Ole Miss Still Has Shot At Bowl Game

FAYETTEVILLE -- Ole Miss still has a lot to play for this season, but will have to play a lot better to get the job done.

That's the opinion of first-year Rebels coach Ed Orgeron.

Ole Miss is 3-5 overall (1-4 in the Southeastern Conference) and still has a glimmer of hope to become bowl eligible.

That's what Orgeron is hanging his hat on and hopes his team is too, but knows it's still a tough assignment.

Ole Miss has beaten Memphis (10-6) on Sept. 5, The Citadel (27-7) on Oct. 8, and Kentucky (13-7) on Oct. 22.

Still left on the Ole Miss schedule is Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State.

Ole Miss, which was off last weekend, hosts Arkansas at 1 p.m. Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.

Orgeron said Monday he'll turn his spurting offense over to 6-foot-6, 218-pound junior quarterback Ethan Flatt.

That news comes a week after Arkansas named true freshman Casey Dick as its starter against South Carolina.

"Ethan had a lot of good work last week," Orgeron said. "I've decided we're going with Flatt. He will be my starting quarterback against Arkansas.

"Ethan's doing a good job of throwing the ball a little bit better than we've been seeing. He's been able to make some checks at the line of scrimmage. I just thought he operated better in our scheme.

"I believe he'll do a good job."

Essentially, Ole Miss quarterback Michael Spurlock, who had been the starter most of the season, wasn't getting the job done.

Against Auburn (in a 27-3 loss on Oct. 29 in Ole Miss' last game), Spurlock was 10 of 18 for 105 yards with 1 interception that set up an Auburn touchdown.

Flatt replaced him in the fourth quarter and was 11 of 17 for 81 yards. That has been the only game he's played in this season.

One of Flatt's primary receivers will be senior Mike Espy, who has caught 37 passes for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 10.2 average. That ranks sixth in the SEC. Espy, too, is ranked sixth in the league in punt returns with a 8.8 average. His long is 51 yards.

Right behind Espy on the receiving charts is Mario Hill, who has 28 catches for 455 yards and 2 TDs and a 16.2 per-catch average.

Freshman running back Mico McSwain leads the ground attack. He has 613 yards rushing for a 5.1 per-carry average. That ranks him eighth in the SEC.

Defensively, all eyes turn to Ole Miss junior linebacker Patrick Willis (6-2, 230) who leads the SEC in tackles with 90. He's averaging 12.9 tackles per game. He also has 3 sacks.

"First of all, I thought we'd be very good on defense, I wasn't sure about the offense," Orgeron said. "We haven't done that good on offense. I've been very disappointed in all phases of our offense."

Both Arkansas and Ole Miss are having offensive problems. The Rebels are 11th in the league in scoring offense (13.8). Arkansas is seventh (24.3)

Arkansas if fifth in total offense (385.4 yards per game). Ole Miss is 11th (301.1). The Rebels, too, have scored only 10 offensive touchdowns.

Flatt is no stranger to Arkansas. Last year in a 35-3 loss against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, he was 11 of 21 passing for 126 yards and no touchdowns.

Orgeron said beating Arkansas (2-6, 0-5) won't be an easy task.

"They are fifth in the country in rushing offense," Orgeron said. "They have a tremendous tailback in Darren MccFadden. I think they do an excellent job of picking up their blocking. They have a tremendous offensive line.

"They do a good job of running football.

"Defensively, they hit you. They come at you on almost every down. They have a tremendous defensive coordinator (Reggie Herring). We are expecting them to blitz us on almost every down to put defensive pressure on our quarterback.

"We'll have to do a great job of protecting him."

"We hope to move the football so it can open up our running game a little bit more. We have to do that in order to win."

And keep those slim bowl hopes alive.

"We still have some good opponents to finish out the season against," Orgeron said. "It won't be easy because we have three tough game ahead of us.

"Starting with Arkansas on Saturday."

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