Oxford, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to snap a two-game losing streak, the Ole Miss Rebels play just their second home game of the season when they entertain the ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in a pivotal SEC affair on Saturday night.
Texas A&M brings a 4-1 record into the contest, and the team has split its first two conference bouts -- losing at home to top-ranked Alabama (49-42) and winning at Arkansas (45-33) two weeks later. The Aggies are coming off a bye, and will play five in a row before getting another respite just prior to the LSU game on Nov. 23.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin spoke recently about the benefits of getting a bye at this point in the campaign.
"There are some teams where you don't want a week off, like last year. You're a hot team and you want to keep playing. We need some time," He continued, "We've played a lot of young guys. Everyone thinks about the physical strength of playing through week five or six, but the harder part is the mental strain."
Ole Miss is kicking off an unheard of six-game homestand, and it has won three of its first five games, but is just 1-2 in the SEC after falling in each of the last two weeks -- at Alabama (25-0) and at Auburn (30-22). The Rebels' lone conference win came in the season opener at Vanderbilt, 39-35, and they also have victories over FCS foe Southeast Missouri State (31-13) and Texas (44-23) on their resume'.
Texas A&M has never lost to Ole Miss, going 5-0, and the Aggies took a 30-27 decision in last year's meeting.
Texas A&M is 5-0 in SEC road games all-time, and the team is going to need to perform at an optimal level in all phases to have a shot at winning this bout and running the table. The offense of course goes as 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel goes, and the standout signal caller hasn't disappointed this season, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards, 14 TDs and only four interceptions, while also leading the team in rushing with 314 yards and three scores. Ben Malena is close behind with 303 yards, and he has found the end zone seven times, while Tra Carson has four rushing TDs. Mike Evans is the club's leading pass catcher, having pulled down 28 balls for 691 yards and five TDs. Malcome Kennedy has four TD receptions.
In the win over Arkansas prior to the off week, Manziel threw for 261 yards, two TDs and no interceptions, hitting Evans six times for 116 yards and both scores, while targeting Derel Walker seven times for 81 yards. Trey Williams led the ground attack with 83 yards and a TD on nine carries.
Overall, A&M is averaging 586.4 yards per outing and has scored no fewer than 42 points in any game this season. Defensively, the Aggies have shown some signs of weakness, with foes averaging 30.8 points and 476.8 yards per contest. They have seven guys with at least 21 tackles, and three with 30 or more. Howard Matthews leads the way with 36 stops, while Deshazor Everett has 31 tackles, two INTs and a fumble recovery. The Aggies have logged only four sacks, a stat that needs to improve if they are going to the achieve their goals for the season.
Led by QB Bo Wallace and RB Jeff Scott, the Ole Miss offense accounts for 27.2 points and 427.8 yards per game. Wallace is a 59 percent passer who has thrown for 1,143 yards, six TDs and only two interceptions, while Scott has turned 49 carries into 424 yards and a pair of scores. Scott averages nearly nine yards per carry.
Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief head the receiving corps with a combined 47 catches, 605 yards and four TDs.
Moncrief tallied six receptions for 122 yards and a pair of TDs last week in the loss to Auburn, helping Wallace generate a season-high 336 yards on 25- of-48 passing. Wallace was picked off twice -- his first two picks of the season. Ja-Mes Logan added five grabs for 92 yards, and Scott rumbled his way to 66 yards on only six totes for the Rebels, who finished with 464 total yards compared to 375 for the Tigers.
The Ole Miss defense was led by Denzel Nkemdiche and his nine tackles, while Mike Hilton was right there with eight. The Rebels recovered a pair of fumbles in the contest, but did not record a sack. Andrew Ritter booted three field goals.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was not happy about last week's game, but gave credit where it was due.
"Obviously it was a disappointing loss. I thought they were well prepared and they were a great football team, but we had our chances. We can't give them points off turnovers like we did and we have to score touchdowns when we get the opportunity," he went on to say, "We look forward to going home. The road does not get much easier but at least we will have our people behind us and pulling for us like we have experienced on the road."