The Ole Miss defense is currently last in the SEC in total defense and near the bottom in QB sacks, which is surprising to senior DT D.J. Jones, but he isn't making any excuses.
"We have had our chances to have a lot of sacks and to do better things on defense, but we haven't finished plays the way we should and the way I know we are capable of finishing," he stated. "We have seven regular season games left and it's time for us to step up. Our back seven has gone through some growing pains and has had to grow up, but I think they have hung in there, gotten better and are ready for the stretch run.
"As for the quarterback sacks, our opponents are sliding protections to me and Marquis (Haynes) and doing quite a bit of max protecting, but we've still had opportunities we have not capitalized on. Hopefully, from this point on, we will be able to stop the run and pressure the quarterback more effectively. Those are always our goals up front. If we do that, I now have confidence our back end will take care of their business like they did against Memphis."
But this week's opponent is Arkansas and the Hogs have a quality QB in Austin Allen and a scheme that has been difficult for the Rebs to deal with the past couple of years, replete with screens, bootlegs, play-action and a lot of crossing routes and pick routes.
"He's a dangerous quarterback. If you give him time, he will pick you apart," continued Jones. "They run a lot of screens and that's something all 11 of us on defense have to recognize and react to quickly."
It was sniffing out a screen against Memphis that allowed D.J. to get his first career interception.
"Memphis' offensive line was giving away the screen, so I just followed the running back to the flat, Marquis got pressure on their quarterback and I was waiting on the throw. I had to dive to catch it. If I ever get another chance, I'd like to keep my feet and have a run back," he smiled.
At Monday's press conference, everyone said last year's game with Arkansas, a 53-52 overtime loss, was, well, just that - last year's game, over and done.
"The way last year's game ended will motivate me. We thought we had it won and we were celebrating on the sidelines when we looked up and saw a desperation lateral, their RB pick it up and run for a first down when the game as over. Then we stopped the two-point conversion but had a facemask call," he explained. "Gut-wrenching, but give them credit - they went for the win, went for two, and got it. They played one more play than we did and won the game.
"It's not something I will easily forget because it probably kept us out of Atlanta. I try not to remember, but I do because it was such an up and down emotional rollercoaster. It's not about revenge - they played hard and played well and won, but for me it is about erasing a bad memory."
So D.J. has some goals for this week in Fayetteville.
"Like I said, we are a better defense than last in the SEC and we need to start showing that," he closed. "We need more pressure, we need more sacks and we need to create more turnovers. I think we are headed in the right direction the last two games (Georgia and Memphis) but Arkansas will be a great test to see if I'm right.
"No excuses. We have to get the job done."