The Vitals: Ole Miss (2-1) is looking for its first Southeastern Conference win since defeating Mississippi State in the 2006 season finale. Vanderbilt will try to stay undefeated and on course to achieve the Commodores (3-0) first bowl game in a half- century. The Rebels' SEC opener will kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Although not on most national pundits' radar, the contest features two up-and-coming programs.
Saturday's game will be the 83rd meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt dating back to 1984. The Rebels lead the series 46-34-2 and have won 12 of the last 15 meetings since 1992. Ole Miss holds a 22-3 advantage in games played in Oxford and have won four straight, including a 17-10 victory in 2006.
Viewing and Listening Options: No live television is available, and the game will replay Sunday at 1 p.m. on CSS. The contest can be heard live on the Ole Miss Radio Network and XM 141. The Rebel radio team includes David Kellum (play-by-play), Pete Cordelli (color) and Stan Sandroni (sideline).
The Ole Miss official athletics web site will display live audio and live stats.
Saturday Storylines:Which team will gain the upper hand on its season? In recent years, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt haven't combined for a 5-1 record like is the case this time around. Both programs are thinking bowl game, and each club expects to take this game on the way to at least six victories. Traditionally, this match-up comes down to the end, and viewers should expect the same in 2008. It may be early in the year, but this one may set each teams' tone for the rest of the slate. Don't be mistaken, this is a big one.
After three weeks of mediocre pressure from the Ole Miss defensive front, Greg Hardy will return in some capacity against Vanderbilt. The 2007 SEC sack leader has nursed a foot injury since surgery in preseason camp, but Hardy feels good after going through practice this past week. With Hardy and Peria Jerry back in the rotation, the Rebels may have one of the top DLs in the conference. Seeing how Hardy responds to game action will be a key to watch. A healthy Hardy means big things for Ole Miss.
The Rebels will run the Wild Rebel, but in a way, the set is Vanderbilt's standard offense. Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson has more rushing yards this season than passing yards, and the Ole Miss ends and linebackers keep an eye on the fleet-footed Nickson at all times. Vandy is 118th nationally in passing offense, so the VU weakness will go up against the Rebels' weakness, pass defense. Jared Hawkins is a solid back, but Nickson's feet will decide this one. If the Rebels contain him, the game should go Ole Miss' way.
Ole Miss has to finally find success with the deep ball. Jevan Snead has been superb to this point, but just missing on the long routes has to end this week. Vanderbilt's seconday is solid, but Mike Wallace will be free at some point. Snead getting it to him for big gains is the Rebels' offensive key. The offensive line should open holes and generate a run game, meaning that the playaction pass should be available. Leaving points out there won't win this week. The deep ball will be the Rebels' friend.
Vanderbilt Weekly Press Conference
Opening Statement: ??
"We've got a big game coming up this weekend against Mississippi and it will be a great challenge for us to go to Oxford and play them. We are looking forward to the opportunity. We had a good practice yesterday and we have a chance to get a few guys back that we haven't had. We hope to know by Tuesday after we get reports from doctors on whether or not they will be able to play Saturday." ??
Coach your team is ranked is ranked No. 26 in the AP poll this week, are you worried that your guys might be getting a big head? ??
"I don't think our guys have a big head. I think our record speaks for itself and we don't need anybody else to tell us how good we are. We know that we have a lot of improvement to make from week-to-week and hopefully we can do that. We're focused on getting better each week and hopefully everything will take care of itself. Our players are smart and they know what is being said." ??
Coach when getting ready for this game, is it as simple as looking at Arkansas tapes from last year? ??
"No, not really. Mississippi has two solid running backs but last year's Arkansas team had two exceptional running backs in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The quarterback combination is entirely different. We're preparing for Mississippi based on what we have seen from their tape this year." ??
How many similarities do you think Houston Nutt has brought with him to Mississippi? ?
?"I think Coach Nutt brings an attitude of toughness and efficiency in offense to Mississippi. I think he has made them so much better. You can see so far this year that they have taken care of the ball and play hard in all phases of the game. They try to hit you with big plays and his trademark is in place. He makes their program much better. It will be a test this week because they will line up with two running backs in the backfield and we will have to prove that we can stop it." ??
Your team has really been outscoring your opponents in the second half so far this year. What do you tribute that too? ?
?"I really don't know. Our team continues to battle hard and has played fundamentally sound football so far. If you do things right and take care of the ball, sometimes it comes down to breaks, like blocked field goals and muffed punts against South Carolina. The good thing is we are taking advantage of the breaks." ??
What has impressed you the most about (Mississippi) quarterback Jevan Snead? ??
"He has delivered for them. He is a quarterback that can throw the ball and that is one thing we didn't have to worry a lot about last year when we played them. Snead gives them a big play opportunity on play-action passes. Overall, I have been very impressed with his consistency and how they have used him. He has a huge offensive line in front of him and they have done a good job of protecting him." ??
What do you make of some of their cluster wildcat formations that they use? ??
"For one thing they are hard to defend. We do some of that on offense by putting people in motion and give it to wide receivers. It's a different look that team's are not used to seeing on defense. It gives you opportunities for big plays and the possibility of fakes off some of those plays." ??
Some of the guys talk about Jared Hawkins work ethic and how is the first one in the weight room and last one to leave, is it gratifying to seem the success he is having? ??
"Of course. I want all our guys who work hard to have the opportunity to get out there on the field and show what they can do, and Jared is a good example of that. At the beginning of the season, Jared was struggling with shin splints and that's why he kind of started off slow against Miami. He is a hard worker and every player and coach knows that." ??
It seems like everytime D.J. touches the ball he makes a big play, do you find yourself trying to use D.J. Moore in more situations? ??
"Well, he had 206 all-purpose yards last week so that is kind of hard to top. D.J. was pretty tired in the fourth quarter against Rice last Saturday and for him to admit that, he had to be real tired." ??
Have you been pleased with the depth you have at defensive line? ??
"The ones we have sent in their to spell the starters have done a good job and hopefully they will continue to get better with more reps. Hopefully the more they play the deeper we get at each position." ?
The special teams has been a strength for your team this season. Talk about that? ?
?"We spend a lot of time examining all our special teams units. We made a little extra time in our practice schedule, especially in the preseason, to make sure we devoted enough time for our specialist to get better. Special teams take a lot of practice to get good. It's probably a part of the game that we overlooked in previous years. Coach Jamie Bryant, our special teams coordinator, has done a great job of making sure he has the time in practice to make sure we devote enough time to special teams." ??
Talk about Bryant Hahnfeldt and how he has been a major factor on special teams? ??
"He is perfect on the season. I have always felt he was a good kicker and he has overcome several injuries. For Bryant to set the school's all-time scoring record is great for him."
PC courtesy of vucommodores.com
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