Razor Sharp

Ole Miss and Arkansas meet for the 57th time Saturday at 11:21 a.m. Go inside for a detailed notebook, including updates with senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix.

Jeremiah Masoli speaks to the media twice a week – once during the practice schedule and again after games.

And almost every week, the questions are similar. He's usually asked of Ole Miss' upcoming opponent, how he's adjusted to life as a starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference and how comfortable he is in running the offense.

He's grown accustomed to it, though he would rather divert attention away from himself. It's the eighth weekend of the season, his seventh as the team's starting quarterback. His only concern these days is helping the Rebels, 3-3 (1-2 SEC) reach bowl eligibility.

"I'm kind of disappointed. We should have a better record, first and foremost, and some better numbers through the air," he said. "Just some miscues we've had here and there that we can't have anymore. It's making us focus a little bit better this week."

Jeremiah Masoli

Ole Miss travels to No. 21 Arkansas Saturday. Of course, Masoli has ties to the Razorbacks, so he remains a part of the storyline. After his only season at San Francisco junior college, he took an official visit to Fayetteville. He ultimately signed with Oregon, where he would become a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"It was nice. I liked it a lot – the area, the people, the coaches. It was nice," Masoli said. "I only had four offers at the time. I took a trip to Arkansas and Auburn and made my decision."

Arkansas (4-2, 1-2) has a different look than when he visited in April of 2008. Now the Razorbacks feature decorated quarterback Ryan Mallett and an offense ranked second in the conference. Arkansas averages 480 yards per game.

Defensively, the Razorbacks sit seventh in scoring defense, which includes their most recent loss to Auburn, when they surrendered 65 points. Arkansas currently ranks fifth in total defense.

"It seems like they play a lot of man," Masoli said. "They leave receivers out there, kind of on an island. It's going to be another big challenge for us. Auburn did a great job game-planning, and (Auburn quarterback) Cam Newton definitely made some big plays."

Newton rushed for well over 150 yards against the Razorbacks. Masoli, also a scrambling quarterback, could have multiple opportunities to use his feet.

"If it's there, I'm definitely going to capitalize on it, but if not, we're just going to have to execute our offense," he said.

Nix, defense ready for high-powered Arkansas offense:

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has a rather simple explanation as to how Arkansas has racked up points this season, including 43 in a loss to Auburn Saturday.

"They're good," he said.

Simple, sweet and accurate.

The Razorbacks have scored no less than 20 points in any game this season and topped the 40-point plateau twice. Mallett, who Nix described as a potential Top 10 selection in the NFL Draft, leads the conference with 1,844 yards passing and 14 touchdowns.

Tyrone Nix

But Nix said the greatest strength of the Rebels' upcoming opponent is in its role players. Knile Davis leads Arkansas with 294 yards rushing, while Greg Childs has 37 receptions for 527 yards and five scores.

"They're a high-powered offense," Nix said. "If you go back and look at their statistics, I don't know who's kept them under 400 yards. You're talking about a quarterback who's potentially a Top 10 pick. Not only him, but the backup (Tyler Wilson) comes in (against Auburn) and fires away.

"They have quality players. They have quality quarterbacks, quality running backs and quality receivers. And they understand the scheme. They've got a good offense."

Last season, Ole Miss was able to contain Mallett and the Razorback air show through consistent pressure by its defensive line. Mallett, who has broken or tied 34 stadium or program records, was routinely forced out of the pocket, handcuffing his ability to find receivers downfield in a 30-17 Ole Miss win.

"I think it's critical on any quarterback," Nix said of pressure. "You have to have the ability to pressure them with a four-man rush, a three-man rush and blitz when necessary. That's what we'll try to do. We'll try to keep it mixed. Whatever's working, we'll try to do a lot of."

Ole Miss had mostly struggled in getting to the quarterback this season. But against Alabama, a 23-10 loss, the Rebels managed seven tackles for loss, including four sacks, two forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries.

"I thought it was better; looked like we made them uncomfortable at times," Nix said. "It's all 11 guys. The DBs have to cover a little bit better, make them hold it a little longer, and then the rush gets there. Sometimes the coverage may not be as good, but the rush gets there a little faster. They all work together. They work hand-in-hand. That's what we stress to them. It's all 11 guys on the same page."

Some of the defense's improvement can be credited to the steady play of sixth-year senior LaMark Armour. Armour, originally a defensive tackle, moved to defensive end for his first career start. He responded with a career-high six tackles.

"I thought he did well," Nix said. "I didn't see many major breakdowns. He helped us in the running game. I think he applied pressure a couple of times in the passing game. For the most part, we were happy with his production. We expect more."

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