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November 14, 2008
Ole Miss - ULM matchups
The Match-Up: This game will be the third meeting between the ULM and Ole Miss. Ole Miss has won both games in Oxford, 31-3 in the 2002 season opener and 59-14 in the 2003 home opener.
At stake: Bowl eligibility. A win puts the Rebels at the six win mark and eligible for a bowl. With a somewhat vulnerable LSU team up next week and a struggling Mississippi State team in the regular season finale, Ole Miss needs to get the momentum started here to win out, which could mean a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Keys to the Game: 1) Offensive production. While Ole Miss is respectable in both running and passing, it seems the team seldom gets both clicking at the same time against an opponent. The run game has improved over the last few games - it's now time for the passing game to get on track. 2) Secondary play. The secondary play remains erratic with the Rebels giving up 284 yards through the air to a struggling Auburn offense and over 300 yards at Arkansas. It's an area that can keep any team in a game and one the Rebels need to improve on to win out. 3) Turnovers. The tale of the turnover continues to impact the outcome of the game as it most often has all season. Against Auburn, Ole Miss won the turnover battle three to none and won the game.
Ole Miss rushing versus the ULM ground defense: Ole Miss is No. 41 among the 119 Division I teams in rushing offense, entering the game at almost 170 yards per game. While hotshot newcomers Enrique Davis and Brandon Bolden were supposed to be carrying the mail this late in the season, it's been Cordera Eason who has emerged as the Rebels' go to guy. He notched his first 100-yard rushing game against Auburn and is reading his blocks and hitting holes much quicker than he was earlier in the season. Bolden has emerged as his backup and remains a threat. Dexter McCluster provides the break away threat and had 84 yards rushing against Auburn. The Rebels will face a ULM defense that is ranked No. 107 in defending the run, giving up 207 yards a game. Junior linebacker Cardia Jackson leads all tacklers with 96 stops, along with seven tackles for a loss. Junior defensive end Aaron Morgan boasts 11.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and seven quarterback hurries. ULM returns seven starters on defense with no particular area of the defense left with a major void. Two defensive ends return, all three linebackers, and both safeties from last year's team that upset Alabama. Ole Miss' big offense line and skilled players should have success against the ULM defense.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss passing versus the ULM secondary: Ole Miss is No. 67 in passing offense, throwing for 207 yards a game. The good news is that sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead has cut down on his turnovers and is showing better judgment in the pocket - sometimes taking a loss or throwing the ball away when a play is not there instead of forcing things. The bad news is that he's still struggling with consistency -which most often has been caused by early pressure that gets him off rhythm - and then it takes a quarter or two for him to settle down. For the Rebels to win out, his maturation is a must, and ULM offers a game that he might gain some confidence to build on. ULM is No. 88 in pass defense, giving up almost 238 yards a game. The Rebels should find success early in the running game and some of Snead's best plays have come on play action passes. The Rebels wide receiver corps should create problems in a Warhawk secondary that returns just two starters.
Advantage: Ole Miss
ULM rushing versus the Ole Miss ground defense: Louisiana-Monroe is very respectable in the running game, accounting for 158 yards a game on the ground and a No. 52 ranking. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is No. 18 in defending the run, giving up just 106 yards a game. Rebel defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix noted after the Auburn game -when Ole Miss allowed Auburn just 75 yards on the ground - that the Rebel run defense has been solid since giving up 216 yards in the opener against Memphis. Warhawk sophomore running back Frank Goodin is the top rusher with 649 yards on 147 carries with four touchdowns. ULM lost the school's all-time leading rusher in Calvin Dawson, who gained over 1,400 yards last season and also had to replace all of its offensive line from a year ago except for right tackle Larry Shappley. If the Rebel front seven can limit the likes of Alabama and Auburn in the running game, they should find success in stopping ULM.
Edge: Ole Miss
ULM passing versus the Ole Miss secondary: If there's an area where ULM can make the game close against Ole Miss, it's in the passing game. ULM is No. 72 in passing offense, throwing for 200 yards a game. The Rebels continue to slide down the ladder in passing defense. Ole Miss is No. 95 in pass defense, giving up over 243 yards a game. It's been the achilles heel for the team for most of the season. However, a positive for the team is that in the last outing against Auburn, the secondary had three interceptions that stopped drives that likely would have turned the game in Auburn's favor. For the second game in a row, Ole Miss will face a mobile quarterback. Warhawk quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster has completed 167-of-279 passes for 1,854 yards, good for 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He totaled 328 yards of offense against Middle Tennessee in his last outing, rushing for 126 and throwing for 202 and two touchdowns. While Ole Miss did a good job in limiting Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns to just 21 yards on the ground in the last game; however, allowed him to have a career passing day. The Rebels will have to stop wide receiver Darrell McNeal, who is leading ULM with an impressive 49 receptions, good for 527 yards and four touchdowns.
Special Teams: Ole Miss' special teams have progressed well through the season and remain sound for the most part. Place kicker Josh Shene missed just his second field of the season against Auburn - and his ability beyond 40 yards remains in question. Punter Rob Park has been exceptionally consistent in punting over the last three games. The return game remains solid with Mike Wallace on kicks and Marshay Green on punts. Punt coverage has been good. ULM is No. 106 in punt returns (Ole Miss 46), No. 75 in kick returns (Ole Miss 37), No. 101 in punt return defense (Ole Miss 43), and No. 35 in kick return defense (Ole Miss 83).
Edge: Ole Miss
Weather forecast: Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 48F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Low Saturday is 28F.
TV: No live TV. The CSS replay of the game will be Sunday at 1
p.m. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum,
play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Stan Sandroni,
sideline reporter). Satellite radio: Sirius 217; XM 200. WEB:
OleMissSports.com will provide live audio through RebelVision,
live stats and an in-game blog. The official Rebel athletics
website will also provide a full game recap, a photo gallery
and live postgame video.