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Battling The Elements Thursday Night

One of the core values for the Ole Miss football program is mental toughness. With a rivalry game in a hostile environment, it will carry a greater importance. 

"You're going into a hostile environment, and that's the biggest thing," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "When you're playing here, you have your home-field advantage. When you're playing there, it's a hostile environment and nobody likes you. It's kind of you versus the whole stadium."

One challenge is the weather, with the temperature expected to dip into the 30s, maybe the upper 20s, which is something similar to what they faced in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. Head coach Hugh Freeze said they have to be mentally tough to handle it.

"I did not think we handled the weather well the other night," Freeze said. "I don't talk about those things a lot, but I did talk to our team about it today. I didn't think we handled it really well, particularly when we got behind."

Another challenge is the 55,000-plus fans at Davis Wade Stadium, with the sound of cowbells. Each of the past two days, Ole Miss has had cowbell sounds, along with the usual loud music for road games, piped into practice in the Manning Center.

"We better get used to that," Freeze said. "I'm not sure how that process is going there with the regulations that they have on them. I'm certain in this game we will hear some."

"Barry (Brunetti) said that it's one of the toughest places he has played, so that's what I'm anticipating," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said, referring to Brunetti's start at quarterback in the 2011 game at Mississippi State.

Length, Size In Mississippi State's Front Seven


Freeze had praise for the Bulldogs' front seven, led by sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney and junior defense end Preston Smith. McKinney and Smith are tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks. McKinney also leads the team with 61 tackles, while Smith leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss.

"Their length and size of their front, they are one of the longer defenses you will face," Freeze said. "Their linebackers are tall, and their front is huge. It is difficult to win one-on-ones, so you have to create double teams, and their linebackers are good at running around and making plays. In the passing game, they do a great job of spot-dropping, and they're so long, that those windows to throw in don't stay open very long. 

"You have to take care of the ball. They're great at getting turnovers, and when you turn the ball over, you're not nearly as good. We have to be balanced, so we can be effective in throwing. The last thing you want with who we are is to get into a situation where they know we have to throw."

Another player to note in the front seven is freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones, who has started three games for the Bulldogs, two at defensive tackle and another at defensive end. He leads the team with nine quarterback hurries, ranks second with two sacks and tied for third with five tackles for loss.

"Any time that you're a freshman playing in this league, you better be pretty good," Luke said. "The biggest thing is adjusting to the speed of the game in this league. Any time you are able to do that as a freshman, it's good."

Wallace, Other Health Updates

Wallace battled flu-like symptoms in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. He is close to 100 percent, Freeze said Tuesday.

"He still felt some lingering effects this morning," he said. "We'll get him off his feet today and hopefully get him back to 100 percent. He went through everything in practice, but he felt a little weak today."

Also on the health front, Freeze said he doesn't think senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (various injuries) will be able to go, and senior running back Jeff Scott (thigh bruise/bone spur) is questionable like he was Monday.

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