No. 25 Ole Miss will travel to Austin, Texas, this weekend to take on the Texas Longhorns in a rematch from last season’s blowout in Oxford. The Rebels (2-0, 1-0 SEC) are coming off a 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri, while the Longhorns (1-1) come into the game after falling 40-21 to BYU.
“We’re excited to be 2-0 and to be going to Austin,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in his weekly press conference Monday. “It will be a great atmosphere, and (Texas) will have a chip on their shoulder. Texas will be ready to prove that they are better than they performed last week. We understand what we’ll get from them. We’ll have to challenge our kids to see if we can raise our game and match Texas’ level of intensity.
“It’ll be a hostile environment, and we have to prepare for several in a row. But it’ll be a good experience for us, and I know our kids and coaches are looking forward to it and we’re ready to go.”
The Longhorns got the best of the Rebels last season in a 66-31 blowout in which they gained 676 yards of total offense, but the Rebel defense is anxious to prove it is better than a year ago. However, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack knows the Longhorns are stacked with talent.
“They’ve got great, skilled athletes,” Wommack said. “Their receivers can all run pretty well, and I think they are well-coached. They are averaging a lot of yards. They have outstanding running backs, all three of them.”
The Longhorns are averaging 580 yards a game so far this season, but could be without their signal caller, quarterback David Ash. Ash suffered a head injury in the loss to BYU, and it is expected to be a game-time decision on whether or not he plays. Despite this, Wommack believes the defense has to be ready for him just in case.
“I think you’ve got to,” Wommack said on expecting Ash to play. “I think it is a big game for both teams, and they have some transition going on there, so I think if there is any way possible, he will play in the game.”
If Ash is unable to go, the Longhorns will look to back up Case McCoy to carry the load. McCoy saw significant time in the BYU game after Ash went down but was only able to throw for 75 yards.
“We’ve seen a little bit of the other quarterback (McCoy),” Wommack said. “He’s got a strong arm too.”
Defensively, the Rebels will be led by junior linebacker Serderius Bryant and junior safety Cody Prewitt, who are first and second on the team in tackles with 15 and 14, respectively. Ole Miss will also be looking to get quality play from sophomore defensive back Mike Hilton, who recently made a move to cornerback and will be challenged with the vertical game of Texas.
Defensively for the Longhorns, Jordan Hicks and Cedric Reed have set the pace totaling 25 and 24 tackles, respectively, through the first two games. The next closest player is Mykkele Thompson with 15.
However, the most concerning defensive aspect for Ole Miss heading into the game is the change the Longhorns made at defensive coordinator. Manny Diaz was fired after Texas allowed 679 yards of total offense to BYU and Greg Robinson was hired.
“The question mark is what are they going to do defensively,” offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. “We’ve got to pretty much (be ready for) their base defense that they’ve been running along with what Greg Robinson has done in the past. We are trying to sprinkle in a little bit of that too and just be ready for anything.”
Offensively, the Rebels will be led by junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who is coming off a game against Southeast Missouri where he saw limited action. On the season, Wallace is 39-for-62 for 471 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly no interceptions.
Senior running back Jeff Scott will also be counted on to make a major impact in the running game after BYU ran the ball for 550 yards against the Longhorns last Saturday. On the year, Scott has run for 166 yards, with his one touchdown coming on a 75-yard game-winning touchdown run against Vanderbilt.
Although the Longhorns struggled last week, Werner still expects to see a solid defense.
“Their personnel is really good,” Werner said. “Last year, even though they lost a couple of guys to the NFL, they’ve come back with a lot of guys who are big, strong and fast. These guys are SEC-type players. They have very good players out there.”
Ole Miss will be without senior corner Charles Sawyer, who will not travel with the team following his arrest for DUI this past weekend. Senior offensive linemen Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray both have lingering injuries but will play. Junior wideout Vince Sanders and senior wideout Korvic Neat both practiced this week after missing the first two games with injuries. Both could see action Saturday.
Kickoff for Saturday’s contest is set for 7 p.m. from Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and will be televised by the Longhorn Network. The game can also be seen on several local affiliates throughout Mississippi and Memphis.
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