For Ole Miss, one defensive stop against Texas A&M in the final minutes of Saturday's loss in Oxford and the tone this week is much different. While the Rebels tried, unsuccessfully, to contain Johnny Manziel in the final minutes, star freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was on the sideline with a pulled hamstring.
Hugh Freeze announced Monday that Nkemdiche's injury will sideline the No. 1 prospect from the 2013 recruiting class for at least three games. Nkemdiche has been ruled out for this week's game against No. 6 LSU, and he is expiated to also miss the following games against Arkansas and Idaho.
You can see Nkemdiche reach for his left leg while chasing Manziel in the GIF below, via SB Nation.
The only bit of good news on the injury front for Ole Miss is the relative health of linebacker Sederius Bryant. After a scary collision that resulted in Bryant leaving the field on a stretcher, Freeze said that tests revealed nothing more than a concussion. The Rebels' leading tackler has started the protocol for returning to action, and he has not been ruled out of the LSU game.
Nkemdiche's absence adds to the growing list of injury concerns for Ole Miss. Cornerback Mike Hilton, safety Chief Brown, defensive tackle Issac Gross, defensive end Carlos Thompson, defensive end C.J. Johnson, running back Jeff Scott and backup quarterback Barry Brunetti are just a few of the key contributors nursing injuries, leading Freeze to refer to the Rebels as "a beat-up football team right now."
Nkemdiche has started every game either at defensive end or defensive tackle, recording 15 tackles with four tackles for loss. With all the injures on the defensive line, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has to be concerned about the unit's ability to get a consistent pass rush against LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. After a season-low 17 pass attempts in the Tigers' 17-6 win against Florida, Mettenberger, the SEC leader with 10.9 yards per attempt, could be looking to open the offense up again against the depleted Ole Miss defense.