Tigers Wrap Up Preparations For Ole Miss

Comments from Gus Malzahn and news and notes are featured as the Tigers prepare for Saturday night's home game vs. the Ole Miss Rebels.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Gus Malzahn put his Auburn football team through workout on Thursday evening polishing the game plan for Saturday's SEC West showdown vs. the 24th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels.

The Tigers worked out for one hour in 20 minutes in shorts preparing for Saturday's 6 p.m. CDT kickoff.

There is a 20 percent chance for rain on Saturday, but the Tigers will keep a close eye on the weather forecast with tropical storm Karen in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the forecasts project the storm is headed toward the Auburn area, although current forecasts predict that Karen's arrival would not happen until Sunday

Auburn struggled in wet conditions in its last outing, falling behind LSU 21-0 in the rain at Baton Rouge. When the rain stopped in the second half Auburn outscored LSU 21-14.

Both teams bring 3-1 overall records into the contest and are 1-1 in league play. The Rebels opened the season with a 39-35 victory at Vanderbilt before defeating Southeast Missouri State 31-13 and Texas 44-23. Last week Coach Hugh Freeze's team was blanked 25-0 Alabama.

With a victory Ole Miss would improve to 4-1 for the first time since the 2002 season. The Rebels are in the Top 25 for a fourth straight week, the longest streak since six consecutive weeks in 2009.

Saturday's game will be the first head-to-head matchups of Freeze and Malzahn, who in addition to being friends they were also head coaches at Arkansas State. Freeze held that post for the 2011 season and was replaced by Malzahn in 2012 after Freeze was hired by Ole Miss.

Malzahn noted their relationship goes back to 1999 when both were in the high school ranks with Malzahn coaching in the state of Arkansas and Freeze in the Memphis area. Both coaches are running similar offenses with spread formation and pace being a big part of what they do.

Auburn's coach said that the Rebels are probably more passing oriented than his Tigers, who he noted will be facing an athletic defense on Saturday night. "They are very aggressive," Malzahn said. "They get after you. They have had a lot of negative plays.

"I am definitely concerned about the negative plays," Malzahn added. "We are not only going to have to protect our quarterback, we are going to have to keep them out of the backfield on running downs, too."

Auburn's coach added that "big plays" by the offenses will go a long way toward determining the winner because both the Tigers and Rebels thrive on them when they have the football.

"We have to find a way to get first downs," Malzahn said. "When we get first downs we can play fast and keep the chains moving."

One of the players praised by Malzahn for performing well through Auburn's first four games is sophomore Josh Holsey, who made the move from cornerback to safety at the end of spring drills.

Commenting on what he has seen from the Rebels, Holsey said, "They are a really good offense. They have a really good receiving corps, really fast running backs. They try to get a lot of east and west. They don't really like running north and south.

"Their offense is really similar to our offense, though, so we have really seen a lot of things they do on tape is the same thing our offense was doing in team camp and in the spring," Holsey added. "We are going to be really prepared for what they come in here and try to do."

Holsey is expected to be rejoined in the secondary this week by senior cornerback Chris Davis, who has been sidelined since the second half of game two when he suffered an ankle injury.

"Chris is a leader," Holsey said. "Whenever Chris is on the field you get an extra spark on that island over there. You know that teams really don't like to throw his way because he's really a lockdown corner.

Josh Holsey has 14 tackles and two pass deflections this season.

"With him coming back I'm sure it's going to give the defense a little more motivation and with him being back, that leadership," Holsey noted. "That also helps a lot with him being over there."

Holsey said the return of two other defensive players, senior end Craig Sanders and sophomore cornerback Jonathan Jones, will also bolster the defense this week. Sanders started the first three games before missing the LSU contest with an ankle injury.

Craig Sanders makes a tackle in last season's loss at Ole Miss.

Jones suffered an ankle injury in preseason and has yet to see game action. He started three times last fall as a true freshman and played in eight other games. The cornerback, who suffered a cracked bone when he slipped on steps back in August, has been moving well in practices since Auburn's off-week workouts last week.

In other news and notes:

*Tickets are still available for Saturday's game at Jordan-Hare Stadium that will be televised on ESPNU. Clay Matvick doing the play by play, Matt Stinchcomb is the analyst and Dawn Davenport is the sideline reporter.

*Satellite radio coverage of the game is available on Sirius 139 and XM channel 198.

*Auburn coaches will be wearing a Coach to Cure Muscular Dystrophy patches on their shirts at the Ole Miss game.

*Going into the Ole Miss game the Tigers are ranked in the Top 10 nationally in just one team statistical category. AU's average of 31.86 yards per kickoff return is fourth. The Tigers are 49th in total offense at 439.5 yards per game. They are giving up the exact number of yards they are gaining, which puts Auburn 97th in total defense.

*Ole Miss is averaging 28.5 points per game, which matches Auburn's total. The Rebels are giving up 24 points per contest compared to 22.0 for the Tigers.

*Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace goes into the game with 3,801 passing yards, which ranks eighth in Ole Miss history. He is seventh in career touchdown passes with 26.

*Ole Miss senior running back Jeff Scott is sixth in Ole Miss history for career rushing yards with 2,162 and fourth in all-purpose yards with 3,465.

*Cody Parkey heads into Saturday's game with seven consecutive makes on field goal attempts. The senior is averaging 1.8 field goals made per game, which ranks 13th nationally. His career field percentage of .775 is third in school history behind Scott Etheridge's .791 from 1992-93 and Matt Hawkins, whose .788 mark was put together in 1994-95.

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