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Hugh Freeze wants Ole Miss to tighten run gaps against Vanderbilt

Hugh Freeze wants Ole Miss to tighten run gaps against Vanderbilt

OXFORD, Miss. – Entering this evening’s game in Nashville, Vanderbilt ranks 14th in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards, but its running game has provided a little better results. After watching film on the Commodores, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze realizes his defense will have to fit every run gap.

Vanderbilt has used two running backs this season in Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame. Webb has rushed for a team-best 935 yards, which ranks fourth in the SEC, to go along with his seven rushing touchdowns. Blasingame leads the team with eight TDs.

Freeze wants the Landshark defense to stop the run and put the Commodores in some uncomfortable situations.

“That’s what they want to do, for sure. They have had more success throwing this year in some games. It’s not that they can’t throw it, but there’s no doubt that’s what they want to do. We’ve got to come up with a great plan to stop some of those explosive runs and win first downs. I think that’ll be a critical stat in this game to put them in situations where they might not be as comfortable calling some of those runs.”

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

Scouting the Commodores

If the Commodores are forced to go through the air, they may have problems moving the chains. Vanderbilt’s sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur has thrown only five touchdowns compared to his six interceptions. For the season, Shurmur has passed for 1,562 yards while completing 55.5 percent of his passes.

The Commodores head into Saturday night’s matchup (7:00 p.m. CT, SEC Network) riding a two-game losing streak to SEC opponents Auburn and Missouri, both losses coming on the road. As for the Rebels, they have tons of confidence to play off of after their first league road win this season over then-No. 8 Texas A&M.

“It was good to get that win,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Dave Wommack said.

“Everybody in the locker room was excited, coaches and players, everybody. We needed it. We really needed it going on the road, actually the first road victory of the year. I don’t know how long it’s been since it’s taken that long into the season to get a road victory, but we got one against a very quality football team, and we’ve got to build on it.”

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack

Seeking bowl eligibility

Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4 SEC) is one away from bowl eligibility. Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5) is, somewhat, in the same boat as the Rebels, except the Commodores must win their final two games — against Ole Miss and Tennessee — to become bowl eligible for the first time under third-year head coach Derek Mason. The last time th eCommodores and for the first time since the 2013-14 season when Vanderbilt defeated Houston 41-24 in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Wommack expects the Commodores to come out and play with a lot of energy, and possibly change some things up offensively.

“They always have a little bit of change and a couple of packages they run. They run 15 different personnel packages. That’s a lot to get ready for. They always have a couple of new wrinkles each game, flavor of the week if you will. They spend time on it, so I expect that to continue, yes.”

Dave Wommack

Other notes

  • This evening’s meeting is the 91st between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt dating back to 1894.
  • The Rebels lead the series 50-38-2 and have won 16 of the last 23 meetings since 1992.
  • Ole Miss leads 50-20-2 in SEC games against the Commodores. Vanderbilt won the first 19 games in the series, with Ole Miss having won 50 of the last 71 meetings and each of the last three.
  • The Commodores are the first unranked SEC opponent for the Rebels this season.

Bowl streak

A win over Vanderbilt would make Ole Miss bowl eligible for the fifth straight season under Hugh Freeze. The last time the Rebels made five straight bowl appearances was when they earned a berth in a then-national best 15 straight seasons from 1957-71.

(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

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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