Nick’s Notes: No. 10 Rebels take improved defense, banged-up offense on the road to No. 18 Auburn
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss didn’t get long to enjoy the win over LSU as the Rebels face another tough challenge in SEC-West foe Auburn Saturday.
Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) will take a surging defense into Jordan-Hare, a unit that held LSU to 77 yards on the ground.
“In review of the game, really pleased with how our defense played,” head coach Lane Kiffin said this week. “They really did a good job stopping the run for a team last week that had run the ball extremely effectively against a really good Florida team. That was a big challenge for us, and it was great to see,” Kiffin added.
Coach Kiffin expects the Rebels to have their work cut out for them against the Tigers (5-2, 2-1 SEC).
“This team will be playing a very good Auburn team. (It will be a) good challenge this week to go on the road again for the third straight road game into a really hard place to play. It’s a game that’s put at night, which always makes it more difficult, so it’ll be very challenging for us. They have a quarterback that runs around and gives people a lot of problems, and a defense that’s limited most of the team’s that it’s played.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on playing Auburn
Rebel Defense Rising
Just how far has the Ole Miss defense come? Well, the Rebels only allowed 17 points against LSU Saturday, tied with the game versus Austin Peay for the fewest allowed this season.
Two defensive players were recognized by the SEC this week for their performance against the Tigers. Linebacker Chance Campbell was awarded SEC Defensive Player of the Week, while Sam Williams was awarded Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week.
“You feel a little bit better when you don’t see as many points on the board,” Campbell said.
“I think we would’ve liked to start and finish better, but we have a piece of that middle game that we can be pretty proud of. That’s a good feeling but not a comfortable feeling because we know if we don’t get the goal-line stand, that’s 14 points and the game is a little different.”
Linebacker Chance Campbell
Together, Campbell and Williams combined for 14 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.
Head coach Lane Kiffin talked about the contributions Williams is making.
“This is what we expected when he got here,” the Rebels’ head coach said. “We’d seen flashes of it as he had been very inconsistent. A big reason why he stayed for this year was to put together film and in that game (LSU) he did. If he would play like that, he would make a lot of money, because he played with relentless effort, made some great effort plays so hopefully he can just do that.”
In the game against the Tigers the Ole Miss defense looked about as good as it has all year — and a lot of that stemmed from the physicality the Rebels showed.
“Being physical, that’s a big part of our defense, we have physical players playing,” Kiffin explained. “That changes the game for everyone around you. It’s like when (Jake) Springer plays, I think we play different around him.”
Holding LSU to under 80 yards rushing is definitely an accomplishment. Ole Miss was able to switch up the scheme a little bit to help them defend the run.
“Yeah, we probably got a little bit safe, a little conservative against Arkansas,” Kiffin noted. “After that game, we kind of just said that we need to be a little more aggressive. I don’t think we had (Jake) Springer at that time. Our fronts are still based on the same thing, but we do bring some more people up to the ball.”
Banged Up Offense
Against LSU, the Rebels were down two starting wide receivers (Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo), starting guard (Ben Brown), and starting tight end (Chase Rogers). Thankfully, guard Caleb Warren returned after missing two games due to an ankle injury.
For Matt Corral, who has also playing through an injury suffered against Tennessee, it has not been easy to play without so many main components on the offensive side of the ball.
“I just get frustrated for Matt; he’s got all these pieces moving,” Coach Kiffin commented.
“All of a sudden you think you’ve got guys and then they get injured. I know what he could do with those main guys. We don’t want to talk about the Heisman, but you put on the tape and see what he deals with — he has to move around, has to make plays. For some other people who just stand back there for ten seconds, and everyone gets wide open, his job is a lot harder.”
Coach Kiffin on Matt Corral
With the injuries of Sanders and Mingo, Ole Miss has seen teams focusing their attention more on Dontario Drummond.
“That’s (against LSU) the first time this year that we said we’re going to move him to all three spots, left slot and right, through the game, and that slows us down.” Kiffin said of Drummond.
“Our tempo’s not the same as it’s been and it’s not what we’d want to have ideally. We wanted to make sure he got the ball because, I don’t have to read analytics to say this, the guy played 91 plays versus Tennessee and caught two passes. That’s not a very good ratio when he’s the best receiver out there, so we obviously needed to change that this week,” Coach Kiffin explained.
A Quick Look at Auburn
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is elusive and can be a headache for defenses if they don’t contain him. Kiffin talked about defending the athletic QB. “Basically, we have people like that, you have to stay in your lanes, you got to push the pocket, you have to keep your eyes on him and not try to speed rush,” Kiffin said.
It will be important for the Ole Miss defense to contain Nix and limit his ability to make plays with his feet.
On the other side of the ball, Auburn comes in with a defense that has been very solid. They are allowing 340.6 yards per game, 217.7 through the air and 122.9 on the ground. They are allowing an average of 19.7 points per game which ranks fourth in the SEC
Ole Miss and Auburn kick off at 6:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.