Put Up Or Shut Up

Ole Miss OL Pierce Burton said it has just hit him that the battle with #8 Missouri Saturday night is his last home game. The senior OL is determined to end his home Rebel career with a bang.

"It hit me a few days ago. I hadn't really thought about it until then, but it's really put up or shut up time," said Burton, who chose to spend his last two years of collegiate ball in the Red & Blue. "We have to win this last home game for the seniors, for sure.

"I want the taste in the mouth of Rebel Nation for this senior class, in our last game in Oxford, to be a good one."

Burton, you'll recall, came to Ole Miss from JUCO and says his bet on himself has paid off.

"I wanted to be one of the best tackles in the country and the only way to do that was to play against the best. I knew that meant the SEC," Burton noted. "Ole Miss gave me the best opportunity to start, to play in the SEC at a school I love and to play in the kind of environment I thought Coach (Hugh) Freeze would create and which he has created."

In order for the Rebels to come out on top, however, Burton and his cohorts on the offensive front are going to have to play, perhaps, the best game of their careers.

Missouri's defensive attack starts up front.

The Tigers have 34 quarterback sacks on the year. Thirty-two of those have come from their four-man front, led by DE Michael Sam, who Burton will be on most of the night and who leads the SEC with 10 QB sacks.

"They are really good. They do a lot of movement, which will be a unique challenge to us," said Burton. "It's not like I am just blocking a DE lined up in front of me all the time. They slant and twist and even do run-game twists on first down, which we have only seen against SEMO.

"Michael Sam is really good. He's strong and he's quick. We will have to play with great technique. We will play hard, that's a given, but we have to be sharp with the little things and technique against guys like Sam. Their whole DL will be a challenge to us because of all the movement, but I think we are better prepared for the challenge because I think we are all on the same page now. "

Pierce Burton
USA TODAY images

Burton is confident the Rebel OL, led by OL Coach Matt Luke, will have a good scheme for the Tiger DL.

"Coach Luke has a great understanding of what works and doesn't work. I think that shows if you watch what we do against people as an OL and what other OLs do. We will have a solid plan up front for Missouri. It will be up to us to execute," Burton stated. "There's no doubt we are well-coached and prepared each and every week. As I said, it's up to us to see it through."

Burton feels the Rebel OL will be ready for the challenge. After struggling a bit around midway in the season, the Rebel offensive line has improved drastically, by his estimation.

"We have improved by leaps and bounds to me," Burton added. "Especially in the run game. Basically, when we run the football, we do well and usually win.

"Against Auburn and Alabama, we didn't run the ball well and we lost. We will have to run the ball against Missouri to give ourselves a chance. I think we are doing a better job with double teams and that has helped. We have better continuity. We are also in better game shape as the season has progressed. Coach (Paul) Jackson had us in great shape coming into the season, but game shape is different. We are now in game shape, in my opinion."

The one area of concern lately has been too many false starts. After five in the first quarter against Troy last Saturday, the Rebs didn't have any the final three quarters. Problem solved?

"We've got it fixed now, but we were getting off the ball faster than Evan (Swindall) was able to snap it. That's our fault. We've also had one or two where there was some miscommunication with Bo (Wallace)," he said. "We just can't anticipate the snap or the cadence as much.

"I think we've got it now and don't anticipate it being a problem from here on out. We will continue to work on that hard this week in practice."

Last time around for this senior class, including Pierce Burton, at The Vaught. . . Ole Miss versus Missouri.

Big time.

"Coach Luke said something the other day that made me feel good. He said this senior class is leaving the program better than when we came in here and that's what we all wanted to do, but our job is not complete," Burton closed. "We have to finish off these last two games and leave a legacy here.

"It's important to us and it's important to have our heads held high after our final game in front of our fans."

Like Burton said, it's put up or shut up time, at least in regards to the Missouri game and the final curtain call for this senior class in Oxford.

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