Texas at Ole Miss
Longhorns and Ole Miss both aim to prove 2-0 is no fluke
It’s called The Grove, and it may be the best college football tailgating experience in the country. The University of Mississippi knocks it out of the park bringing all of the old southern charm to a football tailgate.
They dress up, like really dress up — girls in Sunday best cocktail and sundresses with heels; guys in seersucker and bow ties. Many of the tents feature fine china and silver. They drink. A lot. Juleps and, well, anything with bourbon.
A couple hours before the game the football team, also dressed in jackets and ties, takes the “Walk of Champions” through the 10-acre tailgate party.
Generally that is as good as it gets in Oxford, Mississippi. Alas, they are still Ole Miss and a great tailgate does not translate into a great football team.
Ole Miss, first road trip with the young team is exciting them, but it's a change. It's two very young, undefeated teams. But Ole Miss is, like us, playing very few seniors. We won't take them lightly, because they look good on video and they're undefeated. — Mack Brown
On Saturday, the 2-0, No. 12 ranked Texas Longhorns go on their first road trip to Oxford, Mississippi — kind of. The team is actually staying in Memphis and driving down to the game because there are no hotels in Oxford.
"They're always hunting the big chunk play. As we know in this game, you don't have to hit on very many of those to win a football game.” - Manny Diaz
Texas will not walk through The Grove, in fact, Longhorn Nation hopes they will pay no attention at all to the noise and the pomp. It’s the first road game for Texas this season and while Ole Miss will never be confused with Alabama or LSU, they are the best team Texas has played so far, and any road game, especially a road game at a Southeastern Conference (SEC) school is a slightly scary proposition. Especially with a young football team like Texas.
“You have to make sure your inexperienced players can handle all that goes into travel,” explained Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. “We are not going to Memphis to go sightseeing. We're not going to stop at Graceland. We're going with the intention of trying to win a football game.”
These two teams have not played since the 1966 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. Texas won. In fact, Texas is 5-1 against Mississippi, the sole loss happened in the 1958 Sugar Bowl. How these two southern teams with so much history have managed to avoid playing each other is a mystery, but it took Archie Manning — former Ole Miss quarterback and father of Peyton and Eli — and a bunch of Texas boosters to get this one scheduled.
Coming off a terrible 2011 season, Mississippi was generally chosen as one of the worst teams in the SEC, but after two games with a new head coach, Hugh Freeze, and a junior college transfer at quarterback they are beginning to get their offense rolling. They are 2-0 and getting votes in the AP poll rankings.
The Rebels appear to have a potent offense running up over 500 yards in each of their first two games, and last week they churned out over 300 yards on the ground.
Their quarterback, Bo Wallace, is fast on his feet and accurate with his arm.
“They're playing fast, playing free, playing hard and they're extremely aggressive on both sides of the ball," says Texas Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. “They've been aggressive in their offensive play-calling, and they do a lot of things to try to create explosive plays. They're always hunting the big chunk play. As we know in this game, you don't have to hit on very many of those to win a football game.”
The Mississippi defense is fast and aggressive. The team has sacked the opposing quarterback nine times already in just two games and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin knows that is a threat for the Texas offense and particularly Longhorn QB David Ash who was sacked twice by New Mexico.
“The quarterback has to do a good job of understanding the urgency they need to have in the pocket. [The] ball needs to be out. [If the] ball is not out, you're hanging in there. The ball needs to be out of your hands somehow, some way — throw it away or get upfield and run. So that will help us eliminate sacks in those situations.”
This game will match strength against strength. The Longhorn running game will make or break the season. So far, the Ole Miss defense has shut down their opponents rushing game.
“They're an aggressive front. They have very good D-linemen. Those guys are fast. They get up field,” says Harsin. “That will be the difference from what we have seen. Those guys will be a faster football team all around.”
But Mississippi gives up huge chunks of yardage in the air, over 500 yards in two games. Both Central Arkansas and UTEP had no trouble throwing the ball. Passing is not Texas' strength, but it may be what they need to win the game.
What to Watch for
- Get the lead out: For two straight games the Longhorns have been outplayed in the first quarter. You can get away with that against Wyoming and New Mexico, but Ole Miss will take advantage of a slow start.
- Pressure on the Texas QB: New Mexico’s defense managed two sacks against Texas, and that was New Mexico. As mentioned, Ole Miss will come hard after the quarterback and they’ve shown success with it. Texas offensive line must be on their a-game.
- Go deep: If ever there were a game in which Texas could stretch the field it should be this one. The Horns need the deep pass to balance the stingy Mississippi run defense.
- Step up defense: No big plays. The Texas defense again allowed a couple a big plays, two of them after getting New Mexico into third down and long situations. Ole Miss plays a zone read style offense and looks for the big play.
Texas Longhorns at Ole Miss Rebels
Time: 8:15 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi
Radio: KVET-FM 98.1 / KVET-AM 1300
Honored: Ole Miss will honor the 50th Anniversary of their 1962 National Championship with events all weekend long.