Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher, next test for Ole Miss’ defense

Published 6:00 am Friday, October 13, 2017

Ole Miss won’t be facing any typical running back this week.

The Rebels will entertain Vanderbilt on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (2:30 p.m., SEC Network), and with that comes trying to slow down the most productive ball carrier to ever wear a Commodore uniform. Ralph Webb is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,587 yards — a feat he accomplished in just three years — and also holds the career record for carries (826).

Webb has rushed for at least 907 yards in every season and ran for a school-record 1,283 yards last season. He was a third-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in the preseason, just one of two Vanderbilt players to be voted to the team.

Email newsletter signup

His body of work hasn’t gone unnoticed in Oxford either.

“The best compliment you can give anyone is consistency, and he’s been a consistently good player for a long, long time,” Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke said. “To take the physical pounding in this league and to keep going, I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a player and a person.”

That consistency has been harder for Webb to find this year having already gone up against some of the nation’s top defenses. Webb has run for just 245 yards and is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry with three touchdowns, leaving him well outside the top 10 among the SEC’s individual rushers.

Vanderbilt, which brings a three-game losing streak into this week’s game, has already faced four of the nation’s top 50 rush defenses, including two of the top five in Alabama and Georgia. Webb hasn’t rushed for more than 54 yards in a game this season while the Commodores have yet to reach the 100-yard mark against an FBS opponent.

But Ole Miss isn’t any of those defenses. The Rebels enter Saturday’s game 127th nationally against the run and gave up 691 yards on the ground to Alabama and Auburn the last two weeks in losses that came by a combined 84 points.

Players acknowledged Webb’s abilities but said their own issues within Ole Miss’ 4-2-5 defense is the bigger problem right now.

“It’s one misfit,” defensive tackle Josiah Coatney said. “Playing in the SEC, one misfit can count for a big play. Watching film, aligning right and executing is real key. The game plan is going to be there. You’ve got to learn it and know how to execute it to the best of your abilities.”

Coatney said he feels like the Rebels are close to correcting themselves five games into the season.

“We’re really getting that intact,” he said. “We feel like we’re going to have a good plan to stop (Webb), a good plan to stop the whole offense and everything they’ve got going on.”