OXFORD, Miss. — Ask any marriage counselor the key to a successful relationship and chances are the answer will be communication.
Ole Miss junior linebacker MoMo Sanogo believes that is not only true for a married couple, but for 11 players roaming the field for the Landshark defense.
“That’s what we’re stressing and everybody, whether you communicate to the person you’re supposed to, just yell it out loud so everybody can hear; yell it loud so everybody can hear and everybody knows what you’re supposed to do,” Sanogo said in Monday’s weekly Ole Miss football press conference.
“That’s so important because even if you say it, it can fall on deaf ears, so just yell out what you’re doing every single play, what you’re playing so that everybody can be on the same page,” Sanogo continued. “Because at the end of the day, the way defense works, even if you play the wrong call, if everybody plays the wrong call, it’s right. You can survive the down and everybody is on the same page.”
WATCH: Here's what linebacker MoMo Sanogo has to say in Monday's Ole Miss football press conference. https://t.co/lPYjJXz8cz
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 19, 2020
Heading into the Arkansas game last week, the defense was not on the same page very often. In fact, they were not reading the same book. The Landsharks surrendered 51 points to Florida, 41 to Kentucky and 63 to Alabama.
That changed in Fayetteville.
Although the Razorbacks did put up points in the 33-21 Arkansas win, two of those touchdowns came on interception returns. Ole Miss did give up 394 total yards, but that was a vast improvement from the first three weeks of the season.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin liked seeing his defense step up its game.
“I think it (the defensive success) was a combination of playing better, getting more pressure on the quarterback,” Kiffin said. “Arkansas would tell you in their interviews they left a lot of stuff out there too. They helped us, some dropped passes and some missed assignments and some tipped throws and stuff. I think it was a combination and they would say they didn’t play their best and we did play better.”
Sanogo attributed that better play to, of course, communication.
“Just shoring up our assignments, making sure we are assignment sound, making sure everybody knows what their job is,” Sanogo said of the defensive unit’s performance. “Communicating (is the key) and when you do that good things happen.”
Good things happened for Sanogo against the Hogs. He tallied seven total tackles, four solo, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. (Oh, and he also notched a 47-yard run for a first down on a critical fake punt–see below.)
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 17, 2020
Same game, different players
Ole Miss experienced success on the defensive side, despite missing two starters and shuffling players – both newcomers and veterans – to multiple positions. The players in unfamiliar places were aided, again, by communication.
“In my perspective it’s kind of like every other week,” Sanogo, a Plano, Texas native said of the changing personnel.
“We’ve been doing a lot of different looks moving guys at different positions anyways, so guys have been put into the fire already multiple times this season so it’s just about responding like we have been. That’s how we approach it every week, figure out your job and communicate well and that’s how you move past these things. I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a challenge, those younger guys have been watching how the older guys handle that adversity, so I think they will be able to approach it well.”
Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo
Auburn will put the Landsharks’ communication skills to the test when the Tigers come to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for a Homecoming game Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Last week, Auburn was beaten by South Carolina 30-22 to fall to 2-2 and drop out of the national polls.
Quarterback Bo Nix threw for 272 yards and ran 15 times for 69 yards. Most of those rushing yards came out of scrambles when he simply ran out of time to pass. That tendency has caught the eye of Sanogo.
“What I’ve seen him (Nix) do on video is when he gets a lot of pressure in his face he’s looking to run,” Sanogo said. “So, I’m just putting the guy who likes to run in a situation where he has to sit back and throw it.”
Sanogo, who was on the Butkus Award watch list last season before being lost for the season with a severe ankle injury in the second game, boiled down what the Landsharks look to accomplish succinctly.
“Stop the run and make him (Nix) make bad decisions, that is the plan really,” Sanogo said.
If the defense can communicate that simple strategy effectively, it could be a happy Homecoming in Oxford this week.