Rebels prepare for OSU option attack

IRVING, Texas – It's been over a month now, but when walking amongst Ole Miss players and coaches, it's obvious an embarrassing 41-27 loss to in-state rival Mississippi State still lingers.

"We struggled against State. We hadn't seen (the option)," junior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said. "Like I said before, we have a tendency to overlook people and State was definitely a team we overlooked. They came out and ran the option well. But we've done a good job preparing for it. We'll be ready."

Though the Rebels held a marginal 13-10 lead at halftime in Starkville, Ole Miss was punished on the ground. Implementing an option attack headed by quarterback Chris Relf and stud running back Anthony Dixon, the Bulldogs finished the day with over 300 yards rushing.

Both players surpassed the 100-yard plateau, while Dixon set the Mississippi State single-season rushing record.

"You can say that the defensive line and the linebackers were trying to process too much information when it comes to play-action, when really all you had to do was be assignment sound," junior defensive end Kentrell Lockett said of the loss. "If you had quarterback, you had quarterback. If you had dive, you had dive. Take the indecision out and stop being timid. Get to where you need to be."

The game marked the first time since 2004 that two Bulldogs topped 100 yards rushing. With another touchdown in the win, Dixon moved into sole possession of seventh place all-time in the SEC with 42 for his career.

It was also the first time Ole Miss had been hit full force with an option-oriented attack all season. And even now, when defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix peaks back at the game film, the results aren't pretty.

"The film session after that game was painful and something we don't want to experience again," he said. "There were a lot of examples of us not being focused, not playing with fundamentals and players doing their own thing. It humbled us back to remembering how we got here, remembering what our purpose is and remembering we are not good enough to just show up and expect to win.

"We have to work, we have to compete and we have to outhustle the competition. We also have to do all the little things to give us a chance."

The loss knocked Ole Miss out of contention for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Instead, the Rebels now find themselves back in Dallas for the second straight year in the 74th annual AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

Almost fittingly, they'll meet No. 21 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, who somewhat rely on their own version of the option, boast the Big 12's top rushing attack. OSU averages 191.75 rushing yards per game.

"We've run (the option) all year," OSU offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "(Ole Miss) had an issue with the option the last game, but a lot of people have. The option's a great thing. Anytime you can make a defense defend the dive, the quarterback, and the pitch, you just don't see that as much anymore. But as it comes back and is made full circle, the triple option is tough on a defense.

"We'll use the option. How much we use it depends on how well they defend it."

Mississippi State's 41 points were the most scored against Ole Miss in 2009, and the most a Bulldog team has scored against Ole Miss since 1917.

And it was all jump-started by a simple variation of the option.

"It's really so easy to over-think it," said Lockett. "If they're going to run the option, they're going to show you the dive first, and then they're going to pull it and you're going to have someone on the backside. Naturally, you're going to bite on the dive. When you get too far in there and they don't have the ball, they're running down the sideline. That's where the indecision comes in. That's why you can't be timid and just be assignment sound. If you're supposed to stay right there, stay right there."

When Ole Miss and Oklahoma State meet Saturday inside Cowboys Stadium, it's certainly expected the Rebels will get a heavy dose of the option.

Led by senior quarterback Zac Robinson and senior running back Keith Toston, the Rebels will be challenged early and often to see if a month's preparation for a potent ground attack was worth the trouble. For the year, Toston totaled 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

"Coming into this game, we know we're pretty much going to get the same thing," Lockett said. "But it's going to be more polished and we're going to get more looks compared to Mississippi State. Ever since we've been here, we've been trying to clean up those mistakes we made against Mississippi State and prevent those things from happening Saturday."

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