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OXFORD, Miss. – While the Ole Miss defense has prepared this week to face either of Arkansas’ two quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Cole Kelley or senior Austin Allen — the Rebels have also worked on stopping the Hogs’ run game.
Head coach Matt Luke addressed the importance of the defense keeping its confidence, saying: “The way you do it is we have to be consistent and do the right thing over and over.”
“Look, if you do it right, you can stop it. You have to fit the right gap and be in the right spot. The way you gain confidence is you show the guys doing it right and say, ‘Hey, this is what it looks like when you do it right and do stop the run,’” he explained.
“I think they guys understand that if all 11 guys do their job, then we have a chance. That’s the way you get confidence.”
Head coach Matt Luke on Ole Miss defense remaining confident
Like Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, the Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4) are another SEC team with running backs who have the ability to break tackles and muscle their way into the open field.
Arkansas averages 160.7 yards per game on the ground and features a three-headed rushing attack. Dylan Hays, David Williams and Devwah Whaley all have 60 or more rushing attempts on the season and average around 45 yards per game apiece.
Freshman running back Chase Hayden is now out for the season with a lower-leg fracture suffered in the loss to Auburn. He had rushed for 326 yards and 4 touchdowns on 61 attempts for an average of 5.3 yards per carry this season.
Each back for Arkansas is averaging at least four yards per carry, not too far off from the 5.79 yards per carry the Rebels have given up so far this season. In seven contests, Ole Miss is giving up an averaging 260.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks 126th in the nation.
Luke sees the problem solving itself if the defense can make the rights reads and remain in the right position when the football snaps.
“We have to be right. We have to show up in the right gap, and everybody has to be in the right gap over and over again and be consistent,” he said.
“I think if we can get them into third-and-long and second-and-long, our athleticism will show up. But the big part is we have to show up in the right gaps consistently – everyone, all 11 guys doing their job.”
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff echoed Coach Luke’s comments on the importance of being in the right spot. “We have to be consistent and fit our gaps,” he said. “That doesn’t change because we change personnel.”
McGriff says one thing that is not in question, however, is the effort the defense is giving.
“If you look at Play 1 to Play 71, there is no quit. There is no question about their effort.”
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff
(Feature image credit: Mike Bedgood, The Rebel Walk)
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.