The 3-6 Rebels take a break from SEC play as they look to creep towards bowl eligibility with a game against the 0-8 New Mexico State Aggies.
Here are the three keys.
Build on last week defensively
Losing 20-14 to Auburn was both impressive and frustrating. It was a weird game, but it was one the Rebels absolutely could have had. The Tigers put up 507 yards of total offense – putting together 13 drives of which six went inside the Ole Miss 40 – but they put up just 20 points. That is a big win for the defense.
What the unit did well was to squeeze the life out of Auburn with a classic bend-but-don’t-break approach. Auburn had their yards early in drives, but then the D tightened and forced either punts or long field goals. We need to see more of that this weekend, albeit with the Aggies getting less yardage overall.
Be ready for the spread
The Aggies run a spread offense that has some potential but that hasn’t clicked at all this season. Their goal is to create the type of Mike Leach system used at Washington State, but they average just over 225 yards per game in total offense. Most of that comes through the air, but they just haven’t found the athletes to turn quick passes into chunk plays.
It is those chunk plays the Rebels have to defend against. That means the tacklers have to be sure to take good angles and wrap ball carriers, keeping everything in front of them as they prevent big plays.
Find a passing game
The Ole Miss quarterback situation has been a mess for this entire season. Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez clearly wants freshman John Rhys Plumlee to be the guy, but Plumlee just doesn’t have the arm (at this point) to be everything Rich Rod needs to make his offense work. That is why we see so many series where the play calling – QB run/QB run/Rollout pass – is so uninspired.
Plumlee either has to be better or Rodriguez has to do a better job of getting Matt Corral snaps at a time where he can make a difference with his passing prowess.