BLOG — Ole Miss is trying to bounce back from back-to-back losses to Alabama and, most recently, Auburn. Things won’t get any easier for the Rebels this Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) when No. 9 Texas A&M and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel visit Oxford.
But Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said his team’s long-awaited return to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium can’t hurt. The Rebels haven’t played at home since the second week of the season, and Freeze said during his weekly press conference Monday afternoon at the Manning Center that the opportunity to perform in front of the home fans again can’t come soon enough.
“Thrilled to come back home,” Freeze said. “It’s a very difficult stretch even at home, but man, to not be on the road in hostile environments and you can change some of your communication stuff, get back to normal and at the same time get more rest, I think it’s going to do us all a lot of good to get back home.”
The Rebels (3-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) put together one of their best performances of the season against the Aggies a season ago, notching six turnovers and keeping Manziel bottled up for the better part of three quarters. But Texas A&M erased a 10-point deficit in the final frame with a touchdown run and pass from Manziel to pull out a 30-27 win.
Freeze said the Rebels will have to give the freelancing Manziel a variety of different looks in an effort to keep him from running — and throwing — wild. Texas A&M leads the SEC in passing offense (375 yards per game).
“I think you have to be multiple,” Freeze said. “We did have a good plan, and we contained him for the better part of three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, he showed why he won the Heisman Trophy. We’ll look at last year’s (film) very closely, use what we think was very good and try to mix in maybe some new stuff.”
On the injury front, Freeze said he’s hoping to get DT Carlton Martin back from an unspecified injury after he didn’t make the trip to Auburn, but DE Carlos Thompson will likely miss Saturdays’ game. WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder sprain), RB Jeff Scott (thigh bruise) and C Evan Swindall (toe) should all be good to go, Freeze said.
A brief video of Freeze’s meeting with the media is below.
Part of last year’s effort to stop Manziel included CB Mike Hilton acting as a spy to keep an eye on the fleet-footed signal caller when things broke down. But Hilton, who talks about the challenges of defending Manziel in the video below, said the defense may have even more packages ready come Saturday.
“We’ve got a whole year under our belt watching him, so I think we’re going to have more defensive packages set for him,” Hilton said.
See Tuesday’s print edition of the EAGLE for full coverage of Freeze’s press conference. (October 7, 2013)