There is only one more nonconference game on the schedule for Ole Miss, and the Rebels (2-1) are hoping to take full advantage of it heading into Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels will take on Tulane (0-2) Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The Rebels are coming off a 66-31 loss to No. 14 Texas, while the Green Wave are trying to bounce back from a 45-10 loss to Tulsa. The meeting is the 71st between the two teams, with Ole Miss leading the series 42-28.
“It’s really two different teams,” head coach Hugh Freeze said of Tulane in Monday’s press conference. “(Head coach Curtis Johnson) is doing a very good job, and his kids are playing hard and they’re really sound. They want to throw the ball around.
“Defensively, I’m really impressed with their scheme and their aggressiveness.”
This game will be the first game for Ole Miss on the road this season after playing its first three in the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Freeze said he personally loves going on the road after a loss.
“I love that,” Freeze said. “We would rather be at home, but there’s something about coming off a disappointing loss where I like going on the road. It’s a process of getting ready to play another game and getting this bitter taste out of your mouth. I think going on the road increases your focus with that.”
After giving up 66 points and 676 yards against Texas, there are some things the Ole Miss defense is hoping to correct going into conference play.
“The biggest thought is that we have to do better on the vertical ball,” co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff said. “We have to take those opportunities away from teams. We can’t allow teams to get the ball over our heads, so we definitely have to do a better job with that. They are in position, but they just have to turn and get the football.”
Against Texas, the Ole Miss defense gave up multiple big plays, leading to Texas quarterback David Ash having a career day with 326 passing yards and four touchdowns. However, this week may be a break for Ole Miss, with Tulane’s starting quarterback Ryan Griffin suffering from an undisclosed injury that he sustained against Tulsa. Griffin’s replacement, freshman Devin Powell was 8-of-16 for 110 yards and a touchdown after Griffin left the game.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack believes the confidence of the defense is still there and said he is excited to see the defense respond.
“I think the big issue will be getting back out on the field,” Wommack said. “In practice, I think we built some confidence, and mentally, they’ve been sharp, but you’ve got to get on the field (where) it’s the real deal. I’m anxious to see them play again.”
Offensively, the Rebels have a lot of confidence coming out of the Texas game, putting up 31 points despite having three turnovers. Co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner stressed the importance of taking care of the ball this week against Tulane and how it was the number one point of emphasis for the offense this week in practice.
“Number one by far, protect the football,” Werner said. “We talk about that all the time, but obviously after a game like that where we threw three interceptions, we talked quite a bit about making sure your throws are there and if they aren’t, throw it away or run it.”
The Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC — 25th in the nation — in total offense, averaging over 500.7 yards per game, while Tulane ranks 107th in total defense (480 ypg) and 100th in scoring defense (34.5 ppg).
The Rebels are led by sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace, who is coming off his worst performance of the season with three interceptions. However, Wallace has been sharp most of the year for the Rebels and enters the game ranked sixth in the SEC, averaging 205.3 passing yards per game.
Wallace will most likely be eyeing his favorite target, sophomore Donte Moncrief, who leads the SEC with 106.7 receiving yards per game and has scored a touchdown in three straight games, all of more than 50 yards. Moncrief has been the go-to guy for Ole Miss and has made a big impact on this offense.
“Any time you make plays the way he does, people are going to take notice,” Werner said. “Any time you have a guy like that who can make plays, it opens up everything; your whole offense now opens up.”
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 11 a.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
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