OXFORD — It was a near perfect storm for the Ole Miss football program this past weekend in front of a national audience. The Rebels showed that its defense can more than hold its own against elite competition and that the offense can provide plenty of opportunities to win.
While it wasn’t always perfect, it did the job in Saturday’s 29-19 SEC victory over Texas A&M. Now, the challenge is for Ole Miss to continue its “ next game” mentality this week against Vanderbilt and not look ahead to the Egg Bowl matchup on Thanksgiving day. Sam Williams, Snoop Conner and head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media Monday to assess the previous win and address other concerns leading up Saturday’s SEC matchup.
“Great weekend, awesome win,” Kiffin said. “I’m very excited for our players and fans. It was a very defensive led win, dominant defensive performance. Offense moved the ball well a lot of times, but a lot of mistakes in the red zone and the little ones were big ones… Our defense rose to the occasion, scored twice on defense. As usual, we kind of overplayed our players. A lot of our defense outside our D-Line played every snap. The temperature of a night game and tempo on offense allowed us to do that. You have to commend those guys playing great on defense the way we did.”
Vanderbilt enters the week 2-8, winless in SEC play and riding a five-game losing streak. Kiffin made it a point to not prepare any less because of it. The Rebels recently re-entered the top-10 in both AP and Coaches Polls and are still in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl.
They are also on pace to win over 10 games for the first time in the program history. Saturday’s game will also be the final time a number of veteran players suit up and play in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Therefore, Kiffin challenged players and fans alike to send those players out on a memorable note.
“It’s an SEC game,” Kiffin said. “We’ve had issues with all three phases at some points during the year. There’s no looking ahead. We’re excited to be playing at home. To me, it should be a challenge to our fans. Texas A&M didn’t use a silent count, which is pretty unheard of in this conference to go on the road using a verbal count. Should be a challenge for our fans to cheer louder. It’s senior day, probably the quarterback’s last day. Hopefully we show up.”
Williams is one of those players that hopes to leave a lasting impression in Oxford this coming Saturday. His maturity and growth since arriving on campus has led him to be among the SEC’s most feared and respected players.
His change of heart, selfless attitude and determination has also rubbed off on his teammates, which he hopes to show again Saturday.
“I’ve stopped playing for the hate of the other team and I started playing for the brothers on my side. The teammates across from me, behind me. When I look at those guys, I’m like ‘they deserve my all,’ even in practice… I love those boys. They’re my brothers. It’s going to get emotional Saturday because this is my last home game with them. Hopefully I’ll get to play alongside them on Sundays. We came a long way from my first year,” Williams said.
Williams was part of a Rebel defense that showed up in their previous win over Texas A&M. The unit held the Aggies to less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. Even when things got close late, the Rebels created turnovers and made stops when they needed it most.
“We read the articles. We see everything, people saying we can’t stop the run. We take that personally… Everybody made their mind up in the team meeting that they were going to do it. As you see, we did it,” Williams said.
One of those turnovers allowed Conner to score the touchdown that ended frequent red zone woes for Ole Miss. Despite some issues near the end zone, Conner, Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish Jr., and others finished the night with a total of 257 rushing yards. That total was the most rushing yards the Aggies had given up all season. The running back rotation again showed its potential when healthy and balanced.
“It’s getting for comfortable for us, making us fresher. We’re staying healthy with it too, so that’s a good thing,” Conner said.
Kickoff for Saturday’s senior night matchup against Vanderbilt is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on SEC Network or listened to on the Ole Miss Radio Network.