Hugh Freeze calls Arkansas “an extremely gritty football team” and says their toughness comes, in part, from the solid preparation by their coaching staff. The Razorbacks have gotten the best of Ole Miss in the past two seasons, and Freeze admits the Rebels will have to have an efficient game plan to end their two-game losing streak.
During his team’s bye week, Freeze paid attention to the Arkansas versus Alabama game and watched as Austin Allen threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns against the Crimson Tide defense.
Freeze also saw Allen get sacked seven times and throw three interceptions. Allen is second in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards (1,632) and has completed 63.64 percent of his passes.
“This guy (Austin Allen) is a heck of a competitor,” Freeze said of the former Fayetteville High standout. “He stands in there and takes hit after hit and continues to throw accurate balls—and he put up almost 500 yards on an Alabama defense, which is very, very good.”
In the last two games against the Razorbacks, Freeze’s defense had to deal with Austin Allen’s older brother, Brandon, at the quarterback position. After watching the Hogs play Alabama last Saturday, Freeze noticed a lot of similarities in the two.
“I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses,” Freeze said about the Allen brothers. “The ball goes to the right spot, it’s accurate. Just a really good player.”
Razorbacks tight ends are NFL-caliber
Outside of Austin Allen, Arkansas’ use of tight ends will be another area on which No. 12 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) will have to focus. In last season’s 53-52 overtime loss to the Razorbacks, the Rebels struggled to stop tight ends Drew Morgan, Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle. Morgan led the team with 122 receiving yards and three TDs on nine receptions. Henry had six catches for 60 yards; Sprinkle caught four for 39 yards.
Henry has graduated, but Sprinkle and Morgan are back for their senior seasons.
“They are NFL type tight ends that stretch you on both sides of the ball,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said of Morgan and Sprinkle. “Matchup-wise, putting a safety on those guys is difficult at times,” Wommack served as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator from 2001-04.
Arkansas will try to slow down Chad Kelly
While the 22nd-ranked Razorbacks (4-2, 0-2) have been steady on offense, their defense has been unpredictable. Arkansas has given up 19 offensive TDs and 398.2 yards per game.
The Razorbacks, who surrendered 517 total yards to the Crimson Tide last weekend, will be facing a Rebels team Saturday night (6 p.m., ESPN) that’s all about moving the chains.
Senior quarterback Chad Kelly has been the leader for Ole Miss on offense this season and Bret Bielema knows the Hogs’ defense will have its work cut out to stop the Rebels’ signal caller.
“I just know he’s very gifted, very talented,” Bielema said about Kelly, who’s third in the SEC in passing yards (1,596) and has completed 66.09 percent of his passes.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema on Chad Kelly
Ole Miss game notes:
- Saturday’s game will be the first since the 1970 Sugar Bowl that Ole Miss (No. 12) and Arkansas (No. 22) have both been ranked in the AP Top 25 at the time of their meeting.
- The Ole Miss defense has allowed two passing TDs this season, the fewest of any team in the country.
- Senior tight end Evan Engram leads all TEs in the nation with 30 catches and 479 receiving yards.
- Senior quarterback Chad Kelly has thrown a TD pass in 18 straight games, tying him for the fifth-longest active streak in the nation.
- The Rebels rank second in the SEC in scoring (41.6 ppg), third in total offense (490.4 ypg) and second in passing (333.4) ypg.
- Thirteen different Ole Miss receivers have caught a pass and nine different players have caught a TD this season.
- The Ole Miss defense is tied for fourth nationally with three defensive touchdowns.
- Of the 11 defensive backs on the current depth chart, five are freshmen–including both players at Rover, No. 1 Myles Hartsfield and No. 2 Deontay Anderson.
Ole Miss: Earlier this week, Freeze met with the local media and discussed the status of some of his players. Freshman running back D’Vaughn Pennamon missed the Memphis game with a hamstring injury. When asked about Pennamon, Freeze quickly said “I’m not going to talk about injuries. No offense, but after Monday, I don’t want to talk about injuries anymore. I used to say that all the time. He looked good today, though.”
Linebacker DeMarquis Gates was suspended prior to the Ole Miss – Memphis matchup for a violation of team standards. Freeze is treating Gates’ absence like an injury and will make a decision at game time on whether or not to play Gates.
Freeze did say Gates, who leads the Rebels in tackles (30), was on track to play.
Ole Miss worked with six different players at its two linebacker positions this week. Tayler Polk started in the place of Gates against the Tigers, finishing with six tackles.
Arkansas: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw will miss 4-6 weeks after having foot surgery following last weekend’s game against the Crimson Tide. Greenlaw entered the game against Alabama as the Razorbacks’ leading tackler.
Since Greenlaw’s absence, junior linebacker Dwayne Eugene has been working with the first-team defense. After Greenlaw went down against Alabama, he was initially replaced by freshman De’jon Harris. The updated depth chart on Monday listed Eugene or Harris as the starter at weakside linebacker.
Eugene entered the Crimson Tide game late, picking off Jalen Hurts in the third quarter.
Ole Miss and Arkansas face off at 6:00 p.m. (CT) Saturday in Fayetteville. The game will be televised by ESPN.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)