With several starters hurt but expected to play, such as Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt on defense and left tackle Laremy Tunsill on offense, the Rebels should be fired up to get back on the winning track on Saturday night. To do that they will have to take down an explosive Auburn attack led by quarterback Nick Marshall and a load of offensive weapons. Very familiar with Gus Malzahn and his system, Ole Miss coach Huge Freeze said the first order of business for his defense is obvious.
“Controlling 14 and those big receivers for sure,” Freeze said on the keys to handling Auburn's offense. “The minute you commit too many people to controlling him they’ve got guys that can make you pay and pay with explosive plays. Gus has always done a great job of trying to disguise his looks with motion and shifts.
“He does a great job with 'eye candy' and things that can get your eyes in bad positions. That can cause you to make mistakes and give up explosive plays. Our goal will be to remain steady and disciplined and hopefully not give up any explosive plays.”
Not allowing big plays has been a strength for the Rebels’ defense this season, allowing a total of just eight plays of more than 30 yards. On the other hand Auburn has 37 offensive plays of more than 20 yards this season with 18 going for more than 30 yards. Malzahn said it’s a staple of his offense and it’s a must when facing a defense like Ole Miss.
"They don't give up a bunch, and we're at our best when we get some explosive plays,” Malzahn said. “Against a very good defense, you're going to have to have explosive plays to be successful. That'll be a big key, too.”
Not clicking on all cylinders in the previous two road games, Malzahn said that will be important this weekend against an Ole Miss team that will have a big homefield advantage on a Saturday night in Oxford. Still very much in the hunt for the college football playoffs despite last week’s loss, Freeze said the Rebels are fired up about being back at home in another big game.
“We embrace the opportunity to go and compete against them,” the coach said. “We're excited about it and I think our kids will put behind the disappointment of last week and move forward to this one.”