How Will Ole Miss Attack Defenses That Emulate the Arkansas Plan?
Arkansas and coordinator Barry Odom worked their defensive gameplay to perfection this past weekend against Ole Miss.
By dropping eight and playing almost exclusively zone against Ole Miss, Arkansas forced Rebel quarterback Matt Corral into six interceptions and became the first team on the season to hold Ole Miss under 35 points in the 33-21 Razorback victory.
Head coach Lane Kiffin was pretty honest over the past few days talking to media – Auburn and every team moving forward is going to use that gameplay as a blueprint to stop Ole Miss.
So how will the Rebels adjust? That was the key element for Kiffin and Co. this week:
"You got to run them out of it," Kiffin said. "There is always a weakness to everything. We don't play very consistent up front and we don't run the ball with consistency. We put two tight ends in the second half, they struggled with that defensively because they're outnumbered, and we were able to run the ball with the second half with that. There's other formations and personnel you can go to help with that. When people do that and play boxes like that, you have to run them out of it otherwise you get long days.
"They pay the defensive coordinators a lot in this conference for reason. You can't just get away with what you're doing. They're going to scheme you up and they did the same thing to Mississippi State, and Kentucky did it to State too, so people will copycat it. You have to run the ball better and work different things in the passing game."
The biggest culprit against Arkansas was the quarterback.
Kiffin said after the game that he doesn't believe in pulling quarterbacks quickly, as it affects confidence and rhythm. At some point, pulling a quarterback early doesn't count when that quarterback has thrown three interceptions.
He would later admit on Monday that there were thoughts to put in backup John Rhys Plumlee, but ultimately he believed Corral would give the team the best chance to win. It admittedly took Corral some time to get over his performance, but Kiffin seems to think he's settled back into the grove that led him to be one of the nation's top passers over the opening three weeks of the year.
"I thought he was good (Monday), upbeat," Kiffin said about his quarterback. "(Sunday) I am glad we didn't practice. He was not good (Sunday) as you would expect – went through a rough day and embrace the suck. It sucked. We got to move forward, and you don't let one game beat you twice."
The running game will be a critical part of breaking this drop eight look.
If Ole Miss is faced with a light box, as they were this past Saturday, they need to be able to run the football in order to force the defense to bring more guys into the box to open up future passing lanes.
The Rebels actually ran the ball well against Arkansas, going for 242 yards on the ground on 4.6 yards per carry. The turnovers and the inability to sustain drives kept Ole Miss from pounding the rock even more.
Kiffin's teams have always been run-first. They still are this year, as they're running the ball 55-percent of the time. But when teams try and emulate Arkansas' defensive gameplay, they're going to have to run the ball even more to take the pressure off of the pass game.
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