In its quest to shut down LSU’s star running back Leonard Fournette, Ole Miss (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) looked to a mixture of veterans and new faces, all of whom were hyped for prime-time action Saturday afternoon.
The Landshark defense stuffed Fournette time and time again, limiting him to a total of 108 yards on 25 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Perhaps the Rebels’ coaching staff took a look at how both Alabama and Arkansas were able to limit Fournette to under 100 yards in their games against the Tigers this season.
When facing Fournette, both Alabama and Arkansas sent a line of troops towards the 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back, and his offensive line could do little to stop the attack. In Saturday afternoon’s SEC battle in Oxford, Ole Miss did much the same thing, and it worked to perfection as the entire Tigers’ offense folded right in front of head coach Les Miles and the 60,705 fans inside Vaught-Hemingway.
And the Landshark defense loved every minute of the Rebels’ 38-17 Magnolia Bowl victory.
“Defensively, I thought for the first 29 minutes we were absolutely excellent. We stopped a really good run team,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “We gave them a little bit of momentum before the half. They had the explosive run that gave them a field goal, then the kickoff was fumbled.”
Freeze was pleased with the way his defense responded when LSU made a run and cut the Rebels’ lead:
Landshark defense embraces the challenge
The win was a confidence-builder for a defense that struggled in its loss to Arkansas. Ole Miss senior Mike Hilton felt the defense played with a lot of fire and energy, something that has been missing at times throughout the year. “Guys really embraced the challenge of one of the best backs coming into our house,” said Hilton, who had nine total tackles, three pass break-ups, and a tackle for loss. “We played well, tackled well, and slowed him (Fournette) down.”
DeMarquis Gates shines in the Ole Miss win
In a high-profile SEC game, Gates did not disappoint. He finished with a team-high 14 total tackles, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry.
“We believe in DeMarquis. He has played a lot of ball this year and I think he has kind of been waiting on his opportunity to play more snaps,” Freeze said. “He had a solid game for sure. He’s going to be a good player.”
Gates was all smiles entering the team room after the win. He wasn’t too concerned about finishing with the best stat sheet or making a highlight-reel play; he was more focused on being a team player.
And if his name is called for next week’s Egg Bowl showdown with Mississippi State in Starkville, Gates will be ready to hit the field once again.
“If you’re sitting second on the depth chart, if something happens you have to be ready,” Gates said. “So, it wasn’t an ‘I have to get ready’ because I’m ready. I already got my plays down. It’s just like another number one stepping in. So, that’s how I play my game.”
- Senior LB Christian Russell collected his first career interception.
- Freshman DB Zedrick Woods grabbed his first career interception.
- Senior DB Mike Hilton had nine tackles and a TFL. He entered the game leading all SEC defensive backs in tackles for loss this season.
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics