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Rebels travel to Kentucky in search of first SEC win

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This Saturday, Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5 SEC) travels to Lexington in hopes of ending its 11-game Southeastern Conference losing streak with a win over the Kentucky Wildcats (3-5, 0-4 SEC).

Ole Miss leads the all-time series 27-13-1, including a 42-35 win in Oxford this past season.

While the Rebels prepare for the Wildcats, head coach Houston Nutt sees some similarities between his team and Kentucky.

“Kentucky plays hard,” he said. “(Safety) Winston Guy Jr. and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who has been an All-Conference guy, play hard. They try to be disruptive. (Defensive coordinator) Rick Minter does a good job with their defense. A lot like us, they have let some games slip."

Nutt said Kentucky has not been as productive on offense with the losses of wide receiver Randall Cobb and running back Derrick Locke from a season ago.

“They have a quarterback they moved in,” he said of Kentucky’s offense. “He is 6’4” and is more of a thrower. (Junior) Morgan Newton does both. He is more of a run-pass guy. They do a good job. Offensively, they are more play action with Newton. Freshman Maxwell Smith is more of a thrower.

“Again, our whole deal is stopping the run and not giving up explosive plays. Defensively, we have to handle their pressure. We have to get their linebackers involved. They are good athletes. We have to do a good job of executing.”

Those two quarterbacks, Newton and Smith, will be important for the Rebel defense to contain to keep Kentucky off the board. After practice Thursday, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips named Smith starting quarterback. Smith has played in five games and, most recently, completed 26 of 33 passes for 174 yards against Mississippi State Saturday.

So far this season, Kentucky is averaging 16.5 points per game, but Ole Miss must play a complete game to leave Lexington with that elusive SEC win.

Part of that Ole Miss defense will be two freshmen, who are in line to get their first career starts on Saturday. Safety Cody Prewitt and linebacker Serdarius Bryant have both had limited playing time on defense and special teams this season, and Nutt is ready to see what they can do.

“I’m anxious to see it game time,” Nutt said. “They’ve taken the game plan in, worked hard. You got to throw them in the water. We’ve still got (senior safety) Damien Jackson and a lot of guys that are going to help us, but Cody Prewitt is getting better and improving. And I tell you, Serdarius Bryant and Keith Lewis just keep getting better.”

With so many freshman playing significant roles on defense, more responsibilities fall on veterans like senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, sophomore linebacker Mike Mary and sophomore safety Charles Sawyer. As the roles for these freshmen expand, they prepare themselves for next season.

On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator David Lee wants to see his guys play differently in the second half. Ole Miss struggled mightily in the third quarter each of the past three games against Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn. Junior quarterback Randall Mackey makes his second SEC road start and the Rebels will lean on senior running back Brandon Bolden and sophomore running back Jeff Scott to lead the offense.

However, Lee’s biggest concern is getting his guys to not underestimate the Wildcats.

“We better be ready to play,” he said. “That bunch up there in Kentucky believe they can beat Ole Miss. I don’t want the scenario of Vanderbilt to happen again where we think because we show up they aren’t going to play, and we are better than them.

“Hey, that’s not the case. They’ve got good players up there. They’ve got three guys on defense that could start for anybody in this conference. Our guys have to know that. My biggest concern is for our guys not being deep down ready to play.”

Two of those guys are Trevathan and Guy, who are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in total tackles among SEC players. Trevathan has totaled 94 tackles this season to go along with 6.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions while Guy has totaled 83 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.

Kickoff between the Rebels and the Wildcats is set for 2:30 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.