Oct. 29, 2011
Gameday Central | Gametracker
TV: ESPNU | Ole Miss Radio Network (Sirius 219, XM 199)
AUBURN, Ala. – Two teams looking to end recent struggles will clash on the Plains this evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Ole Miss Rebels (2-5, 0-4 SEC) will be searching for their first SEC victory of the year, while the Auburn Tigers (5-3, 3-2 SEC), who started the season 4-1, are looking to rebound from two losses in the past three weekends.
Kickoff is slated for 6:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
This will mark the 36th meeting all time between Ole Miss and Auburn dating back to 1928. Auburn leads the all-time series 26-9. The Rebels are just 2-11 all-time versus the Tigers in Auburn with their last win coming in 2003.
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt is 6-7 against the Tigers in stops at Arkansas and Ole Miss. The Tigers defeated the Rebels 51-31 last year in Oxford en route to an undefeated national championship season.
The Rebels will face an Auburn offense that has struggled lately, averaging just 14.3 points in their last four games thanks in part to the loss of top receiver Emory Blake to an ankle injury.
In addition to losing Blake, the Tigers made a midseason change at quarterback. Sophomore Clint Moseley replaced Barrett Trotter two weeks ago in a loss to Florida. Moseley completed 12-of-20 passes for 165 yards in his first career start last week against a relentless LSU pass rush that sacked him six times.
Moseley will face an Ole Miss secondary that turned in yet another impressive performance last week against Arkansas. Despite losing starting safety Marcus Temple for the season a week before, the Rebels held the SEC’s top passing attack to just 232 yards through the air. Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson never got on track, completing just 13-of-28 passes.
Charles Sawyer, who recorded four picks to begin the season at safety, moved back to his natural position at cornerback and did not miss a beat. In addition to recovering a fumble, Sawyer broke up three passes and limited Jarius Wright, the SEC’s leading receiver, to one catch.
With a shaky passing game, Auburn has leaned heavily on their running game, led by sophomore running back Michael Dyer. The SEC’s third leading rusher is averaging 5.1 yards per-carry and has rushed for eight touchdowns after a stellar freshman season.
Nutt will look for improvement from his defense against the run, including a young defensive line that is without senior end Wayne Dorsey. Last week, Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson averaged better than 10 yards per-carry en route to a 160-yard afternoon.
“We talked hard yesterday and today about being better tacklers and better run fits, especially against Auburn,” said Nutt. “Michael Dyer is of course very good. They have speed guys as well with him and you know they are going to run the football. That is no secret. We have to do a good job with that. Everybody has to work hard to get better. Not only our front, but also our linebackers and our safeties and corners. Everybody has to be good tacklers.”
On offense, the Rebels look to build on a solid performance last week against Arkansas. Randall Mackey had his best game in an Ole Miss uniform, completing 18-of-30 passes for 219 yards.
Mackey found the freshman tandem of Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell early and often against the Razorbacks. Moncrief caught five passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns, while Brassell caught a team-high eight balls for 70 yards.
“The one thing that you love about them is whether we play Alabama, Arkansas or Auburn, they are ready to compete,” said Nutt. “We saw that when they came here on campus in high school. We saw the competitive spirit and the fight they had. They have to keep adjusting to the speed of the game. They cannot expect that the ball is going to come to them or that they are going to make a catch without looking it in.”
Moncrief currently ranks fourth among FBS freshmen with four receiving touchdowns.
With a young team that included five freshmen in the starting lineup last week, Nutt has shown no fear in giving his newcomers opportunities in spite of some growing pains.
“There are no limitations in the game plan in regard to them,” said Nutt. “We are throwing them out there and throwing the game plan at them. They are learning and playing extremely hard with a competitive spirit. That is what we appreciate.”