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Ole Miss keyed on stopping the run Saturday against Texas A&M

OXFORD – When Ole Miss takes Kyle Field Saturday in College Station, they will be up against an offensive attack unlike one they’ve seen this year. A weakness of the Ole Miss defense will be tested Saturday against the Texas A&M rushing game.

Ole Miss is yet to play a quarterback like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Mond combines the ability to throw with a tremendous burst and vision running the football. Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff called Mond a ‘great athlete with a big arm.’ He averages 12.2 rush attempts per game and is a critical part of the multifaceted Aggie rush offense.

“We have to make sure we account for quarterback runs,” McGriff said. “It’s really hard to get a guy like (Mond) on the ground, but we’re going to account for him (in the run game).”

Texas A&M will use Mond often in the read option, clearing up extra space for junior running back Trayveon Williams, one of the best runners in the SEC. Williams has run for 931 yards on the season, including 107 yards and 2 touchdowns last week in a loss to Auburn.

“We have to game plan to stop the run and then make them beat us throwing the football,” head coach Matt Luke said.

While it is the emphasis Saturday, stopping the run hasn’t exactly been the Rebels’ strong suit in 2018. The team ranks 109th nationally in rush defense, giving up 210 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses.

In last week’s loss to South Carolina, the Ole Miss rush defense played their best game of the season for 53 minutes, before surrendering a 69-yard rushing touchdown with seven minutes remaining in the game. With the exception of the one big play, Ole Miss held South Carolina to 78 rushing yards on 36 carries. They will need more play like the team we saw through three and a half quarters against South Carolina in order to leave Texas victorious on Saturday.

In addition to being able to run the ball in many different ways, the Aggies’ greatest strength is their own rush defense. Texas A&M ranks second in the nation in rush defense, giving up only 79.0 rushing yards per game. Last week against Auburn – the same Auburn team that ran for 269 yards on Ole Miss two weeks ago – A&M held the Tigers to 19 total rushing yards on 21 attempts.

Despite the strengths of the Aggie team, both Matt Luke and offensive coordinator Phil Longo stressed the importance of running the ball in Monday’s press conference.

“(They’re) very, very physical on defense. Very difficult to run against,” Luke said. “We’ll have to find a way to get the run game going so it’s not all on Jordan and the receivers.”

The Ole Miss rush game has been very good of late, averaging 193.8 rush yards per game on the season and having scored on the ground six time in their last two weeks, but they haven’t played a run defense like the Aggies. This battle in the trenches, on both sides of the football, will likely be the deciding factors in this SEC West matchup.

 

Game Notes:

Start Time: Saturday 11 a.m. CT
Location: Kyle Field. College Station, TX
TV Network: CBS
Series history: Texas A&M leads 7-3