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Hipp’s Tips: UTEP

In this week’s installment, Daily Mississippian football beat writer Bennett Hipp will give keys to the week’s matchup.
Aaron Montes/The Prospector

 
Nathan Jeffery’s status
 
At the moment, it sounds like sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery is going to play for UTEP on Saturday after suffering a strained groin against Oklahoma last week. However, Jeffery didn’t practice again on Thursday, so it remains to be seen how effective he will be. 
 
Jeffery rushed for 177 yards last week against the Sooners and also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. If he’s not at 100 percent, that’s a big break for Ole Miss and its run defense. 
 
Put pressure on Nick Lamaison
 
Senior UTEP quarterback Nick Lamaison threw at least one interception in eight of the nine games he played in last season. Last week against Oklahoma, he had a tough time getting anything going, as he completed 6-of-23 passes for a measly 39 yards through the air.
 
He was only sacked once last week by the Sooners, but if Ole Miss can put pressure on Lamaison, they could cause communication problems between him and a very young group of UTEP wide receivers. 
 
The Rebels recorded four sacks a week ago, and UTEP’s line is much better than that of Central Arkansas. However, a solid pass rush would go a long way in ensuring another victory. 
 
Be aggressive on offense
 
Oklahoma struggled offensively against the Miners last week, but they were able to generate two 60-plus yard scoring plays. Looking ahead to Saturday, those same shots down the field should be available to Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze said that his offense is based off of high-percentage passes (screens, short passes, etc.), the running game and calculated shots down the field. 
 
The Sooners had a 68-yard touchdown pass and a 65-yard touchdown run late against the Miners. Those calculated shots down the field could have a pretty solid success rate if the Miners can’t improve on preventing the big plays. 
 
Third-down defense 
 
Last week against Central Arkansas, the Ole Miss defense allowed the Bears to go 7-for-15 on third-down conversions. On the flip side, Oklahoma held UTEP to just 3-for-16 on third-down conversions, which is important, especially in the red zone. 
 
If the Ole Miss defense can prevent UTEP from converting third-down plays and limit the Miners to only field goal attempts, it has the potential to work out well for the Rebels. UTEP missed three field goal attempts between two kickers last week, costing them a real shot at beating the Sooners. They missed attempts of 45, 31 and 41 yards on the night. 
 
Preventing third-down conversions would also go a long way in getting Ole Miss’ offense back on the field and scoring points to prevent another halftime deficit this week. 
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.