One Day Closer

The football season seems to have flown by, but this week, with the much-anticipated match with No. 8 ranked Missouri looming, seems to be creeping. The Rebs resumed preparations for the Tigers in the stadium Wednesday afternoon on a sunny, crisp day in Oxford.

With another practice day in the books, the week leading up to the SEC battle with Missouri is now officially half over.

Three days and counting. Tick, clock, tick.

"We've got a lot to prepare for with all the looks Missouri presents on both sides of the ball, but I feel our guys are anxious to play," said Coach Hugh Freeze after Wednesday's practice in the stadium. "We'll all be glad when Saturday gets here, but we've got some more work to do before then."

Concerning Wednesday's work, Freeze was pleased.

From the limited time allowed the media to view practice, it appears the Rebels are in focus mode.

"I thought we had great energy and the coaches had them prepared for a good practice. It makes me feel better after a slow start yesterday, even though we finished strong yesterday as well," said Freeze. "The challenge with Missouri is tough enough. We don't need to add poor practices on top of that. I feel good about today."

One of the key matchups Saturday will be the Rebs' OL versus the Tiger DL.

"Just like most weeks in this league, it will be a great test," Freeze continued. "They have had great success stopping the run and getting pressure on the passer. They are very balanced in being able to stop the run and sacking the QB.

"It is hard to simulate their defensive ends in practice. They are big, strong, fast and they play extremely hard."

Missouri has registered 34 QB sacks this year and have been able to do that with very little blitzing.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

"They haven't had to. They can play coverage and leave the pressure up to their front four. That is one of the main reasons they also have 17 interceptions," Freeze elaborated. "That's a tough combination."

This year, the Tiger offense has been able to give the defense nice leads, forcing opposing offenses to play catch up and throw the ball a lot.

"That plays right into their hands. Obviously, them feeding off their offense has helped their defense," Freeze closed.

Random Notes:

* Freeze has mentioned numerous times that it is imperative for the Rebels to establish a run game against the Tigers. Granted, statistics don't tell the whole story, but that may be easier said than done. The Tigers are allowing a meager 111.9 yards a game on the ground. Part of that low total can be attributed to Missouri building big leads most of the season and opposing teams having to abandon the run and pass a lot in catch up mode. But part of it can be attributed to a very talented front four that has had success controlling the run while taking an attack approach. The scouting report on the Missouri defense is that their talented front is very aggressive and the back seven is instructed to keep everything in front of them and play "soft" in their coverages. The test is simple - can the Rebel OL block the front four to generate a run game and will the Rebs be patient in their passing game? While the DL's pressure has had a hand in several of Missouri's 17 interceptions on the year, a good portion of them have been caused by their baiting tactics. They give up the short routes, betting teams will, sooner or later, get greedy and try to go deep. That's when they have had most of their takeaways. When opposing offenses do show patience and drive to the Red Zone, that's when the Tigers tighten their coverage and their front four becomes even more aggressive in their pass rush and run defense approach. They don't, or haven't so far this season, blitz much. They have that much faith in their front four.

* DE John Youngblood returned to practice yesterday after sitting out last week with a concussion. Unfortunately, it appears he injured his knee in Wednesday's practice. The extent of the injury is not know at this time but he had to be helped off the field and was grimacing in pain. If he cannot go, look for D.T.Shackelford and Temario Strong to play major roles at DE, as they did against Troy, against Missouri.

* Senior CB Charles Sawyer, who is struggling with a quad pull, was a no-show at practice again. Freeze said after Tuesday's practice that if Charles did not return to practice Wednesday, it would be difficult for him to contribute a lot based on lack of preparation time for everything Missouri does in their passing game. His questionable status just moved to doubtful and bordering on out.

* This will be the last home game for seniors Dehendret Collins, Sawyer, Jeff Scott, Jordan Holder, Terrell Grant, Barry Brunetti, Brishen Mathews, Robert Ratliff, Will Martin, Korvic Neat, Mike Marry, Justin Bigham, Cameron Whigham, Evan Swindall, Emmanuel McCray, Pierce Burton, Jared Duke, Patrick Junen, Dylan Dyer, Jack Nuismer, Ja-Mes Logan, Chris Conley, Andrew Ritter and Tyler Campbell. (Shackelford is listed as a senior, but has the option to return via a medical redshirt in 2014 should he choose to do so.) This is a senior class that has lived the highs and the lows of college football, but their legacy is their part in leaving the program better than when they came here and leaving a program on the rise. Thanks, guys.

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