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October 4, 2012OXFORD, Miss. -- C.J. Johnson wasn't shocked by Texas A&M's prolific offensive day against Arkansas.
The Aggies rolled up 58 points on the Razorbacks, and A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel broke the Southeastern Conference record for total yardage - formerly held by Archie Manning - with 557 yards against Arkansas. It was also the Aggies' first-ever SEC win.
"Not surprised at all," Johnson said. "They have some really good plays, and they all did their jobs. The offensive line blocks well, and they have a great football team."
Against Alabama, Ole Miss' goal was to pressure quarterback A.J. McCarron and get him outside the comfort of the pocket. With Manziel, the Rebels don't want him comfortable, but they also don't want him outside the tackles. That's when he improvises and does good things.
"He's a special one," Ole Miss linebackers coach Tom Allen said. "I've been coaching this game a long time, and some guys just have that something special. He's a guy that can create something out of nothing, and that's what scares you. He's a tough guy. You watch him take shots, and he's not afraid to stick his nose in there. We'll hopefully do a great job of keeping him in the pocket."
The Aggies run a spread offense that somewhat resembles the Rebels' attack. Tempo will be a key Saturday, as both teams like to move quickly and rack up plays. Both Ole Miss and A&M hope that pace can be an advantage each week, but this time it's a familiar site for both defenses.
"We're used to facing our own offense and their spread and tempo, we'll be fine," Ole Miss defensive tackle Gilbert Pena said. "Without a question, for sure. Their spread is pretty similar. I just don't think anyone in the SEC runs tempo like we do. We're in shape for that."
TAKING CONFIDENCE FROM ALABAMA: The Ole Miss defense did an admirable job against the Alabama offense last Saturday, holding the Crimson Tide to 123 rushing yards and allowing less than 30 offensive points, despite three turnovers.
While Ole Miss' physicality and intensity has been praised all week, the attention to assignments and being in the right position were more critical elements, Johnson said.
"Coaches always talk about doing the little things - putting your eyes in the right place - and everybody prepared doing the week and knew the game plan and the attention to detail," Johnson said.
He was pleased with the Rebels' night defensively, except for third downs. Ole Miss will need to do a better job this week rushing the passer and getting off the field when possible.
"We had a couple calls go wrong," Johnson said. "We had blitzes on but called them the wrong way. Defensive line got too caught up looking at the running back because they were killing us with screen passes. We should have just rushed the quarterback
"We have to step up our game and give our defensive backs a chance to cover people and get off the field."
Pena said the 60 minutes with Alabama will be nothing but a positive moving forward.
"It shows our team can play with the best out there," the senior said. "It gave us a heads up on how to by physical and dominant."
LINEBACKERS MAKING STRIDES: Denzel Nkemdiche is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his 11 tackles and two forced fumbles against Alabama.
He also leads the Rebels with 32 tackles on the season, four ahead of linebacker Mike Marry. Running both the 4-2-5 and 4-3, Ole Miss is improving quickly at the position.
"The've improved a lot and the proof is in the production," Allen said. "We play in a results-based game. Mike (Marry) and Denzel (Nkemdiche) are up there leading the team in tackles, and they need to be. If you're going to play linebacker, you have to lead in both production and verbal. It's neat to see them grow. They're learning a new system, and we're learning them, as well. We're finding out what they do well and putting them in situations to be successful."
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