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Ole Miss Monday Presser: Rebels Prepare For Final Stretch of 2018 Season

Coming off a bye week, Ole Miss begins a stretch of four games in 19 days to close out its 2019 season. That begins with its penultimate home game on Saturday against South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are coming off of a comeback win at home over Tennessee, but have largely missed the mark on some lofty preseason exceptions.

“Really good week for us doing some self-evaluation, now we get the final stretch run,” head coach Matt Luke said. “They remember what you do in November, so excited about playing four games in 19 days and we get the first one right back here at home. It’ll be huge for us to have a big crowd for an SEC game coming back to start this stretch run.”


Luke said safety C.J. Miller practiced all of last week and will be back after a two-game hiatus due to a sprained ankle suffered against ULM. Miller’s return allows the team to be more flexible with how they use Myles Hartsfield and reduces Armani Linton’s snap load a bit. It also adds one more body to a secondary whose depth has been depleted over the course of the season.

— Victor Evans is still dealing with what is now being described as a “chronic” knee injury.  Evans’ availability in practice going forward will be minimal, but Luke anticipates him being able to go 15-20 snaps against the Gamecocks.

— Defensive tackle Austrian Robinson is back as well after missing the Auburn game with an injury

Rebels used bye week to rectify red zone woes:

Ole Miss’ 31-16 loss to Auburn saw the offense struggle in the red zone. From an offensive standpoint, the bye week allowed the team to formulate a plan to generate more consistent success when the field shrinks deep into opponents’ territory.

“I think just getting the one-on-one matchups, finding a (DaMarkus) Lodge or A.J. (Brown) or pounding it in with Scottie (Phillips) or running the quarterback,” Luke said. “There’s a bunch of things you can do down there. But the bottom line is executing and being able to make plays.”

When Ole Miss has struggled near the red zone, it has also not run the football efficiently. Scottie Phillips was bottled up by Auburn’s front seven and it made the Rebels bland and predictable as a result.

“We have to be conscious that the field is going to be smaller and the coverage is going to be tighter,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “We have to do a better job saying on blocks. Coach Luke alluded to — and I agree — being more physical and running the ball in the red zone, pertaining to the Auburn game. Those were some of the issues in that game.”

Ole Miss defense readies for Carolina rushing attack:

South Carolina ran the ball for 224 yards in the win over Tennessee, including 140 yards from Rico Dowdle on 14 touches. The Gamecocks are 17-3 when running for 100 yards under head coach Will Muschamp and 6-0 when Dowdle clears the century mark.

 The Ole Miss defense ranks last in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 217 yards per game. The Rebels will need to put together its most complete performance of the season to have a chance on Saturday. The Auburn game saw the defense tread water for as long as it could, but a 277 yard third quarter by the Tigers eventually sunk Ole Miss. 

“They’ll run the ball, run the ball and then take their shots,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “Their RPO’s stand out. They’ll run split zone, run the split zone and then throw the glance route off of it. They do just enough to get your linebackers going downhill and they’ll throw it behind them.”

Game time note:

The six-day option was exercise on Ole Miss’ game against Texas A&M on November 10, meaning the game time is still not known and will be announced after this weekend’s slate of games.

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