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Rebels ready for Hogs’ high-powered offense

Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze took to the podium on Monday afternoon to discuss his team’s upcoming contest with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday.
Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 
Fresh off an open week, Ole Miss is now focused on preparing for Saturday’s game against Arkansas in Little Rock. 
 
The Razorbacks faced some early season struggles, but the Rebels will face a different, more confident team on Saturday, according to Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. 
 
“They’re playing with great confidence right now; coming off two wins to which both sides of the ball and special teams have played very well,” Freeze said in his weekly press conference on Monday. “I think with the last couple of weeks and the confidence that they’ve gained, and the job Coach (John L.) Smith and his staff have done of rallying them amid some difficult times at the start of their season, I think it speaks volumes for their character and the way they want to finish the year.”
 
For good reason, much of the attention paid to the Razorbacks is on the offensive side of the football, and that’s certainly the case for Ole Miss. 
 
Arkansas had some issues taking care of the football during the first half of the season, but appears to have righted the ship in recent weeks in that department.  
 
“Their offense has moved the ball every single game that they’ve been in, but they did struggle with taking care of it, just like we did in our losses,” Freeze said. “It’s hard to win any game, much less in this conference, if you don’t take care of the football. I think, if you look at the past two weeks, that’s what they’ve done.”
 
It’s an offense that has no shortage of playmakers, both through the air and on the ground that Rebels will be tasked to contain. 
 
“There’s certainly no argument that Tyler Wilson will be one of the top two or three quarterbacks taken (in the NFL draft); Cobi Hamilton’s probably a first-rounder, as is Knile Davis,” Freeze said. “The backup running backs, (Dennis) Johnson and (Ronnie) Wingo, are pretty talented as well, and they get an arguably all-conference tight end (Chris Gragg) back.
 
“They’ve got great talent, and now they’re taking care of the ball.” 
 
What could help the Rebels, according to Freeze, is the fact that Ole Miss has now had experience facing high-powered offenses this season in games against Texas and Texas A&M. 
 
Since a rough defensive outing against the Longhorns, Freeze has seen the defense improve and thinks that the unit will be ready for Saturday’s tough test. 
 
“We have gotten better,” Freeze said. “We’ve improved I think a little bit every week. I think we’re still short on depth in a lot of places, and I think that shows up from time to time. Our coaches and kids have done a nice job of making game day adjustments within the game to try and slow down or stop what the opponent is doing.
 
“We’ve got to be very good at not allowing big plays, making them earn things as they try to move the football, and then we’ve got to be stingy in the red zone.”
 
Mathews moving to safety, Collins back after ‘poor decision’
 
The play of true freshman Mike Hilton at the huskie position has allowed the Rebels to move junior defensive back Brishen Mathews to safety. It also gives the Rebels another body at safety after shifting junior Charles Sawyer over to corner earlier this season. 
 
“We’re going to move Brishen back there this weekend to give him some more snaps with the emergence of Mike Hilton playing extremely well at the huskie,” Freeze said. “It gives us some more depth at the safety position and the huskie position.”
 
Going forward, Mathews could help out at either spot. 
 
Speaking of the huskie position, junior Dehendret Collins did not play against Auburn due to a “poor decision” off the field.  
 
“We’re big on accountability right now, and you own up to something when you make a poor decision,” Freeze said. “It’s over with, and we’ll move forward from there.”
 
Ole Miss-Georgia kickoff to be announced Sunday
 
Kickoff for the Ole Miss Rebels’ Nov. 3 game at Georgia will be determined on Sunday, as CBS has elected to use a six-day selection for three Southeastern Conference matchups that weekend.
 
The Ole Miss-Georgia game has been held by CBS, along with the Texas A&M-Mississippi State and Missouri-Florida matchups. The TV slots are 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS, noon ET on ESPN and noon ET on ESPN2.
 
Ole Miss Sports Information contributed to this report.
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.