Blocking punts -

Overall, the Rebel special teams have not been up to the standards they set last season, but one area that has become somewhat of a weapon is blocking kicks.

Against Memphis in the season-opener, SS Jamarca Sanford broke clean on a punt rush and blocked an attempted kick by the Tigers. FS Kendrick Lewis scooped up the ball and scored.

Versus LaTech two weekends ago, DT Brandon Jenkins extended his big paw and blocked a field goal and CB Dustin Mouzon picked up the ball and ran for a long score.

Last Saturday, against Alabama, Mouzon found a seam in Alabama's protection scheme and was so deep in the Bama backfield that he blocked a punt with his upper leg area.

The Ole Miss special teams this season have not been much to boast about, but the three blocked kicks this year - so far - have been a plus.

Mouzon said a lot of preparation and planning goes into blocking a punt.

"Ever since I blocked one against Georgia last year, I have had the motivation to be good at that part of the game and I think all the other guys on the punt block unit feel the same way," said Mouzon. "It's a game-changing play and something we take pride in and work hard on."

But it doesn't just happen, as Mouzon atttests.

"Coach (Chris) Rippon schools us all the time on protections and snappers. A key element is learning the rhythm of how a snapper snaps the ball. If you can find a clue on how the snapper doe shis job, you can get a better jump and shoot a gap," Dustin explained. "Coach RIp is a master at finding those clues. He has been putting me and the rest of the guys in the right spots all season.

"He watches a lot of film and tries to find a weakness, then he moves us around to take advantage of a weak spot in the protections. The rest is the desire to go get it. I give it to him for putting us in a position to make those plays."

Rippon shuffles around Mouzon, Cassius Vaughn, Dexter McCluster and Sanford - the main guys who have shown a knack for getting to punts in practice - and finds gaps for them to shoot.

"Coach Rippon gives us a heads-up during the week and then we watch film on it on Friday night - any keys he might pick up with the snapper or protection flaws. Then it's up to us," Mouzon stated.

On the block versus Alabam (see picture) Mouzon could have tackle the punter prior to the kick.

"It surprised me because I wasn't coming free on the scheme in practice - our scout team was doing a heckuva job, but in the game it just opened up like Coach Rip said it would," Dustin said. "I got free and was there so fast I didn't know whether to block the punt or tackle the punter. I blocked the punt with my thigh."

Mouzon believes plays like that are all steps in learning how to win.

"I agree with Coach O's comment that you have to learn how to win. To win, you have to make plays and blocking a punt is a big play," he continued. "If you practice the right way, you also learn how to win by applying what you learned in practice to the games. We are getting there, but we have just come up short more than we wanted to."

Despite Mouzon's big play, and others the Rebs made during the Alabama game, the Rebs lost 27-24 on a controversial call overturning an on-field ruling from the replay booth.

"This one was tougher than the others because we needed a miracle and got one and then it was reversed. It ended up our third straight three-point loss to Alabama in another game we could have won easily," he said.

The reaction around campus since the Alabama game has not surprised Mouzon.

"Everyone is saying how we got robbed and the refs took the game from us. I expected that," he added.

The defense also got a raw deal during the game just before half when an Alabama ballcarrier clearly fumbled near midfield and the ball was called down.

"Cassius made that hit and I thought it was a fumble, but the refs ruled otherwise so there's not much you can do about it," Mouzon said.

Dustin said it is imperative for the team to forget the Alabama game and move on to Arkansas.

"We have to throw it away. Our fans and others can afford to keep replaying it, but we can't. We have to move on because the Razorbacks are staring us in the face and if we linger on Alabama we won't be ready for them," Mouzon declared.

One last glance back, however, Dustin was very pleased with the play of MLB Brandon Thomas and SS Johnny Brown, who took over for injured Jamarca Sanford in the secondary.

"Brandon Thomas has stepped up great at Middle Linebacker and Johnny filled in nicely for Jamarca and those are big shoes to fill. Johnny has matured a lot and has come into his own in the last few weeks. He's worked his butt off to play effectively in the SEC," he said.

Mouzon knows the challenge of the Pigs' run game, one of the best in the country because of RBs Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis.

"We have to stop them before they get started. If they get their legs moving, they are very dangerous. We have to fit our gaps perfectly so they can't gash us and get up a head of steam," he assessed. "If we can get to them before they get going good, we will be OK."

Another key could well be Mouzon or one of his teammates blocking another punt.

While that has not become a habit - yet, it has certainly evolved into a distinct possibility.

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