Hits Keep Coming

Trae Elston has been involved in some terrific defensive plays since he's been at Ole Miss. Obviously a dependable player the Rebels have counted on, the sophomore from Oxford, Ala., has also had a few difficult moments.

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Especially so when it comes to making sure a tackle is made within the current rules. Last season against UTEP as a freshman, Elston made what appeared to be a great play late. But the Southeastern Conference suspended him for the next game because they felt it was a targeting type situation as Elston hit the receiver higher on his body than conference officials thought was necessary.

Now that the NCAA has cracked down on targeting, every game seems to have a play or two that the rule is enforced. Against Texas A&M last week, it happened to Elston again. He knew it immediately, and put his hands to his own head in disgust. There was a 15-yard penalty, but Elston's immediate ejection was overturned and he was allowed to stay in the game.

Elston is a player, and instinct is a big part of any successful player's game. So he goes out and tries to make plays as best he can.

"I really don't think about it. It just becomes habit," he said, although admitting he certainly wants to play within the rules. "Our coaches help us out to stop the targeting."

Elston said his reaction Saturday was also instinctive.

"I knew when I hit him that the crowd got excited, then the crowd died on me," he said. "So I knew something bad was going to happen. That's the first thing I was thinking. I just got a little frustrated."

After the game Saturday, a tough 41-38 loss for Ole Miss, head coach Hugh Freeze was asked about the rule.

"I don't like it at all," he said of the portion of the targeting situation which, when they reverse the ejections, still results in yards marched off against a team. "It just doesn't feel right if they say it wasn't targeting for us to lose yards in penalties. I'm not in favor of them saying it wasn't (targeting) and you still get penalized. But nobody is (in favor of that), and certainly they'll revisit it after the year."

Elston has heard some of those same things and is hopeful.

"I think they will," he said of studying the rule after the season. "Maybe the rule will be overturned and the penalty will be pulled back. That's what I heard. But I don't know for sure."

Ole Miss has a lot of walking wounded on defense this week. That has been well documented since last Saturday. Elston knows those who can will go all out against LSU.

Trae Elston
Ben Garrett

"Hopefully our guys can get healthy. We're just trying to play with the guys we've got now, and hopefully the other guys will come back," he said. "I know the coaches will give us a good game plan. They have great receivers with great speed. We just have to try to stop them. (Odell) Beckham has great speed and (Jarvis) Landry has good hands, good routes. So we've just got to stop them."

Elston said the Rebels still believe in what they are doing and that they can win, even though after a 3-0 start they stand 3-3.

"Our confidence level is always good going into every game," he said. "We've got to fit our gaps and do the right things, and we'll see how the game ends in the fourth quarter. It's been tough. But our team has stuck together. If we stick together, I think we'll be good."

He also said he believes the depth on the team will allow the Rebels to continue to have a chance to win any game they play.

"Our backups, second string and third string, are good," Elston said. "So I don't feel it puts more pressure on us, because we believe in our defensive linemen and linebackers. I think we are improved. I think our secondary has been great and been way better (than last year). I think that's been really good for us."

LSU is a game he looks forward to this weekend, and also for an additional reason. One of his close friends from high school, Tiger sophomore linebacker Kwon Alexander, is a key player for the Tigers.

"We talk all the time. We always give each other encouragement to keep working, keep grinding," Elston said. "I'm real close to his dad, so his dad called me to see if I was OK when I went down (last week). I look at him as like a father figure in my life.

"We grew up in the same neighborhood. We started playing together in middle school ball. We're like best friends. I hope Kwon plays good, but I hope we win."

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