Jeff Scott, veteran running back, said he’s aware of it. And he knows there are various reasons for it.
“It’s about speed in the conference," Scott said. “I definitely think defenses have started to play us pretty differently. They’ve started to focus more on our run.”
Last weekend’s game against Georgia was a recent example of the Rebels’ problems running the football. There were 29 rushes for a net total of 46 yards. The Bulldogs won 37-10.
Even in a 30-27 Ole Miss win the weekend before against Arkansas, the Rebels rushed the football for only 77 yards on 37 carries. Those were the only two times all season, except 80 yards on 35 carries against No. 1 ranked Alabama in a 33-14 UM loss, that the Rebels have failed to muster at least 100 yards in a game on the ground.
Scott has clearly been the go-to guy in the running department. So far this season, he’s carried the football 126 times for 633 net yards with six touchdowns, all team highs.
Scott said all aspects of the offense have to work together better, like earlier in the season, for the running game to accomplish more.
“Going over the film, we’ve just got to stay on blocks. That’s the main thing,” he said. “It’s not frustration. But the guys are hooking up with the right guys. We’ve just got to learn how to finish blocks and all. I just need to be a little bit more patient.”
The Rebels are still in the top half of the 14-team league in rushing offense (sixth) and total offense (sixth). Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said since halftime at Arkansas, the Rebels haven’t been the same running the football.
“We’ve certainly lost the edge a little bit there up front,” he said. “Some of it has to do with the game-planning others have done against us. Arkansas had a good scheme in the second half. We ran it real effective against them in the first half. They did some things against us in the second half that gave us problems. Georgia was a whole different animal. Looking back at the film, I’d call the same runs again. But they beat us. I’m anxious to see how our O-Line bounces back this week. They’ve got their hands full.”
Freeze said the Vanderbilt Commodores, this weekend's foe in Oxford, are impressive with what they do and how they do it.
“They totally understand who they are and what they need to do. They don’t make many mistakes at all,” he said. “Every game they have a different plan, and you’ve got to figure out what that is. Their kids play every play extremely hard. Effort’s a big deal with them, and they’re getting a lot out of their kids. That carries you a long way on defense. They’ve been very good in the red zone also.”
Scott said Vanderbilt appears to have a strong defense, as can be expected in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores are fifth overall on defense through nine games, second against the pass and tenth against the run.
“And they like to blitz a lot,” Scott said of the active Commodore defenders.
Ole Miss is 5-4, just like Vandy, and is 2-3 in SEC play. The Commodores, also 5-4, have three games left but only two of them are SEC games. They stand 3-3 in the conference coming to Oxford and play Tennessee after that as well as non-league foe Wake Forest.
Scott said it’s a big game for both teams at 6 p.m. Saturday, and he knows the Rebels need this one.
“After Vanderbilt, we’ve got two more tough games – LSU and Mississippi State,” he said. “I think it’s best right now to take advantage of it, jump on it, and get this win.”