The Ole Miss Rebels put up four late touchdowns in a 35-point performance against Boise State last week, but the Rebels’ rushing attack deserves almost none of the credit.

Seven different Rebels carried the ball last Thursday night in Atlanta, but they combined for just 71 yards on 34 carries, barely averaging two yards per rush. Mark Dodson, listed as the team’s No. 3 running back at the beginning of the week, led the team with a modest four carries for 27 yards, although he did score a late touchdown to help secure the victory.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was asked about his struggling run game at his weekly press conference Monday in advance of Saturday’s showdown with Vanderbilt. He explained the Boise State defense was shifting and giving different looks out of its defensive front, which startled the Rebels’ offense a bit.

They did do some things we weren’t ready for that we hadn’t worked,” Freeze admitted Monday.

The head coach also cited Ole Miss’ seven false starts, five in the first half alone, as a reason the rushing attack stalled against the Broncos. Consistently playing behind the chains kept Ole Miss from running the ball as frequently as it would have liked, and Bo Wallace’s three first half interceptions kept the ball out of the offense’s hands more than anticipated.

It was certainly a struggle,” Freeze said, taking full responsibility for the lack of a rushing attack against Boise. “We did a poor job preparing our kids. … We didn’t play physical in the run game, and they had a good scheme and were committed to stopping the run.”

Which begs the question, is this trend going to continue all season?

Ole Miss’ first chance to answer that question will come Saturday when they travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt in both teams’ SEC opener.

The Commodores lost 37-7 at home to Temple last week, but it wasn’t the Owls’ run game that beat them. Vandy allowed Temple to rush for just 145 yards on 45 carries, just a hair over three yards a carry.

Freeze spoke highly of the ‘Dores’ defensive front, and said the 37 points it allowed is misleading because Vanderbilt’s offense routinely gave its defense a short field in an all-around putrid performance. The Rebels’ coach doesn’t expect the same to occur Saturday, and knows Ole Miss must make adjustments on its end in order to run the ball successfully.

We played very tentative, and we did a poor job preparing our kids for that, and we have to get that fixed,” Freeze said.

Part of that process will involve quarterback Bo Wallace, who admitted Monday that after watching the game film he knows he could have checked to a run play in certain situations against Boise but didn’t. Wallace will seek a better run-pass balance on offense this week.

But most of Ole Miss’ corrections in the run game will come along the offensive line, which Wallace thought was confused by Boise’s varying looks and signals up front, resulting in the penalties and lack of openings on run plays.

Freeze vowed to have his big boys up front better prepared for Vanderbilt on Saturday.

He also mentioned using different packages for different tailbacks to better suit his backs’ varying skill-sets. It could be a way of countering the different looks opposing defenses may give Ole Miss after watching what Boise State did last week.

However, set aside the different defensive fronts and the penalties and the lack of rhythm on offense throughout the first half, and Freeze’s biggest issue with his rushing attack was its lack of physicality and its tentativeness in big situations. He spoke repeatedly about playing more physical in the run game against Vanderbilt, and wants his offense to make the Commodores work on its terms, not the other way around.

“The defensive front for (Vanderbilt) is very talented, very physical, as are their linebackers,” Freeze said, adding, “it’ll be a great challenge for our offense to find a way to successfully sustain drives against them, and I’m certain they will get ready to fight us hard in Nashville Saturday.”