowns. Wallace can run with ball too.
Statistically, there are not any rebels near the top of the conferences in receiving and rushing. It is not because they are bad, but it is because the Rebel offense is very balanced. They spread the wealth. Sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has 34 catches for 458 yards and four touchdowns this year. He averages 13.5 yards per reception. Senior receiver Vince Sanders has 26 receptions for 424 yards and four scores. He averages 16.4 yards per grab. Junior wide receiver Cody Core has 22 catches for 345 yards, for an average of 15.7 yards per catch and four touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has 19 receptions for 292 yards and one touchdown. He averages 15.4 yards per reception.
The Johnny Rebs are not a run oriented team, but it does not mean they cannot run. They average 151 yards rushing per game, just enough to keep the opposition wary. Junior Jaylen Walton has rushed 59 times for 347 yards and four touchdowns for the season. He averages 5.4 yards per carry. Walton has 606 all-purpose yards. He is a dangerous specialty team player. He is also a good receiver. Junior I’Tavious Mathers has carried the leather 43 times for 186 yards and two scores. He averages 4.3 yards per rush.
Old Miss has a good offensive line, especially on the left side. Sophomore left tackle Laremy Tunsil is on the Outland Trophy Watch list. Aaron Morris is the junior left guard who missed the entire 2013 season with an injury. He started his freshman and sophomore seasons. Junior right guard Justin Bell started at both the left and right guard positions in the 2013 campaign.
The Rebels know how to use all of their offensive weapons. Everyone in the offensive scheme is a threat.
The Purple and Gold have to do three things to win the game:
Slow down or stop the Old Miss passing game.
Solve the Rebel defense.
Limit or eradicate their own mistakes, whether it is the players or the coaches, including no bungling clock mismanagement by the Tiger brain trust, which includes getting the offensive plays into the huddle in a timely manner.
Piece of cake, right??
The Tigers will have to play their best game of the season, and that is putting it mildy.