LITTLE ROCK, Ark. • An improving Arkansas offense will show a lot of bells and whistles meant to distract Ole Miss players tonight at War Memorial Stadium.
It was a tactic that worked quite well against No. 1 Alabama.
The Razorbacks lost 66-31 last weekend in Fayetteville but put up 405 yards to mark the most yards and points allowed by the Crimson Tide this season.
The motion of the Arkansas offense provides one more obstacle for an Ole Miss defense that trails the rest of the SEC in yards and points, the margins not especially close.
Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m., and the game will air on the SEC Network.
Arkansas, under first-year head coach Chad Morris, and Ole Miss are a combined 0-5 in conference play.
The defensive improvement sought by Ole Miss (4-2) has been tempered by youth at linebacker and multiple season-ending injuries in the secondary.
Inexperienced players and veterans alike will have to have eye discipline and talk to one another if the Rebels are to snap a four-game series losing streak.
“That pre-snap motion, we’ve just got to communicate whether we’re spinning and bumping, whatever we’re doing,” sophomore linebacker Mohamed Sanogo said. “We need to communicate to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”
The Razorbacks will also mix in misdirection plays and sneaky releases of running backs on short pass routes, things that gave the Rebels trouble in Week 2 against Southern Illinois.
“They run a similar type of scheme, leaking guys out late. We got to really pin our eyes on who we got, what number we have coming out and making sure we’re really focused,” Sanogo said.
Signs of improvement
Amid the distractions the Rebels expect a heavy dose of the run game from the Razorbacks.
Ole Miss has stayed mostly healthy and has had success along the defensive line. There has been some improvement in last year’s woeful run defense but not enough to claim victory.
Ole Miss finished the 2017 season with 245.3 rushing yards allowed to rank No. 123 out of 129 major-college teams.
This season the Rebels are giving up 208.8 per game on the ground, No. 109 nationally. That’s last in the SEC, the next-closest teams being South Carolina and Florida at 171.
Ole Miss linebackers coach Jon Sumrall says it appears that Morris and his staff have a better read on the personnel they’ve inherited.
“Last week they did a lot of things formation-wise, misdirection-wise, that challenged Alabama’s defense. They looked confused and lost on some things,” Sumrall said.
Ole Miss is hoping to build from last week’s performance when it allowed 130 rushing yards against ULM. Getting there will require discipline against the Arkansas motion.
“It’s part of football. You have to adjust to it. You have to prepare for it, expect it and be prepared for what that situation presents,” Sumrall said.