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Hugh Freeze glad Rebels facing No. 15 Auburn at Vaught-Hemingway

Hugh Freeze glad Rebels facing No. 15 Auburn at Vaught-Hemingway

jb3_9602OXFORD, Miss. — After back-to-back losses on the road to Southeastern Conference foes, Ole Miss comes home this weekend with no time to dwell on the past. No. 15 Auburn will take the field at Vaught-Hemingway this evening (6:15 p.m., SEC Network) clicking on all cylinders.

Rebels’ head coach Hugh Freeze is just relieved the contest is in Oxford.

I am glad it is at home. We are glad to be back home in front of our fans in our stadium, and hopefully that will give us an extra amount of energy as we go in another SEC West battle.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC) enters yet another tough SEC West contest struggling both to put points on the scoreboard in the third quarter as well as limit explosive plays by its opponents. The Rebels have been outscored 57-3 in the third quarter in losses to LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Florida State this season.

Scouting the Tigers

The Tigers (5-2, 3-1), on the other hand, have outscored their opponents 55-26 in the third quarter.

“Auburn is an outstanding football team, maybe the best defense as far as points per game that we’ve seen,” Freeze said about the Tigers, who are one of six teams nationally to rank in the top 18 in both total offense (501.0 ypg) and total defense (328.0 ypg).

Only giving up 14 points a game is unheard of almost these days. You watch them on tape and you see why, and now their rushing game is back to what they’ve been known for, so they are an outstanding football team that will provide us another great challenge.

Hugh Freeze on Auburn’s defense

Kamryn Pettway runs during Auburn's win over LSU. (Photo credit: Bill Willson, The Anniston Star)

Kamryn Pettway runs during Auburn’s win over LSU. (Photo credit: Bill Willson, The Anniston Star)

Auburn’s stacked running attack will pose a challenge for an Ole Miss’ defense that’s giving up 226.9 rushing yards per game. Tigers’ running back Kamryn Pettway leads the SEC with 116.2 rushing yards per game and ranks in the top 30 nationally with 697 rushing yards.

Kerryon Johnson is second on the team in rushing yards (538).

“When we get the tempo going, especially being able to tempo and downhill run, we are at our best,” Auburn’s coach Gus Malzahn said.

Spread option offense clicking for Auburn

Part of Pettway and Johnson’s success on the ground has to do with the Tigers’ spread option offense. Ten different Auburn receivers have caught a pass of at least 20 yards, and eight different players have a 20-plus yard rush.

The Tigers’ offense is quite similar to the Rebels’ prolific offense orchestrated by senior quarterback Chad Kelly. Ole Miss is second in the SEC in scoring (37.0 ppg) and first in passing (305.4 ypg).

“It should help,” Freeze said about the similarities between the two offenses. “We certainly can make ours look very similar to theirs. We will go some good-on-good (in practice) to try to help with that. That could certainly help us prepare.”

Charles Wiley back with the team

Freeze announced on Wednesday that this is the first week back for freshman defensive end Charles Wiley, who was arrested on a domestic violence charge in July of this year. Charges were dropped last month. Wiley, however, has been battling a sprained ankle.

“He’s been running with the scout team. We’re excited about his future,” Freeze said. “We think he’s a special talent.”

Other notables

  • Auburn is the Rebels’ sixth top-25 opponent in eight games.
  • Ole Miss is 1-4 against ranked foes this year.
  • This is the Rebels’ fifth straight SEC game in which their opponent is nationally ranked.
  • This is the 41st meeting all-time between Ole Miss and the Tigers dating back to 1928.
  • Auburn leads the all-time series 29-11 overall and 10-3 in Oxford. Freeze is 2-2 against the Tigers.
  • The road team has won this matchup each of the last two years.

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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