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'Put It Away And Move Forward'


Through the first seven games of the season, Ole Miss has played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Sagarin's ratings. The Rebels (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) continue to their six-game home stand over seven weeks, as they welcome FBS Independent Idaho (1-6) for Homecoming this Saturday, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on CSS.


"We got to put it away and move forward," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "The gauntlet that we have gone through, it's taken a toll on us some physically and mentally. We certainly need to continue moving in the right direction in all areas. We got a team coming in this week that I'm sure will nothing to lose playing in an SEC home and have a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend. We don't want to be on the other end of that, so we have got to regain our kids' focus and elevate our concentration to do the little things right."


"It's going to make us a better team at the end of the year, just going through that stretch and playing such good competition," senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray said. "But we have to go out there and play every Saturday either way, no matter who we're playing, but it's good to get it out of the way. That was a tough, tough stretch."


Idaho is coached by Paul Petrino, who is in his first year as a collegiate head coach, having previously served as offensive coordinator at Louisville, Arkansas and Illinois. The Vandals' lone win was a 26-24 victory over winless Temple on Sept. 28, but did have close 45-35 loss to current No. 22-ranked Northern Illinois on Sept. 24.


"On game day, the team felt a little bit sleepy," said McCray, of Ole Miss' 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri. "We came out slow. We learned the lesson from that game and Auburn that we have to start fast, and we have to be passionate, no matter who we're playing. We have to be high energy because that's our identity. We play with passion, and we let that carry over on the field."


"As big as (the LSU win) was for us and the fan base, if we could go out there and don't show up against Idaho, that win doesn't really mean a lot," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We know who we're playing this week, and we'll prepare just like they're any other team."



Wallace Has 'Best Game' Of Ole Miss Career



Junior quarterback Bo Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, his third-straight 300-yard passing game, as the Ole Miss offense racked up 525 yards of total offense in the 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU.


"Bo played his best game he's played since he's been here," Freeze said. "I can only find two things to complain about, and hopefully we can get those cleaned up, and him play an even more complete game. Dan (Werner) did a great job with him all week making sure he understood our plan exactly."


"We needed a game like that," Wallace said. "We put up a lot of points against A&M. We knew that we were going to have to put up a lot of points with the defense and the injuries that they had. Everybody prepared, we got the game plan down early in the week, and then everybody executed.


The Rebels converted 11-of-18 third downs on Saturday, including two third downs on the game-winning drive, capped by senior kicker Andrew Ritter's 41-yard field goal. Facing 3rd-and-6, Wallace ran for six yards, then facing 3rd-and-9, Wallace connected with senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan for a 13-yard completion.


"We had to do something," said Wallace, of the final drive. "We couldn't leave it in the defense's hands again. We couldn't leave it anybody else's hands. We had to go down and score, and that's exactly what we did."


Wallace passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time (4,784), 187 passing yards behind Mark Young for sixth place. He also ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (278.9 ypg) and fifth in passing (255.7 ypg).


Along the way, Wallace has also picked up the nickname Dr. Bo, which he said he knew about on Monday.


"Yeah, I am aware of it," Wallace said. "It came for a video game or something like that, so yeah I am aware of it... It's cool, I guess."


Engram Out For Season, Parker's Role To Increase


Freshman tight end Evan Engram underwent season-ending surgery on Monday, Freeze said, to repair his high ankle sprain. The Powder Springs, Ga., native ranked fourth on the team in receptions (20), third in receiving yards (265) and second in touchdowns (3). His 20 catches rank seventh-place all-time by a freshman in Ole Miss history. 


"We lost Evan Engram for the year, which is a tough loss for us. He was on track to be a freshman All-American. He's a tremendous kid and was very important to our scheme. We don't have another one like him who can win some one-on-ones in space and do the blocking that we were asking him to do. Everyone knows the situation we are in at that position, so that's a difficult loss. And it's even worse because you know what these kids put in. He's such a great kid and going to be a tremendous leader for this program for years to come."


"It's going to change a little bit because he was that guy that we could go 11 personnel and do a lot of different things with, flex him out and things like that," said Wallace, of the loss of Engram. "Of course, it's going to change. It hurts me a little bit, not having him to stretch the field, but Nick Parker caught a touchdown, so he has to get prepared to play this week and be ready to go."


Senior Nicholas Parker, who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass against LSU, his first career reception and touchdown, is now listed as the starter at tight end. Seniors Jack Nuismer, Parker's backup on this week's depth chart, and Justin Bigham have also seen action in six games this year.


"Nick is a joy around this program," Freeze said. "He is loved by his teammates. He makes people laugh and goes to work every day. He's a local kid. So when he caught that touchdown, there was a lot of excitement and joy for him. His role will increase some, but we're different with him. He doesn't do some of the things that Evan could do, but he can do some things, so we'll certainly start using him more. And probably Justin Bigham and maybe (Jack Nuismer), those will be the three guys you will see right now."


Duke, Junen And The Gatorade Cooler

Senior kicker Andrew Ritter hit a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left to give Ole Miss the 27-24 victory over No. 6 LSU, its first win over a top-10 ranked opponent since 2009. 


Moments later, amid the postgame celebration, the ESPN cameras found senior offensive linemen Jared Duke and Patrick Junen carrying a Gatorade cooler and looking for head coach Hugh Freeze.


"With two seconds left for the kickoff, we were just a little bit concerned," Duke said. "Obviously, everyone was. They had the big lateral play and stuff. We weren't going to do it then. We were going to wait until the game was secure. We got the Gatorade container and couldn't find Coach Freeze at all. 


"There were students on the field and everything. It was just madness after the game for sure. Eventually, we did find him. Watching ESPN and everything, they singled us out while we were just kind of standing there. We were actually waiting on Coach to get done with an interview. It's funny. It's laughable. I have received a lot of tweets, which have been real funny."


For offensive linemen such as Duke and Junen, it was a rare moment in the limelight, as they helped Ole Miss rack up 525 yards of total offense in the win. In their respective four-year careers, Duke has played in 41 career games with 11 starts, including six starts at right guard this year, while Junen has played in 40 career games with 11 starts.


"They found us," said Duke of the ESPN cameras. "It wasn't exactly what we had in mind when we were planning on giving him the Gatorade bath. We wanted Gatorade because you had to see the green. Absolutely. You can't just pour water on him. It was completely spur of the moment."


Like Duke said, they found Freeze. It just took a little while.


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Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian


"We found him right away," Duke continued. "We figured he was at the 50-yard line, but we didn't want to interrupt any big moments or the coaches' meeting, so we waited, then he went to straight to an interview, so we had to wait a little bit longer, but it was funny. Everyone was laughing about it."


Undoubtedly both Ritter's kick, as well as the few seconds of Duke and Junen carrying the Gatorade cooler, will go down in the rich history of the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry.


"I hope it's Ritter's kick," said Duke, of what people will remember 10 years from now. "I don't want to take anything from that. 


"And I was telling Coach (Matt) Luke afterwards, 'Man, I hope this doesn't find its way 30 years down the line when I'm at a job, and it shows up every now and then in the workplace. I'm a little worried about that. It will probably happen, and it will be funny then, too."










In head coach Hugh Freeze's first season at Ole Miss, the Rebels gained bowl eligibility with a 41-24 win over in-state rival Mississippi State, then rolled to a 38-17 win in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh.


A year later, after a consensus top-10 recruiting class, Freeze and the Rebels won a pair of road games at Vanderbilt and Texas, but Saturday's 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU marked a signature victory of a different kind. It was Ole Miss' first win over a top-10 foe since defeating then-No. 8 LSU in 2009.


But Ole Miss had been close under Freeze. 


In last year's meeting in Baton Rouge, La., the Rebels lost a 41-35 shootout to then-No. 8 LSU, and just last week, the Rebels lost a 41-38 heartbreaker to then-No. 9 Texas A&M in Oxford, but Saturday proved to be a breakthrough for the program.


"I couldn't be more proud of that and those kids to go through what they've been though, with the injuries and the outside world having their opinion of things," Freeze said. "In the back of your mind, you always wonder as a coach if you can get a team ready to do things like this when you're shorthanded and coming off an extremely disappointing loss."


"I was really emotional," said junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who passed for over 300 yards for the third straight game.  "I almost lost it. I almost cried. It felt like everything was lifted off of us. It was just an emotional time. I'm so excited for our guys and our defense, for them to play the way they did with the starters they had out."


With 3:15 left in a tied 24-24 game, Ole Miss had the ball on its own 15-yard line. As part of a 14-play, 61-yard drive that included two third-down conversions of 3rd-and-6 and a 3rd-and-9, the Rebels had driven the ball to the LSU 24. 


It was a shot at redemption for senior kicker Andrew Ritter, whose 29-yard field goal was blocked earlier in the quarter with a chance to make it a two-possession lead for Ole Miss, and he drilled the 41-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 27-24 lead with two seconds left on the clock.


"I'm happy for Andrew Ritter," Freeze said. "He asked to be redshirted his senior year last year to come back. That kick will make memories for a lifetime for him, to beat one of your biggest rivals, to recapture the Magnolia Bowl for Ole Miss. I'm glad it worked out for him."


"It felt really good," said Ritter of the kick off his foot. "You know when you hit a good ball, and you know when you hit a bad ball, and when I hit that ball, I knew I hit it good."


With injuries all over the place, the Ole Miss defense held LSU well under its 41.4 points per game average and pitched a first-half shutout, the first time the Tigers had been shutout in the first half since a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship. 


"Dave (Wommack) and his staff did a great job with preparing those kids, being so shorthanded and having to shorten practices because of that," Freeze said. "I sat in on their meetings this week more than I ever had before, and the plan he had I thought was really good."


That first half also saw three interceptions, including two in the end zone, of LSU senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who led the SEC and ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency and had thrown 15 touchdowns compared to two interceptions entering the game.


"They were huge," said Freeze of the interceptions. "It kept our crowd alive and in the game. It kept the lead and momentum with us, and it gave our kids on defense more confidence."


"They came at critical points in the game," said junior safety Cody Prewitt, who intercepted his team-high fourth interception Saturday. "Those were huge, huge plays. It turned the game for us. They were big plays for us instead of big plays for them. That's what you have to do. You have to make those kind of plays in critical moments in the game, and we really did that."


On the other side of the ball, led by Wallace, the Ole Miss offense eclipsed 500 yards of total offense for just the second time this season. Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, and passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time.


And in the place of injured senior Jeff Scott, sophomore Jaylen Walton rushed 18 times for a career-high 105 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.


"We lined up and we ran the football against a really good defense," Freeze said. "... I have great confidence in Jaylen and (I'Tavius Mathers). I see them every day and think they're very talented. Jaylen does some things in the zone game that are pretty special. He has a little hesitation move and quick acceleration. He did really well tonight and protected the football."


In the win-loss column, Ole Miss improves to 4-3 and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games with a home game against Idaho next week, a bye week, then a final four-game stretch of the regular season, but Freeze also looked at the bigger picture.


"There are some really good recruits in that locker room and we had some really good ones here last weekend that see we're really close, and we could use a little help because we're not where we need to be depth-wise at certain spots," Freeze said. "My mind always goes to that.


"We didn't make plays the other night to win it at the end. And tonight, we did. We made the catch on third down. We made the kick. We made the pass breakup or interception. No question, it helps us in recruiting, which will help us ultimately get where we all want to go."


On Tuesday, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. Today, one of the team drills focused on covering at the goal line, with the ball placed at the 3-yard line. 


A couple of the big plays in the drill was a pair of touchdown passes, one from junior quarterback Bo Wallace to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, another from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti to redshirt freshman tight end Matt Brown. On the other side of the ball, redshirt freshman defensive end John Youngblood dropped into coverage and intercepted Brunetti.


Another part of this drill was the shift from a base 4-2-5 defense with the Huskie position, to a base 4-3 defense with the Wolf linebacker, where junior Keith Lewis got first-team reps, along with senior Mike Mary at middle linebacker and sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche at Stinger linebacker.


"I see him having a big role on this defense," linebackers coach Tom Allen said of Lewis. "Keith is one of those guys who from a size-speed ratio has the best combination of that and does an excellent job. I want to see him be a big third-down linebacker for us and be on all our money packages in situations like third-and-long. 


"I believe he's a very good inside linebacker and can play in all our packages. He's going to be a guy whose role I see expanding and be able to make plays for us on Saturday."


A freshman All-American last season, Nkemdiche started all 12 games at Stinger linebacker and led the team with 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interception. Allen said he looks for Nkemdiche to improve with his leadership, preparation and being the total package.


"Last year, I think he was a guy that just made a lot of plays on Saturday, and he did that consistently, but I would like to see him be the guy that leads our defense, on and off the field," Allen said. "His energy and effort is never in question, but just making he eliminates mistakes. Leadership is part of that. And off the field, being a guy who we look to as a model of doing the little things right every single day."


In the base defense with Huskie position, Lewis slides to middle linebacker on the second team, and junior Serderius Bryant has gotten second-team reps at Stinger linebacker. Allen said Bryant has probably made the biggest jump from last season to this season.


"I think his knowledge has really improved," Allen said. "And he's one of the guys who changed his body and committed to the program, in the way he takes care of himself, and it's showing on the field. He's a step quicker. He's always been talented athletically, but with his knowledge of what he's doing now, as well as being physically better, it's showing up on tape."


Senior D.T. Shackelford has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. He returned in the spring and has mostly worked with the second-team and third-team defense in fall practice but got some first-team reps today. For Shackelford, Allen, said it's more mental than physical, specifically reacting split-second on the field and confidence in his knee.


"We met last night at length, and he feels good," Allen said. "He feels like that his knee is strong, and when you watch him moving around, you can tell he's better than we was in the spring. But it's a process with him, and we're trying to bring him along."


Early Look At Special Teams


Through six practices, all four special-team units -- punt, kickoff, punt return and kickoff return --have gotten work. Senior punter Tyler Campbell and senior kicker Andrew Ritter both redshirted last season, and Allen is pleased with their performance in fall practice.


"Right now, we're in the beginning stages of the process of putting in all of them schematically," Allen said of special teams. "I'm please with our kickers. Tyler is a guy who's very talented, and Andrew Ritter is doing a really god job for us.


"We have a lot of guys back from last year that played as freshmen and sophomores. So we're getting them ready, the depth chart set with coordination with our travel squad is the challenge right now. I feel like we're making progress and we're trying to work on it every practice and getting better."


In kickoff coverage drills, from left to right, not including kickoff specialist Ritter, the first-team unit consisted of freshman running Kailo Moore, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, junior Keith Lewis, freshman Huskie Tony Connor, redshirt freshman Temario Strong, sophomore safety Chief Brown, sophomore wide receiver Cody Core and sophomore Mike Hilton.


On Tuesday, senior running back Jeff Scott, senior wide receiver Korvic Neat and sophomore safety Trae Elston all got reps as the deep men in punt return drills, and Allen said, right now, Scott is their starting punt returner for sure. The competition at kickoff returner is more wide open.


"Jaylen Walton is very talented and he's gotten himself physically bigger and stronger," Allen said. "I'm excited about I'Tavius Mathers and what he can do. And Kailo Moore, he's a threat back there. There are going to be a few other guys competing for that spot, but we got some speed back there that give us a chance to get a good return."


NOTABLE:


Senior offensive tackle Pierce Burton participated in team drills and got first-team reps at right tackle, so freshman Laremy Tunsil got second-team reps at left tackle, with redshirt freshman Robert Conyers at right tackle.


In the team competition, the offense won 13-12, with the offense winning the decisive point by drawing the defense offsides. 


Some of the highlights from the team competition: For the offense, freshman quarterback Devante Kincade had a pair of touchdown passes, one to freshman Laquon Treadwell and another to freshman Quincy Adeboyejo. For the defense, junior safety Cody Prewitt and sophomore safety Trae Elston each had an interception. 


In that same drill, Kincade got some reps with the first-team offense, including a nice sideline throw to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief and the touchdown pass to Treadwell.


QUOTABLE


Freeze, on sophomore safety Trae Elston: Trae is really athletic, really solid. We expect him to have a great year. He kind of got his nose bloodied a little bit last year as a true freshman. He got a lot of experience, so hopefully he has a great year."


Elston, on the cornerback position: "I think our twos and threes are doing very well. It will be better when Charles and Senquez come back, so we're just trying to get better.


Elston, on freshman safety Derrick Jones and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill: "The freshmen are looking very good, very quick and fast, learning very quicly. DJ is a good athlete. Bobby is a physical athlete. They're both very good."


Allen, on the linebacker position: "I think several of them have improved themselves physically, in the way their bodies are shaped, and that excites me. I think the knowledge of what we did in the spring, building off of last season, and having so many guys back, I think we are able to move forward and not take steps backward."

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