By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – While college athletes nationwide talk about honing in on only the next opponent, Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt has confirmed something else.
Those guys know what’s going on with other teams, too.
Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said his team was “sluggish” at times in its 34-24 win over Arkansas, and Ole Miss followed that effort with a barrage of 5-yard penalties early in its 51-21 win over Troy last week.
That win propelled the Rebels back into the rankings at No. 24, which makes tonight’s 6:45 kick against No. 8 Missouri a top 25 matchup.
Turning the page from Saturday to Sunday propelled the Rebels into a greater frame of mind.
“We realized who we were playing Sunday, and we snapped back into that really focused mentality that we have to have to play a team like this,” Prewitt said.
Ole Miss started what has become a four-game win streak by defeating then-No. 6 LSU and routing Idaho the following week.
Missouri has a one-game lead in the East over South Carolina but does not own the tie-breaker. The Gamecocks have completed SEC play at 6-2, and Missouri must win its last two games – tonight and next week at home against Texas A&M – to finish 7-1 in the league and win the East.
The Rebels set a school record with 751 total yards last week against Troy.
They were not able to run the ball consistently against Arkansas the week prior, but Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had a career day with 416 passing yards.
Ole Miss had 50 penalty yards against Troy, most of them early in the game.
“We got it solved after the first quarter,” Freeze said. “There’s no reason we should be false-starting from the wide receiver position. The last couple of weeks, maybe it is a lack of focus at the beginning of the game. That hasn’t been a staple of who we are. We won’t be able to overcome those very much against Missouri.”
The penalties set the Rebels in several third-and-long plays, obstacles they were able to handle against the Troy defense.
Prewitt doesn’t believe the Rebels will repeat those mistakes. He himself fell victim to a lack of focus by violating the team’s class attendance policy and was forced to sit out the first quarter against Troy.
Missouri is but a shanked overtime field goal against South Carolina from, possibly, being undefeated right now. The Tigers responded to the disappointing home loss by throttling weaker competition, winning 31-3 at home against Tennessee and 48-17 at Kentucky over the last two weeks.
They bring to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium an opportunistic defense that leads the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss and interceptions, and a talented offense that will feature two quarterbacks.
Tonight will be the first meaningful playing time for starter James Franklin since he injured his shoulder in Missouri’s 41-26 win at Georgia on Oct. 12.
Prewitt says the Rebels are locked in for Missouri.
“We realized who we were playing Sunday, and we snapped back into that really focused mentality that we have to have to play a team like this.”