Ray Ray Smith and DeMarquis Gates

Wommack hopes the Egg Bowl shows a different result for Rebel defense

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack does not have a lot of pleasant memories when it comes to the performances of his defense this season, but he's hoping for a reversal of fortune against Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl Saturday.

Dave Wommack has had a tough season so far.

The Rebel defense that he is in charge of is not performing to standards he is used to, but he continues to burn midnight oil as he gets another bite at the apple, this time trying to stop rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl Saturday after a meltdown last Saturday against Vanderbilt in a game that literally made him sick to review.

"I wanted to throw up when watching that film," he said. "We executed poorly, we lined up poorly a bunch of times and the energy level wasn't what it usually is with our group. It was embarrassing.

"When Gates went out of the game, we could not get any communication right and we just could not get our calls communicated or executed. Vandy did a lot of shifting and scattering and we just could not get lined up right. Like I said, it was embarrassing."

So what does he think of MSU's offense?

"They went up and down the field against Arkansas. They had 42 points, ran it effectively and Nick Fitzgerald, their QB, ran the ball really well," said Wommack. "I think they had well over 500 yards of total offense. Arkansas just outscored them. (QB) Nick (Ftizgerald) threw the ball better than he has all year.

"He is getting better by the week and their offensive coaches call a lot of quarterback runs in their offense. He carries the ball a lot and is good at it and I think he has gotten better at his reads and throws. I see weekly improvement from him."

Wommack also respects their running backs.

"They have used several different guys in there, but I think Shumpert and Williams and Holloway all do nice jobs. But Fitzgerald has 60 more carries than any of their backs, so we know that will be a staple for them," he noted. "Any time you run the quarterback, it gives them one more blocker and that creates problems for any defense. You have to be able to account for more blockers and really be tuned in on your assignments."

LB DeMarquis Gates will be suspended for a targeting call in the second half of the Vandy game for a half in the Egg Bowl, so what is the plan without him?

"You just have to get the others ready, get things schemed up right, hope you are ready to play and be successful," Wommack added. "I'm also hoping Issac Gross is going to be OK. He's a little hobbled, but we have time for him to heal some."

Wommack was asked about the young safeties and their progress.

"The simpler teams to line up against like Texas A&M, we have done OK, but the teams that have shifted and motioned and scattered, we have not done a good job with," he explained. "They are not poor tacklers. They are good tacklers, they just have not been able to get to where they are supposed to be as consistently as they should against teams that move their personnel around."

Running quarterbacks have given the Rebels fits this year. Hurts at Alabama, Francois at FSU were the most prominent. Fitzgerald seems to be cut out of that same cloth.

"We have to get our guys honed in, lined up and focused because the Bulldog offense can be formidable when they are doing things properly," Wommack closed.

For the Rebels to end the regular season with a good taste in their mouths, the Ole Miss defense has to step up and there is no better time than in the Egg Bowl.

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