Landshark ‘going with the flow’: Rebels’ A.J. Finley looks ahead to LSU game
Sophomore defensive back A.J. Finley has all the skills necessary to be successful in the Ole Miss secondary. He has the speed, agility and instincts that have made him a leader for the Landsharks.
He also has another talent – he is a master of the understated. Especially about this Ole Miss season.
“I mean, 2020 has really been a year of uncertainty” Finley said. “So, really, it’s like anything happens now, I’m going with the flow.”
Going with the flow has been difficult for the Rebels this season. It is difficult to swim with the currents when the tides are changing with each day. Ole Miss is coming off another sudden off week after COVID-19 concerns paused the program for a week.
During that time, the players were left to their own devices to stay prepared.
“All we (the team) did was come up and do some (independent) stuff by ourselves,” Finley said. “We couldn’t see coaches or anything. We basically did stuff on our own.”
Finley’s work has transferred into success on the field this season. The Mobile, Ala., native leads the Rebels with three interceptions, and he has also broken up a team-best five passes.
He has also tallied 46 tackles, 28 of them of the solo variety.
His statistics could have been even more impressive, but Ole Miss had its game against No. 5 Texas A&M cancelled due to the virus. Apart from padding his stats, Finley knows that game could have continued to build momentum for Ole Miss which is riding a three-game winning streak.
“I was kind of frustrated (about the Texas A&M cancellation),” Finley said. “I really wanted to play them. That was going to be a big game for us.”
Getting ready for a rival
With the game in Bryan-College Station now gone with the wind, Ole Miss must turn its focus to a game at a heated rival, LSU. The Tigers have had a disappointing year coming off the 2019 national championship, but the Tigers showed their teeth last week with an upset of then-No. 7 Florida in Gainesville.
LSU should be tougher playing at home this week.
“I mean you always hear a lot of stuff about Death Valley. But I got to go in there and take it like another game; it’s always going to be a big game.”
Ole Miss DB A.J. Finley
It is going to be a big game for the Rebels, but they will not be experiencing quite the true essence of a game in Baton Rouge due to the restrictions of the number of fans allowed into the stadium. But that doesn’t matter to Finley.
“I don’t think it matters that much,” Finley said. “I feel like if I can go out and play football, it’s the same no matter the amount of fans. It’s still football so it’s the same.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin agreed with Finley that the number of fans does not matter all that much. What matters is the players on the field.
“Big challenge, (LSU has an) extremely talented team as always,” Kiffin said. “Even though it won’t be full, you’re still going into Baton Rouge, which is not an easy place to play ever. They’re coming off a great win where I don’t think many people gave them a chance. Huge challenge for us.”
Kiffin has told his team to take in the experience of this week’s game. A win at LSU is a memory that could overshadow some of the on-and-off-the-field setbacks.
“Just talked to them a lot this morning about the importance of the game,” Kiffin said.
“You’re going to remember the rest of your life if you go into Tiger Stadium and beat LSU. Nobody’s going to remember if it’s COVID or opt-outs or any of that stuff. Pretty neat. None of these guys have done that. This is a huge game and really important too. Besides beating LSU, I think all of you guys would’ve said that this was a successful season, after seeing the all-SEC schedule rollout, that you’re going to have a winning record, so it’ll be awesome.“
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
What the Rebels’ plans will be after the LSU game are, well to echo Finley, uncertain.