No. 3 Ole Miss, Tennessee rely on solid defenses

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No. 3 Ole Miss, Tennessee rely on solid defenses
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #14 of the Ole Miss Rebels runs A'Shawn Robinson #86 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Robert Nkemdiche #5 of the Ole Miss Rebels tackles Derrick Henry #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Aaron Morris #72 of the Ole Miss Rebels blocks against Brandon Ivory #99 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Cheerleaders of the Ole Miss Rebels entertain the crowd during a timeout against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #14 of the Ole Miss Rebels runs against Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Jaylen Walton #6 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates with a fan after a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown catch with Evan Engram #17 of the Ole Miss Rebels against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Hugh Freeze, head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels leads his team on to the field before a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels rush the field to celebrate the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #14 of the Ole Miss Rebels is sacked by Reggie Ragland #19 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Andrew Fletcher #93 of the Ole Miss Rebels attempts an extra point as the ball is held by Ryan Buchanan #9 against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: The Ole Miss Rebels defense lines up against the offense of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: The scoreboard shows the finals score between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Trae Elston #7 of the Ole Miss Rebels runs back the opening kick against Christion Jones #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels cheer against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Keith Lewis #24 and LaKedrick King #28 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrate a fumble recovery against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Rebel, The Black Bear, mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels during a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: C.J. Moore #26 of the Ole Miss Rebels scrambles for a fumbled ball against Geno Smith #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Jaylen Walton #6 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown with John Ratliff #88 against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels rush the field to celebrate the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Keith Lewis #24 and C.J. Hampton #3 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrate a fumble recovery against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Senquez Golson #21 of the Ole Miss Rebels intercepts a pass attempt in the endzone against O.J. Howard #88 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels hang on the goalpost while celebrating the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: A general view of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium during a game between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Jaylen Walton #6 of the Ole Miss Rebels catches a touchdown pass against Landon Collins #26 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels rush the field to celebrate the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #14 of the Ole Miss Rebels is tackled by Trey DePriest #33 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Mike Hilton #28 of the Ole Miss Rebels tackles Derrick Henry #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels rush the field to celebrate the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Jaylen Walton #6 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown with teammates against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels rush the field to celebrate the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Jaylen Walton #6 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown with John Ratliff #88 against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates against the Alabama Crimson Tide on OCTOBER 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: The Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide get into an altercation after a play on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Fahn Cooper #77 of the Ole Miss Rebels blocks against Ryan Anderson #7 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Robert Nkemdiche #5 of the Ole Miss Rebels tackles Derrick Henry #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #4 of the Ole Miss Rebels is sacked by Xzavier Dickson #47 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Bo Wallace #14 of the Ole Miss Rebels runs the ball as A'Shawn Robinson #86 of the Alabama Crimson Tide defends on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 13: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels holds onto the ball while crossing the end zone line for a touchdown against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 13: Vince Sanders #10 of the Ole Miss Rebels catches a pass for a touchdown against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 13: The Ole Miss Rebels and Head Coach Hugh Freeze prepare to run onto the field before a game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 13: Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Ole Miss Rebels catches a pass in front of Corey Trim #7 of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Mississippi wasn't completely happy with how its win over Texas A&M last week ended.

Even as the third-ranked Rebels continued their fastest start in over half a century with the 35-20 win, allowing two touchdowns in the last nine minutes of the game left a sour taste in their mouths.

The frustration is an indication of just how far the Rebels' defense has come.

"That was aggravating for us," Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt said. "We really want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation."

They're not far from that goal. Ole Miss allows only 11.8 points per game. Stanford is the lone Football Bowl Subdivision team yielding fewer points per game this season.

Ole Miss (6-0. 3-0 SEC) will try to maintain that pace Saturday when it hosts Tennessee (3-3, 0-2), which has its own vastly improved defense. The Volunteers have allowed fewer than 100 yards passing in their last two games - the first time they've done that since 2002 - and is 16th nationally in total defense and tied for 19th in scoring defense.

At a time when Southeastern Conference teams are scoring at a record rate, these two programs rely primarily on defense.

"It's definitely a big opportunity," Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "Everyone's been talking about their defense, but we're going to let everybody know that Tennessee's defense is here and we're going to make a statement."

It's unusual for either of these defenses to be considered among the SEC's best.

Ole Miss finished last in the SEC in both total defense and scoring defense as recently as 2011. Tennessee finished at the bottom of the conference in both categories in 2012 with a defense that statistically ranked among the worst in school history.

Both defenses improved by using similar formulas. They've boosted their speed, feasted on turnovers and haven't hesitated to play freshmen.

Ole Miss showed its commitment to youth last year when defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and defensive back Tony Conner cracked the starting lineup as freshmen. Both now are key performers as sophomores, with Conner leading the team in tackles.

The Rebels have picked off 12 passes, which ties them for second place among all FBS programs. Before giving up those two late scores against Texas A&M, Ole Miss' defense had scored as many touchdowns (four) as it had given up all season.

Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since finishing unbeaten in 1962 because its defense has produced more big plays than it's allowed.

"I've always been a believer from being an offensive coach, if you make an offense have to drive a consistent drive, over and over again for 60-70 yards, we make mistakes on offense," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "You're going to block a look wrong or something. It's very difficult if you don't get explosive plays. When you get explosive plays, those drives get easier. If you really have to grind out first down after first down and then convert in the red zone, it's difficult.

"Our team has given up very few explosive plays and then we've been stingy when it does get in the red zone and made people settle for field goals."

Youth is even more apparent on Tennessee's defense, which starts one freshman (defensive end Derek Barnett) and four sophomores (Reeves-Maybin, nose tackle Danny O'Brien, cornerback Cam Sutton and end Corey Vereen). Six more freshmen have second-team roles. The Vols lack Ole Miss' depth up front and experience across the board, but they're similarly opportunistic.

Tennessee has averaged 6.3 points off turnovers per game since Butch Jones took over the program last year. LSU's the only SEC program that has scored more points off turnovers during that stretch. Tennessee has allowed opponents to convert only 26.4 percent of their third-down situations, which ranks the Vols fifth among all FBS teams.

"I think our entire defense is playing as one unit," Jones said. "They have great confidence right now, but we all know they will be exceptionally challenged Saturday evening."

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