Rebels' defense regroups

Injury for Cornell leaves void at LB

BY PARRISH ALFORD
Daily Journal

OXFORD – The Ole Miss defensive backs have seen the video, and it confirms a troubling thought.

The Missouri game was as bad as they thought.

If there is a silver lining to be had in allowing five touchdown passes, with numerous big plays and forcing no turn-overs, here's one from strong safety Jamarca Sanford.

“It's not like we did the right thing, and they gashed us. What they got was off our mistakes.”

There may be a lot of truth in that, though it's hard to fully discredit a 74 percent completion percentage and 330 passing yards by Missouri's Chase Daniel.

Defensive coordinator John Thompson had a different take on the Rebels' pass coverage.

“I'd like to have seen some,” he said.

Thompson said he saw mistakes both physical and mental, the latter often leading to the former.

There were also a number of missed tackles, a sin which is magnified in the spread offense which produces so many 1-on-1 situations.

Thompson said he had the exact number of missed tackles filed away. It wasn't pretty, and he wouldn't share.

“The majority of it was missed assignments, guys not getting to the right spot or guys not hanging on,” said cornerback Dustin Mouzon, the hero of the Memphis win with a fumble recovery and two interceptions. “This was mainly our fault, and we're kicking ourselves in the butt.”

Head coach Ed Orgeron praised Thompson's game plan in the minutes following the 38-25 loss. He reiterated that position at his press conference on Monday. While scheme isn't likely to change, personnel might.

Sophomore cornerback Cassius Vaughn could start ahead of Terrell Jackson.

“It all depends on how he plays this week,” Orgeron said. “We are very thin there.”

The Rebels (1-1) have faced the spread offense for two straight weeks and have given up 1,015 yards and 61 points.

That's 507.5 yards and 30.5 points per game if you're scoring at home.

Ole Miss will see another version of the spread offense Saturday night at 6 in Nashville against Vanderbilt.

Thompson believes a more effective pass rush would do wonders to help pass coverage.

The 343 passing yards by Memphis quarterback Martin Hankins were largely ineffective, because heat on Hankins from a variety of sources helped force five turnovers. Hankins threw only one touchdown pass.

Daniel was another story. He wasn't pressured and responded as one might imagine.

Low productivity
“There were times when Ashlee (Palmer, linebacker) really came, but other times we weren't coming with our ears pinned back,” Thompson said. “We weren't playing fast, and we weren't playing confident. Our productivity, of all 11 guys doing it right on one play, was a very low percentage.”

While Sanford led all tacklers with 13, his own misses stood out in his mind.

Even so, he says he and his secondary teammates aren't shaken as they prepare to face one of the SEC's top receivers in Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett.

“We have complete confidence,” Sanford said. “We know we'll be facing a spread offense the next two or three weeks. We know we can run with them, but we have to play hard and practice hard.”