Rebels Seek To Stop Tigers
Thompson and the Rebels will face the second of four straight teams to open the season featuring the increasingly popular offense today when they host Missouri in Oxford. The spread features bits of the triple-option, run-and-shoot and West Coast offenses with the goal of dividing defenses to conquer them.
"People can really exploit a defense by spreading you out and running the ball and throwing it also," Thompson said. "It's a tough, tough booger."
Making matters more difficult for Thompson is that none of the teams he must plan for - Memphis, Missouri, Vanderbilt and No. 4 Florida - plays the spread option exactly the same way.
Memphis, which Ole Miss beat 23-21 last week, focuses more on the passing game. Missouri (1-0) is going to force Ole Miss (1-0) to pay attention to the run as well with quarterback Chase Daniel playing the role of wild card.
"Missouri throws the ball, but you've got to be so cognizant of their run," Thompson said. "And their quarterback run is what gets you. And they can do it any down."
Thompson was brought in by coach Ed Orgeron in the offseason for situations like these. Missouri tore through Ole Miss' defense last season for an easy 34-7 win in Columbia.
The Tigers finished with 471 total yards. Daniel threw for 243 and a touchdown and ran for 89 more and another score.
Orgeron hopes Thompson's attacking style that features the zone blitz and much trickery will be the key to stopping Daniel this season. Thompson believes Daniel is one of the nation's best operators of the spread offense.
"Great competitor," Thompson said. "Great decision maker. His arm is strong and you can tell it's gotten stronger over the season from when we watched him before. He's a winner. He's just a fighter. He makes the right throws, he's accurate. He does a lot of good things. He's just like an old gym rat, he likes to play.
Orgeron has helped Thompson in his quest to stop the spread by bringing more talent to a unit that gave up 353.9 yards and 22.9 points per game last season. Above all, the defense is faster.
"I think there are some ways that John brought to us that we totally understand and we are able to do now," said Orgeron, who served as his own defensive coordinator in his first two seasons. "I think you have to put as much speed on the field as possible, sometimes without letting them run the ball right down your throat."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he saw improvement in Ole Miss' defense in the win over Memphis. While the Rebels gave up 467 yards, including 343 passing, they showed the ability to make plays with six turnovers and a 99-yard interception return.
"They just created a lot of bad plays for Memphis' offense," Pinkel said.
One player that drew Pinkel's attention was defensive end Greg Hardy, who had 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss in addition to a touchdown as a wide receiver against Memphis. Hardy will be a key in Ole Miss' effort to stop the option today.
"He is a dominant player," Pinkel said.
But Pinkel said the Tigers need to worry less about what the Rebels will do than how they respond after a sloppy season opener against Illinois.
Missouri, which is hovering around the Top 25 this season, won 40-34 but had to hold on after Illinois rallied from a 24-point deficit in what Pinkel called a "comedy of errors."
"We're focusing, obviously, preparation on (the Rebels), but we've got to play better," he said. "We did a lot of good things, but we did an equal number of bad things.
Courtesy of the Associated Press
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