Over the last two games against Arkansas and Georgia, Ole Miss has found itself unable to move the football on the ground.
The rushing attack was a key factor in the Rebels’ early season offensive success, as the team topped 150 yards rushing in six of their first seven games. However, over the last two weeks, the Rebels have combined for just 123 yards on 66 carries, averaging out to just 1.86 yards per carry.
The lack of a running game lately has made things tougher for the Ole Miss offense and is something Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze wants to fix quickly.
“(Not being able to run) impacts everything,” Freeze said. “If people can stay in those two high schemes and use their walk-out backer to carry you, there’s just not a lot of places to throw the ball. You’ve got to be able to run and make them commit an eighth guy to the run fits and we weren’t able to do that.
“That’s really the first time all year that we have kind of felt like that.”
One aspect of the running game that was very successful early and hasn’t been in recent weeks is the read-option game with sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace. Teams have adjusted to it, and the Rebels haven’t been able to adjust back.
“I think Georgia did a great job of slow-playing our reads and kind of making it tough to read,” Wallace said. “It’s tough, because you’ll make the right read and give it to (junior running back) Jeff (Scott) on the outside and he’s trying to run to the sideline. Those guys can just run him down, and you know you’re fast when you run Jeff Scott down.”
Freeze said that while Wallace has been making the right read for the most part, it might be time to change up the number of pure reads he has to make in the option game going forward.
“People are scheming us pretty good on that and giving him some confusing things at times,” he said. “We’ve got to help him with that and start probably taking some of the reads out of his hands on that within our blocking schemes. The ones that he pulled, with the exception of one, were the right read. We just didn’t get the job done at the point of attack with our down guys.”
That assessment is one that junior left tackle Emmanuel McCray agreed with. Improvements in run blocking is something that he thinks is necessary for the offensive line.
“Teams know that if they can slow our run down, especially with how we like to stay on schedule, it kind of affects our offense,” McCray said. “Mostly, it’s not even the scheme; as an offensive line, we’ve got to get better fundamentally. The holes were there Saturday. We’ve just got to finish our blocks better. That’s the biggest deal. It’s more about us than anybody else.”
Saturday presents the next opportunity for Ole Miss to repair its running game, and teams have been able to find running room against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores rank 77th in the country in yards per carry allowed at 4.35 yards per attempt.
Wallace wasn’t surprised that teams have adjusted to both the Rebels’ rushing and read-option attack but expects to have an answer for those adjustments when Ole Miss hits the field Saturday night in Oxford.
“I’d sit in with the offensive meetings, and they kind of talked about how eventually teams would probably start playing us like that, and we had to have an answer for it,” he said. “I’m sure they are in there right now working on an answer.”
Wednesday injury update
The Rebels got a lot of players back from injury on Wednesday, including Senquez Golson (concussion), C.J. Johnson (foot), Aaron Morris (shoulder) and Keith Lewis (shoulder). Trae Elston (turf toe) was held out of practice Wednesday.
Wesley Pendleton (ankle) will not be able to play Saturday, according to Freeze, and Aaron Garbutt (flu) was released from the hospital Wednesday.
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