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Ole Miss had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri on Saturday night. The 24th-ranked Rebels now face a quick turnaround as they travel to face intrastate rival Mississippi State on Thursday night in Starkville.

"We're obviously disappointed that we didn't have a chance to win it at the end," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They are a very good football team; they take you out of a lot of things. They are excellent up front on both sides, so I give them credit. We needed to play a good game, and we didn't play well enough. We had missed opportunities in the red zone.

"We have to put it past us and move forward. Everything has to be expedited with the short week, and I told our kids tonight we don't have the luxury of tomorrow being the day we put it in the trash; we have to put in the trash tonight, move forward and put it behind us."

The story of the game was red zone conversion. Missouri scored on all four trips for 24 points, while Ole Miss scored three points in its three trips that included a blocked field goal, a 30-yard field goal by Andrew Ritter and a turnover on downs.

"It's impossible to beat a top-10 team when you get in the red zone and don't score touchdown or points," Freeze said. "We had the blocked field goal, then a drop and a bad call on the reverse. If you don't score points in the red zone against that team, you aren't going to win."

The Rebels, now 7-4 with a 3-4 record in SEC play, will look to improve their bowl standing as they prepare for their regular season finale at Mississippi State. On the other sideline, the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) will be playing for bowl eligibility coming off Saturday's 24-17 overtime win over Arkansas.

"They are a good football team," Freeze said. "They are so good up front that they can be in any game. They will be very emotional, not only because it is the Egg Bowl, but because they're playing for extra practice and a bowl game. We better kid our kids ready. It's always important when you play that game. With their backs against the wall, they will have their team ready, so we have to get ready."

"It's difficult, but it's football," junior linebacker D.T. Shackelford said of the quick turnaround. "The amount of weight on this game will override those days we will not have. With a lot of guys from Mississippi, it shouldn't be that hard to get fired up for this game. We know what's on the line, and they know what's on the line also."


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."



The upset bid fell short, as No. 9 Texas A&M hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to win 41-38 over Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.


"Obviously we are very disappointed for our kids," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They fought their guts out and played their hearts out against a very good football team and had their chances to win. It really boils down to we had a chance to make some play and didn't, and they did. There were a lot of things that could have happened but didn't."


The Rebels (3-3, 1-3) took a 38-31 lead with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Bo Wallace hit Jaylen Walton on a wheel route down the Ole Miss sideline that went 50 yards for a touchdown.


Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) answered right back and tied the game at 38-38, then after its defense forced a three-and-out, Manziel orchestrated another drive, capped by the game-winning field goal.


"We were up in the game, and at that point, the game should have been over," safety Cody Prewitt said. "That's on the defense. We made too mistakes and didn't tackle well in the first half. They made plays where we didn't."



In the shootout, the Ole Miss offense had five passing touchdowns, three by Wallace and two by Barry Brunetti. They completed passes to nine different receivers, led by Laquon Treadwell, who a caught a team-high eight passes for 77 yards and his first two career touchdowns.


Wallace completed 22-of-36 passes for 301 yards, his second-straight 300-yard passing game, giving him five for his career, which is second in school history behind Eli Manning. And Brunetti, who had previously thrown just one career touchdown pass, completed 3-of-4 passes for 28 yards and his first two touchdown passes of the season. 


Then, on the other sideline, the story for Texas A&M was Manziel, who led the Southeastern Conference and ranked sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 360.6 yards per game. On Saturday, he completed 31-of-39 passes for 346 yards and rushed for 113 yards. He finished with two total touchdowns, both on the ground, including the game-tying touchdown.


"It's extremely hard to contain him," Prewitt said. "We had a great scheme lined up, and he was still able to make plays. He's a tremendous athlete. The way he extends plays really takes a toll on you. That was the biggest thing. Even though the coverage was fine, he was able to make plays where not many people could."


"He's a beast," said Brunetti of Manziel. "He's just good. He's a different type of dude. I have never played against a guy like that. We knew going into the game that A&M had a great offense. We knew we had to score, but we also knew our defense would step up, and they did. They stepped up. Manziel is a good player, and A&M has a great offense."



And the Ole Miss defense stepped up with two big second-half turnovers, which gave the Rebels a chance. Leading 21-17 late in the third quarter, Texas A&M was driving at the Ole Miss 10-yard line, then Keith Lewis intercepted a Manziel pass in the end zone. 


After a Texas A&M field goal and a game-tying Ole Miss touchdown, Serderius Bryant forced a Manziel fumble, which Trae Elston recovered. Three plays later, the Rebels took their first lead of the game on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Treadwell.


"I thought the plan we had worked, and gave us a chance," Freeze said. "We want to formulate a plan that gives us a chance in the fourth quarter to win the football game. We had the ball and had a chance. We didn't get it done."

Ole Miss continues its six-game home stand as it welcomes No. 10 LSU next Saturday with a kickoff set for 6 p.m. The Tigers improved to 6-1 and 3-1 in SEC play on Saturday with a 17-6 win over Florida.

"It's hard to bounce back," Brunetti said. "We got to try to get these young guys to bounce back because they haven't been through this. Most of the older guys like me, we have been through it when things weren't good. We can bounce back. We have a long season and a lot to play for."



The No. 21-ranked Ole Miss defense spent nearly 40 minutes on the field and held tough for most of the game, as the Rebels fell 25-0 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.


Outside of two long touchdown runs, a 68-yarder by T.J. Yeldon and a 50-yarder by Kenyan Drake, the Ole Miss defense allowed just nine points, three first-half Cade Foster field goals.


"We're real proud of their effort," head coach Hugh Freeze said of the defense. "On the two long touchdown runs, we let a guy get free to make a play and missed a tackle. It had to be frustrating to be on that side of the ball because we couldn't' get life in us because we could not produce any points."


Senior cornerback Charles Sawyer and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche returned from injury, while freshman Derrick Jones made his college debut after switching from wide receiver to cornerback. Another change was freshman Robert Nkemdiche who moved inside to defensive tackle for most of the game, having previously lined up primarily at defense end.


Junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who started for the third straight game, led the team with nine tackles, and freshman Huskie Tony Conner tied a career high with seven tackles. 


The Ole Miss defense forced three first-half fumbles, none of which were recovered, and Alabama went into halftime leading 9-0.


"It's aggravating," junior safety Cody Prewitt said of the fumbles. "We had three opportunities to get a turnover at a crucial point in the game, and we weren't able to capitalize. It's aggravating whenever that happens. You can't just stay thinking about that. You have to play the next play."


Yeldon broke his 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to extend the Alabama lead to 16-0, then the Ole Miss defense forced a turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter to temporarily turn the momentum in the game. 


Bryant tipped an A.J. McCarron pass right into the arms of Prewitt for his third interception of the season, and the Rebels took over at the Alabama 31. 



On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss converted a 4th-and-2 on a 5-yard run by senior running back Jeff Scott, but the Rebels were then unable to convert on 4th-and-10 from the Alabama 18, and the Crimson Tide took over on downs and wrapped up the win.


"We're a lot better than we were last year," Prewitt said. "We made fewer mistakes than we did last year. We definitely still have some work to do. We haven't lost any confidence whatsoever. We know that this was the number one team in the nation, and they're number one for a reason. And we knew that we would have to play an almost perfect game, and we know we made some mistakes. 


"Our confidence is not broken. We are going to go in and fix the mistakes tomorrow, and have our heads held high going into Auburn."



Another 'Measuring Stick' For Ole Miss


Last season, two weeks removed from a 66-31 loss to Texas, Ole Miss hung tough at then-No. 1 Alabama, briefly leading early in the second quarter, but the Rebels fell to the Crimson Tide 33-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 


A year later, as it prepares for No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, No. 21 Ole Miss is 3-0 for the first time since 1989 and rides a five-game winning streak, which includes come-from-behind road wins against Vanderbilt and Texas already this year.


"Last year, we didn't know what to expect," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "This year, we're confident and we feel like we can play with anybody. 


"I was frustrated last year just because we were so close, and people were saying we were so close. I was ready to start winning those games. Now, we're starting to do that and win those close games, down at halftime and being able to come back into games. We have a pretty mature team, and hopefully we can go out, not make mistakes and win a football game."


A win against Alabama, Wallace said, would take them to that next level and put them in a chance to play for something big this year. For head coach Hugh Freeze, the motivation is clear, and it's one similar to the one entering the Texas game two weeks ago.


"What should motivate us, and I think will, is an opportunity to go stand in front of the measuring stick right now and prove that you deserve to be there. That's what we'll focus on. If it does go our way, it would certainly be a huge boost to our program and move us a few steps forward quicker than anybody thought, including myself."


Stopping The Run


Looking back on last year, defensively, Freeze said they were one of the few teams that felt like they stopped the run against Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to 125 yards on 34 attempts, well below their 227.5 yards per game, which ranked 16th in the nation.


"They're going to play two or three tight ends, Freeze said. "They force you in committing so many to the box, so they can stop the run. They want to take a shot over your head. They've got quality receivers that can do that. Of course A.J. (McCarron) has proven what he is to that offense. He's a winner and he's proven that through the course of time. They just put you in a position where you're going to have to win one-on-ones. 


"That what this game ends up being about most of the time: How many one-on-ones did you win? Our kids are going to have to win some of those. We're not going to stop them the whole night. Hopefully we can score enough points and stop them enough that we have a shot in the fourth quarter. Our kids will play the entire 60 minutes and see what happens."


Through three games, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said, running the football remains an emphasis for the Alabama offense, which ranks 85th in the nation in total offense, averaging 370.7 ypg, and 91st in rushing offense, averaging 132.0 ypg. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon, who has 273 rushing yards on 49 attempts, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, leads the rushing attack for the Crimson Tide.


"I haven't seen much of a difference," Johnson said of Alabama's offense. They still want to try to run the football, so they can dictate the tempo. I think they're throwing the ball a lot, just because they have great back and some pretty good receivers that can make you pay. You have to pick your poison against them."

 

Talking Tempo, Matching Up With Alabama's Defense


Much like the fast-paced, up-tempo offenses, which, right now, are cutting edge, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has done the same thing defensively, Freeze said, adding new wrinkles every game, switching between a 3-4 and 4-2-5 formation and giving you every look you can imagine.


"It's very multiple," Freeze said of Alabama's defense. "They're very physical up front. You have a difficult time consistently having drives on them. That's the thing that stands out game after game, even the game against Texas A&M. You don't put on the film and see a consistent drive without having a big play or a phenomenal one-on-one play.


"Physically they're very good and they're not going to make the mistake that allows you to have many explosive plays. That's been the staple of their defense. They're going to stay in the right position. Very rarely  do you see explosive plays. We've got to find a way to create those, or find a way to stay in and convert on third and shorts to stay on the field."


Last year, in a 33-14 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss managed two sustained drives, one of 13 plays for 75 yards, another of 16 plays for 70 yards, but two is not enough to win against that type of team, Freeze said.


Through three games, Alabama ranks 56th in the nation in total defense and 83rd in pass defense, having allowed 373.0 total ypg through three games, including 250.3 ypg through the air. But both statistics are due in large part to Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel's historic day against the Crimson Tide. He threw for 464 yards and ran for another 98 yards, as the Aggies with 628 yards of total offense in a 49-42 loss in College Station.


Manziel is a difference-maker, yes, but there are similarities between the Texas A&M and Ole Miss offenses. Part of that is tempo, where Ole Miss and Texas A&M rank second and third, respectively, in the SEC behind Missouri. The Rebels average 79.3 plays of offense per game, which ranks 20th in the nation, while the Aggies average 76.75 plays per game, 28th in the nation. 


Last year, opponents ran an average of 59.8 plays of offense against Alabama, and this year, opponents have ran an average of 58.7 plays. In last year's 33-14 loss to Alabama, Ole Miss ran 68 plays of offense, while Texas A&M ran 77 plays last year and 71 plays this year against the Crimson Tide.


"We're going to go our tempo in any game we play," Freeze said. "We have it ready. I would love to say that we're going to do it a lot, but you have got to win first down to do that. They were able to win first down a lot. Even though we're similar schematically, us and A&M, at a lot of things, you don't treat us the same if you're defending us because of who is taking the snap for them."


"We can put points on them," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We can put points on anybody. We have to show up and play. It's the same thing every week. That's stay on schedule, control the tempo and don't have any turnovers. We're winning first downs on most drives. Even if we don't win first downs, we have been pretty good on second downs. As long as we're staying schedule with third and short, and third and medium, we're having good drives."


Wallace also showed a lot of confidence in his group of receivers, which will be bolstered this week with the return of junior Vince Sanders, who suffered a broken collarbone during fall practice. Last season, he played in every game with 12 starts and finished with 39 receptions for 504 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-high seven receptions for 46 yards against Alabama.


"He went through a full practice yesterday," Freeze said of Sanders. "We'll incorporate him in just like we would anybody. He will be ready to go. You will probably see him, Laquon, Ja-Mes and Donte all out there at the same time some. We'll rotate them and keep them fresh. We love having him back. He gives us another threat for sure.


"It's exciting, and glad to have him back," Wallace said. "It seems like he's been gone forever. He was catching balls yesterday and looked good running routes. I'm excited to have him back."






When asked about his confidence in regard to different positions, head coach Hugh Freeze said the area that concerns him the most is the secondary.

Both cornerback positions were listed with co-starters -- junior Senquez Golson and sophomore Quintavius Burdette at Field corner, and seniors Dehendret Collins and Charles Sawyer at Boundary corner. With both Golson (hamstring) and Sawyer (shoulder) returning from injury, cornerbacks coach Jason Jones feels confident about those four players at the position.

"Starting out at fall camp, we didn't have a lot of depth at the position, but we got some guys back the last couple of weeks, and those guys are now practicing and executing the game plan," Jones said.

"I have four guys that are experienced and mature and can help us. I want to keep all of them fresh. It's supposed to hot on Thursday night. And at times, Vanderbilt can tempo you. The more depth you have, the more guys you can play, and so the fresher they will be."

Burdette, who ran with the first-team defense for most of fall camp, earned the start at Field corner, Freeze said Monday.

"It makes me feel great," Burdette said of getting the start. "It makes me feel like I have to go out there and prove myself even more now." 

"He improved his game a lot," Sawyer said of Burdette. "He's making plays on the ball. He's getting the calls. He's understanding the defense. He's just making plays."

A converted safety, Burdette said he feels more comfortable with the defense. He also said he has learned a lot from facing junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief every day in practice, whether it was he or Moncrief making a play.

"After a play, we would go back and talk about it and see what he was thinking during the play, or if I wasn't doing something right, he would tell me," he said. "It taught me to be more patient as a defensive back, and how to make plays against a wide receiver of his size and quality."

On the injury front, Freeze and staff are confident about the status of senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson (hamstring). Sawyer is prepared to play both cornerback positions, Freeze said, while Golson will come in at Field corner, and then they will see how the game goes.

"Charles, he's been going now for at least a couple of weeks," Jones said. "We may practice non-contact to try and take care of each. He's out there laying out for balls and banging around with Donte and things like that. I'm not concerned about him at all. 

"Senquez, even though he was injured, he was still getting conditioning in with Coach Jackson on the side. His conditioning shouldn't be a big problem. Both of those guys should be good to go for Thursday."

At the safety position, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown were listed as co-starters at Rover safety, with junior Cody Prewitt at free safety. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he thinks of all three as starters who will all play about the same number of snaps.

"It's a battle between all three of them," Wommack said. "I have called them all starters to them in person. Chief has the ability to play both sides. Hopefully, between the three of them, we can keep them fresher than they were last year."

Crowded Backfield

Ole Miss has six players vying for playing time at the running back, including three freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. Running backs coach Derrick Nix feels great about the overall depth of the position.

"We feel like we have choices at the position, which is always good," Nix said. "If something happens to Jeff (Scott), we have guys who are capable of going in and bringing some of the same skill set that he brings to the table. But most importantly, we have guys with more experience than last year.

Nix said they haven't finalized it all the way which running backs will travel to Nashville, and that guys are still competing every day.

What is probably set in stone, Nix said, is Scott, the team's leading rusher last season, then sophomore running back Jaylen Walton. After that, he said, there is a question mark about what they are going to do.

Sophomore I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with Walton behind Scott, has returned to practice since suffering an ankle sprain, but his status for Thursday remains uncertain.

"He did well in practice yesterday," Nix said. "We're going to evaluate him more today to see what he looks like. As the week goes on, we'll see how he progresses and then determine if he will play or not on Thursday."

That question mark also includes potential redshirts, which Freeze said they're considering for sure, adding that there's no way they can say at a position like running back exactly what will happen, such as injuries.

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