Ole Miss Prepares for Surging Arkansas

The Ole Miss Rebels will begin preparations this week for another critical showdown in the Southeastern Conference against an Arkansas team that has knocked off two ranked opponents in a row.

Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) enters Saturday's contest with the Razorbacks (4-3, 2-3 SEC) after pulling out a 35-24 win over LSU on the road. Arkansas dismantled then No. 17 Auburn 42-17 at home.

"We are playing an Arkansas team that is outstanding in a lot of different areas," said Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe. "They have done an outstanding job of coaching and continuing to improve themselves. Offensively the present a lot of problems, because they are running two different styles of attacks. They are very multiple and aggressive on defense."

Arkansas switches between quarterback Matt Jones and Zak Clark throughout the course of the game and it has been effective for the Razorbacks. It's also a move that has Cutcliffe concerned for this weekend as it adds the threat of the option as well as a passing attack to the Arkansas offense.

"When Matt Jones comes into the game, he poses a threat to run the football," Cutcliffe said. "He has outstanding skills and instincts and is athletic. They have two different game plans it looks like on tape for the two different quarterbacks."

Jones was Arkansas' leading rusher against Auburn over the weekend, with 99 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Jones also threw a touchdown pass in the game against the Tigers. Quarterback Zak Clark completed 10 of 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Ole Miss' defense received a boost with the return of linebacker L.P. Spence, who recorded eight tackles, including two sacks and a fumble recovery against LSU. His play earned him Defensive Player of the Week Honors for the SEC.

The defense will be tested on Saturday, but Cutcliffe believes the team will be ready. The Rebels have gotten back to the basics, matching the personality of its coordinator in Don Lindsey.

"The players are having fun," Cutcliffe said. "They are flying around and having fun. One of the things we wanted to do was go back to having fun playing defense. Our practice sessions have a lot of intensity, because of him (Lindsey). He has brought many things to the defensive side of the football."

The Rebels hope to continue the solid offensive performance it has experienced in the past few games, as Ole Miss has continued to look to several outlets for its offensive production. Quarterback Eli Manning has thrown to more than five receivers each game while running back has been by committee between tailback Joe Gunn and fullbacks Charles Stackhouse and Toward Sanford.

The emergence of wide receiver Bill Flowers and tight end Doug Ziegler in the past two games have given added depth to an already deep receiving corps. Flowers has pulled in 10 passes for 128 yards, including two touchdowns in the past two games, while Ziegler has caught four passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns in the same time span.

The focus for the Rebels remains on what Ole Miss can do as a whole, though. Cutcliffe warns that his team is young and still learning a lot about itself, as well as what it can do as a team.

"We have to remember that we are a young team," Cutcliffe said. "Just because they have a certain number of snaps under their belt, they still haven't experienced what the last half of the season is like. They haven't experienced everything yet.

"Veteran players understand what the length of the season is in college football," Cutcliffe continued. "It's 11 games, 13 weeks of the regular season. It takes great intensity, focus and maturity."

The Rebels and Razorbacks will kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.


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