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September 20, 2012OXFORD, Miss. -- Inexperience will obviously lead to mistakes in any area of performance, and football is no exception.
That was the case often during Ole Miss 66-31 loss to Texas last Saturday, and it's something defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is working hard to clean up before the Rebels head to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a date with Tulane at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Head coach Hugh Freeze commented that physics took over on occasion against the Longhorns even when his players were in the right place, but the goal is to limit the times Ole Miss was out of position during plays.
Wommack trimmed the defense to make it more managemable.
"We've cut down some things we're doing, trying to hone in on it," Wommack said. "I think the guys have gotten better. I thought we made a lot of improvement against El Paso. Don't get me wrong, I know the difference between El Paso and the University of Texas, but we played so out of control in the game with our eyes and movements and alignments. It's been a big emphasis.
"Any time you don't execute, you simplify back , and we did that during the game. We told them we were going to run just a few different defenses in the second half, and we still didn't execute very well. That's also related to how you practice. I thought we were making tremendous progress in execution and assignments. I think Texas had a lot to do with the failure, but we have to be smarter with things."
The Ole Miss defensive coaches have been pleased with the energy and retention during practice the past few days, but it's impossible to know for sure until the game happens. Wommack said the simplifications had little to do with pressure, blitzes or stunts but rather with the linebackers' gap assignments and fits.
"Mentally we've been sharp (this week), but you have to get on the field when it's the real deal," Wommack said. "I'm anxious to see them play again. We watched the film together on Sunday, and they could see why things broke down. Just basic alignment and assignment deals. With a young group, guys are going make mistakes."
Tulane starting quarterback Ryan Griffin injured his shoulder against Tulsa, so true freshman Devin Powell will start against the Rebels. He was sacked six times against Tulsa, and the Green Wave has had a terrible time offensively, averaging less than 10 yards per game rushing and in the bottom couple nationally when it comes to total offense.
Ole Miss took a look at Powell last season but never invited him for a visit.
"It's difficult to play as a freshman - ay any level," Wommack said. "They struggled against Tulsa. That isn't a secret They'll want to limit their offense if he's the guy."
OFFENSIVE EMPHASIS: PROTECT THE BALL: Ole Miss scored 31 points against Texas, but the three interceptions thrown by Bo Wallace stuck out on film and on the stat sheet. This week, as the Rebels have prepared for Tulane, the emphasis has been on protecting the football.
"We talk about that all the time, but obviously after a game like that, when we threw three interceptions, we talked quite a bit about being sure of your throws," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "If it's not there, throw it away or run it."
Werner said Wallace is "throwing the ball fine. It's just his decision-making process that was the problem."
Werner said the Rebels emphasize ball protection constantly and have drills designed to improve those skills.
"We've just got to get it in our heads that you can't win football games when you turn the ball over," Werner said.
The other emphasis this week, Werner said, was on staying out of third-and-long situations. Texas, Werner said, teed off on the Rebels in the first half and sacked Wallace five times. In the second half, as Ole Miss improved its production on second and third downs, the Longhorns had less success getting to the quarterback.
"We've got to execute better, obviously," Werner said. "A lot of it has to do with play-calling because we do like to take shots. A lot of times if you take a shot, it's either going to be a big play for you or a big play against you. We've got to pick and choose when it's a good time to take a shot. And when we are trying to get our three or four yards a pop, we've got to do that. We've got to make sure we're executing the play."
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