BY PARRISH ALFORD
OXFORD - If Ole Miss is to break out of its running doldrums and avenge an embarrassing loss, the first thing the Rebels must do is to run the Hood.
Missouri dominated the Rebels' offensive line last season, holding Ole Miss to 162 total yards en route to an easy 34-7 victory in Columbia.
A chief source of embarrassment for Ole Miss last year was Missouri defensive tackle Evander "Ziggy" Hood.
A 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior from Amarillo, Texas, Hood had a career-high six tackles and 11-2 sacks against Ole Miss. He broke his foot the following week. Though he was able to return, the injury slowed what was shaping up to be a promising sophomore season.
"He's a really high-level player, but he was hurt off and on last year," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's a big, strong guy, and obviously he helps us a lot inside."
Against Missouri, BenJarvus Green-Ellis averaged 4.3 yards per rush with 69 yards on 16 attempts. But he had no long gainers, and the Rebels had to abandon the run after falling behind. Ole Miss never got in sync on offense.
"We obviously have watched the game in cut-ups here in the last couple of days," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We were embarrassed by the way we played over there, and I think our guys will be ready to go."
Hood has been ready to go in 2007 as he had five tackles, 11-2 sacks, a quarterback pressure and two forced fumbles in the Tigers' 40-34 win over Illinois last week.
Missouri's other playmaker was safety Pig Brown, who recovered two fumbles, returning one 100 yards for a touchdown. He also had a leaping interception at the Missouri 1-yard line as Illinois threatened to take the lead late in the game.
The Tigers lost six starters from last year's defense.
If Pinkel didn't see enough to be impressed in Columbia last year, he saw enough from the Rebels' game against Memphis this year.
"There's no question Ole Miss is a lot better team than last year," he said. "I was impressed with their run game. I was impressed with Green-Ellis. He's an outstanding player."
Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron has wanted a physical offensive line to lead a power-running football team.
Werner said this team has the tools to achieve those goals but says solving the Missouri defense is about much more than getting past Hood.
"They run a couple of base fronts and coverages that they're really good at, but they do a few other things that you have to work on," he said.
"They have a very physical defense. They have a good scheme and good players, and they know what they're doing."