Run Game Gains Confidence

With the offensive line playing below expectations against Wake Forest, the opponent was irrelevant this past weekend against Samford. The night of offense was all about Ole Miss.

Two goals were quickly established: Run the football and protect the quarterback. While Jevan Snead's jersey has stayed clean practically all season, the run game had been sporadic. However, a return to basics returned the Rebels' ground attack to an acceptable level.

Ole Miss ran over FCS member Samford for 196 yards and three touchdowns. The onslaught has generated confidence with the SEC opener against Vanderbilt days away.

"The main focus last week was getting back to our fundamentals last week and playing hard-nosed football," guard Maurice Miller said. "It is all about being physical, and after watching film, we definitely did that. Our pad level and footwork was correct. The run game really picked up."

There had been solid moments prior to facing the Bulldogs, but most of those came from the "Wild Rebel" formation. It was important to be successful from more conventional sets.

"We took the challenge last week and really improved on our base sets," Miller said. "We didn't have to be in the Wild Rebel to achieve success. We made sure to get it done."

What has been getting done all season is the past protection. Snead has been dropped just once behind the line of scrimmage, as Ole Miss leads the league in fewest sacks allowed.

Some of that statistic is contributed to the line, and the rest is because of the quarterback flashing a little mobility.

"First and foremost, Jevan has been an excellent leader for us, stepping up even though it has been his first experience of playing every play," Miller said. "He is acting like he's been there before.

"I was very surprised (with his movement). I saw him do some things for the defense when he was running scout team, but once he got with the offense during live play, he is very mobile."

Snead said: "The line has been outstanding to this point. We have been inconsistent at times running the ball, but they have been excellent in protecting me. It will only get better. I am extremely confident."

And confidence is important with an undefeated Vanderbilt (3-0) coming to Oxford Saturday. The Commodores, bowl-free since 1982, are the top team receiving votes out of the top-25.

Balance on offense will be imperative, as Ole Miss looks to erase the eight-game SEC losing streak that currently exists. Starting 1-0 just adds to the importance.

"It takes a huge step because that is absolutely the number one thing we want to get done," Miller said. "Take one game at a time, and we are 0-0. We need to get to 1-0, and then that momentum is going to gain. We will keep rolling and rolling after that."

Kickoff will be at 6 p.m., inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

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