GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M

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OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 12, 2013

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TV Network: ESPN | Ole Miss Radio Network (Sirius 93, XM 199)

OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss returns to Oxford for only its second home game of the season, as the Rebels host No. 9 Texas A&M and last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, with a kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Saturday is the first of six straight contests over the next seven weeks in Oxford, and including the regular-season finale in Starkville, Ole Miss will not leave the state of Mississippi again this year.

"Obviously we're not happy with where we are, but we thank God we're not where we used to be," head coach Hugh Freezesaid. "The journey continues. It's been a very difficult stretch of road games. I'm disappointed in the outcome, but I'm extremely proud of the fight and battle our young men showed.

"Again, that stretch of road games was very difficult. We're thrilled to come back home, but it doesn't get much easier with Texas A&M and LSU coming in back-to-back weeks - two top-10 teams. It's a very difficult stretch even at home."

The Rebels (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) wrapped up a three-game road swing, including a 30-22 loss at Auburn this past Saturday. Coming off a bye week, the Aggies (4-1, 1-1 SEC) have won back-to-back games over SMU and Arkansas after their loss to No. 1 Alabama.

"Texas A&M, certainly, is very deserving of its ranking," Freeze said. "Kevin (Sumlin) has done a tremendous job in the short time he's been there. And of course, Johnny Manziel makes them very difficult to defend. They know who they are, they know what they want to do, they're very good at what they do and he makes what they do very special, along with (Mike) Evans and a few others. They have a lot of good players."

For the Rebels, quarterback Bo Wallace ranks sixth in the SEC in total offense (252.0 ypg) and sixth in passing (228.6 ypg) and threw for a season-high 336 yards last week against Auburn. Running back Jeff Scottranks seventh in the SEC in rushing (84.8 ypg) and ninth in all-purpose yards (119.6) and has climbed the Ole Miss record books into sixth in school history with 2,228 rushing yards.

Defensively, the Rebels will face the SEC's top passing attack in Texas A&M (365.0 ypg), led by quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans. The Ole Miss defense is led by linebacker Serderius Bryant, who leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally (10.8 tackles/game) and was recently added to the Bednarik Award Watch List.

In last year's game, Manziel accounted for 320 yards of total offense, 191 through the air and 129 on the ground, and two touchdowns, one each through the air and on the ground, as Texas A&M erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 30-27 in Oxford.

Manziel leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in total offense (360.6 ypg). He also averages 9.59 yards per play, which ranks second in the league and ninth nationally.

"We did have a good plan (last year)," Freeze said. "We contained him for the better part of three quarters, but in the fourth quarter he showed why he won the Heisman trophy. We were able to create some turnovers last year, which was big. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that performance and contain him a bit - you're not going to stop him, but hopefully contain him and give us a chance to be in it late in the game."

"Don't overdo anything," said cornerback Mike Hilton, who spied on Manziel in last year's game. "Play your game. If you get a chance to get him on the ground, make sure you get him on the ground because he can make plays. Everybody knows it. You have to make a play when it happens."

A Freshman All-SEC selection last year, Evans leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in receiving yards (138.2 ypg). He also leads the SEC and ranks second nationally in yards per reception (24.7). He has also accounted for 10 plays of 30 or more yards, which leads the nation, including four plays of 40 or more yards.

"Everybody wanted us to copy their plan in playing Alabama," Freeze said of covering Evans. "I wanted to show them on tape where 270 yards came from a guy going up and just making a play, which he's very good at. We saw that on fourth and 19 last year at our place. Senquez (Golson) had perfect coverage on him and he just went up over him.

"We have to think through that. We've thought about a lot of crazy things. We're trying to think out of the box a little bit on who we might put on him in some situations that could compete for a jump ball with him. We're thinking along those lines. But certainly, even if you have him covered there's no guarantee that he's not going to make the play."

This is the sixth meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Texas A&M dating back to 1911. The Aggies have won each of the previous five meetings, including last year's game in Oxford.

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