Tennessee at Ole Miss: Keys To The Game


The fighting Butch Jones’ from Rocky Top Tennessee head to Oxford, MS this weekend to take on the Amazing Land Sharks of North Mississippi? (or something like that).  Year two of Jones’ offense is not quite where it needs to be but the defense is starting to show signs of the Tennessee of old.  Even after holding mediocre Florida and Chattanooga teams to only 10 points, they should still bring a little confidence to town.

The UT offense line is completely re-built from last year as they replaced five major contributors and playing three freshman on the right side of the line including center.  This is never a good situation and the results so far in the rebuilding effort? 48 tackles for loss and 23 sacks given up, in six games.  What are some of the keys to the game as Ole Miss approaches Homecoming?

Photo Copy the Texas A&M Game Plan

Tennessee is bringing up the rear in rushing yards (109 ypg) and the aforementioned tackles/sacks behind them.  As you might expect, this also prevents UT from scoring a lot of points as they are next to last in that category (28 ppg).  The only positive mark in the UT offense in 2014 is in the passing game.  Senior QB Justin Worley is completing 63% of his passes for about 235 yards per game.

Luckily, the Rebs have the blueprint for stopping a pass friendly offense.  Last week’s game in College Station, TX was a great test of the Ole Miss secondary and they passed with flying colors.  Holding Texas A&M’s high flying offense to only 14 points until the last play of the game was actually pretty shocking especially to do that on the road.  Ole Miss was able to get pressure on Kenny Hill with only 3 or 4 down lineman, leaving 7 or 8 defenders to cover the deep pass.

Hill did get 400 yards passing to mostly underneath pass routes but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled once while scrambling from the Rebel D-line.

Turn The Running Backs Loose

Ole Miss’ running game is staring to pick up speed as the running backs have improved their yards per rush in each game (except for Alabama, only 2.4 ypa).  In order to improve and be more balanced as a team, they really need to be able to get some tough yards on the ground.

They don’t have to run the ball 50 times, but 35 or 40 attempts spread over two or three backs would be nice to see in this game.  Getting 150 plus yards on Tennessee’s linebackers would be pretty impressive and will help show the Rebs are a balanced offense.  It could also help balance out the defenses they face in the future from keying on the Ole Miss wide receivers.

Embrace The Second Half Grind

6-0 is unchartered territory.  Not since 1963 has this team had a record this good and the competition and quality of talent has certainly changed in the SEC since the early sixties.  The biggest problem facing Ole Miss this week may not be the Tennessee offense but rather the law of averages and a lack of focus that is bound to occur at some point.

While this team has a lot of upper-class leadership, none of them have gone through the pressure of being undefeated in October and with each win it is only natural to start looking down the schedule to the next game in Baton Rouge or the game in two weeks a face off with SEC west foe Auburn.

How will these kids (don’t forget a lot of key players that are freshman and sophomores) stay absolutely laser focused on the next play when they are getting all the top 5 national accolades and looking forward to playoffs? PLAYOFFS!? (said in my best Jim Mora voice).

This is why Hugh Freeze gets paid the big bucks.  He gets to control a bunch of 19-20 year olds and keep them “All In” to the program and the very next play, not daydreaming about making a play on thanksgiving night.

Good Luck Coach, better you than me brotha’!