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Ole Miss Football Practice Report: Gaining Momentum

Tre Harris scoring the go ahead touchdown over No. 12 LSU. Photo by Hannah Morgan White / Ole Miss Athletics

With the jubilation of the Rebels’ exciting win over LSU now in the rearview, it’s been back to the grindstone for the Ole Miss football team in preparation of Saturday night’s showdown with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
 
Ole Miss captured the imagination of the college football world last Saturday night in its wild 55-49 victory over the 12th-ranked Tigers, a game that saw 104 combined points and 1,343 combined yards of total offense. However, the Rebels have quickly turned the page to the Razorbacks, who always present a tough challenge for Ole Miss. Five of the last eight games in the series have been decided by four points or fewer, and the home team has won each of the last four games played.
 
Kickoff between the No. 15 Rebels (4-1, 1-1 SEC) and Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC) is set for 6:30 p.m. CT at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and on SEC Network.
 
Head coach Lane Kiffin spoke with the media on Monday, and across Monday and Tuesday senior safety Daijahn Anthony, senior running back Ulysses Bentley IV, senior offensive lineman Jeremy James, senior wide receiver Dayton Wade and junior safety Trey Washington also took turns at the podium.
 
BIGGEST PARTY IN THE ‘SIP
In front of a record crowd and under a full moon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, it all came down to the final play between the Rebels and Tigers last week, with senior Rebel safety Daijahn Anthony breaking up a potential game-winning touchdown pass from LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels as time expired – sending all 66,703 in attendance into a frenzy.
 
Anthony recalled that moment as everyone watching held their breath:
 
“Just reading the quarterback, we saw he threw a high ball,” Anthony said. “I kind of wrapped my left arm around the receiver as he was jumping so both of us could jump together, and I could have control over his body. Once I saw that the ball was high, I just stretched my arm as far as I could to make sure he didn’t catch it. I just prayed that he didn’t catch it.”
 
That moment was the finale to nearly four hours of incredible, back-and-forth football inside an electric atmosphere at Vaught-Hemingway.
 
“(The game) was amazing,” said senior wideout Dayton Wade. “That was the best game I ever played in by far. That was, hands down, the best game I’ve ever been part of. Coming out of halftime still at full capacity, (the crowd) was still there, still in it. We up, we down, fans still in it. That’s just what you love to see as a player.”
 
The fans were just as key to earning the victory as much as the players, as the raucous record crowd at The Vaught caused issues for the LSU offense all night long. Wade and junior safety Trey Washington talked about how essential the unruly atmosphere was toward the win.
 
“That fourth quarter, I’ll give all credit to that crowd and (Ole Miss) operations,” Washington said. “The (red light show) before the fourth quarter really got us hyped up, and we were really ready to go out there and play defense, so I just want to give credit to the community for that quarter.”
 
“(The crowd) really turns you up, especially when all those fans are for you,” Wade said. “They’re cheering you on, they’re causing problems for the opposing team. Third downs got crazy. Their quarterback was like ‘I can’t even think, let me call a timeout.’ For us, we’ve got that mojo, you feel that energy. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it’s just transferred. They transferred energy into us, positive energy at that.”
 
SCORE (A LOT) FROM FAR
The Rebels have been an offensive juggernaut under head coach Lane Kiffin, ranking second since his arrival in 2020 in both yards per game (512.1) and total yards (20,995) in 41 total games played in that stretch.
 
This year has been no different. The Rebels currently lead the SEC and rank sixth nationally in scoring offense (44.6 ppg), as well as second in the SEC and eighth nationally in total offense (517.4 ypg). Most impressively, though, is that the Rebels have done so against a strong schedule that ranks as the 14th-toughest so far in the FBS.
 
The Rebels have had one of the top passing offenses all season long, but Ole Miss exploded for 317 yards on the ground against LSU – helping contribute to 706 yards of total offense, the fifth-best performance in school history. The Rebels are currently the only program nationally this year with both a 300-yard rushing performance and a 500-yard passing outing, and that confidence to strike both by ground and by air has been evident to people like Dayton Wade.
 
“We are a very, extremely confident offense. I don’t think we ever lose confidence, even when we aren’t doing as good as people would expect us to or we would expect us to,” Wade said. “We never lose confidence as an offense. That’s our main thing, because we know we don’t just say ‘Score From Far’ for cool points or anything like that. That’s just fact. That’s just what we work on.”
 
Crucial to that confidence has been the play of junior quarterback Jaxson Dart, who ranks fourth in the FBS in total offense at 350.8 yards per game. Dart has done it both with his arm at 297.0 passing yards per game (FBS No. 10), as well as with his legs at 53.8 rushing yards per game – good for second among QBs in the SEC this year.
 
“I think Jaxson’s played really well,” Kiffin said on Monday. “I think that we didn’t have a lot of help for him with everybody not being healthy at Alabama. I think he’s done a really good job. Threw the ball well and was really competitive on Saturday. Probably would change two of those deeper throws that are a little bit underthrown that ended up being incompletions. He played great, and his mentality of how he played and jumping over the guy as the last play of the third quarter, it’s awesome for your team.”
 
The unsung heroes Saturday, though? That would be the Ole Miss offensive line, who completely shut down the LSU pass rush and kept Dart upright all game long. Combined with no turnovers, last Saturday stands as the lone game in Ole Miss history and one of just two nationally this season with 700 yards of total offense, no turnovers and no sacks allowed.
 
“(Dart) was thrilled, he thought (the offensive line) had a really good game,” said senior offensive lineman Jeremy James. “When you have a quarterback who plays like he does, it pushes us to go out there and try to do everything we can to keep him up.”
 
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS
Arkansas comes to town this weekend at 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC, but Kiffin and the Rebels know that the Razorbacks under head coach Sam Pittman are always a tough matchup.
 
Very tough, very physical,” Kiffin said. “They run the ball well for the most part. They’ve got their running back (Raheim Sanders) now, so I’m sure they’ll have more success running it now than they did earlier in the year. To me, (Pittman’s) team usually plays like how he is. O-line coach mentality, really tough and physical.”
 
The Razorbacks also sport one of the league’s most dynamic signal callers in senior quarterback KJ Jefferson. This is the third straight week that the Rebels will deal with a mobile quarterback after facing Alabama’s Jalen Milroe and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, but one thing sets the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Jefferson apart: his size.
 
“I think he gets bigger every year,” Kiffin said. “I mean, this guy is so hard to bring down, and so challenging to play against. He always brings his great game against us also. We’ve got to tackle really well, got to cover because he makes so many plays out of rhythm by scrambling, and he has really good vision downfield and good accuracy.”
 
Jefferson has been lights-out in his last two meetings against Ole Miss: a wild 52-51 Rebel victory in Oxford in 2021, and a 42-27 Razorback win in Fayetteville last year that saw an absurd 798 combined rushing yards between the two teams.
 
The Rebel defense knows containing Jefferson and wrapping up on tackles will be crucial this week.
 
“(LSU’s Daniels) was a little bit faster, but KJ, he’s a real big guy,” said senior safety Daijahn Anthony. “That’s one thing we’ve got to emphasize this week is wrapping up and tackling, because one person can’t just leg tackle him and think we’ll get him down. It’ll take the whole defense rallying and just pursuing to the ball every single play.”
 
“(Jefferson’s) size stands out for sure, but I think over the past two or three years he’s gotten better at reading defenses and executing the pass game,” said junior safety Trey Washington. “He’s become a real threat through the air, too.”


Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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