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Winning Formula for Rebels is No Secret

The winning formula revealed itself as it has throughout the season: a dominant defense and a mistake-free offense. The Ole Miss defense forced four turnovers, while the Ole Miss offense did not commit a single turnover in a workmanlike 34-3 win over Tennessee on Saturday night.

In addition to four turnovers, the Rebels held the Volunteers to 191 yards of total offense, including zero rushing yards, due in large part to a season-high seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. 

"If you look at the stats, which everyone does, you have to figure, if we can score 17 to 20, to the mid 20's, we have a chance to win a lot of games with the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said.

Stat-wise, head coach Hugh Freeze called it the best performance from the defensive line in his two-plus years at Ole Miss.

"We got consistent pressure with just the front four," Freeze said. "We blitzed very few times. And we held a team to zero rushing yards. When you make somebody one-dimensional, you have a good chance to be successful."

More than any other stat, and there are a lot of good stats on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack points to Tennessee finishing with zero rushing yards on 28 attempts.

"That's the number one thing on your sheet when you talk to them on Sunday about what you have to do to beat the next team," Wommack said. "If you can do that, you're going to win pretty consistently. You're going to get off the field because we're good enough in pass rush and in coverage. If we get you in second- and third-and-long situations, it's difficult to score and move the ball on us."

Freshman Marquis Haynes, the reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, led the way up front with 2.5 sacks, giving him 4.5 sacks over the last two games and 6.5 sacks for the season.

"I have been saying it since August, he's probably going to break the sack record here," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "He's that good. He's going to be a really good player for us the rest of the season. He's been what everybody on our defense expected."

On the back end of the defense, the Rebels' extended their streak to 30 games where they forced at least one turnover. In the process, senior cornerback Senquez Golson picked off two passes, giving him seven interceptions for the season. 

"He's been in the right place at the right time," Wommack said. "He's played technique so well. It's good for our team. It depends on how they want to attack us. He's done a great job for us."

Offensively, Ole Miss was balanced, rushing for 180 yards and passing for 203 yards, exploding for 14 points in the span of four minutes late in the first half and extending the lead in the second half. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace was efficient, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. More importantly, he made it four SEC games without a turnover.

"That is music to my ears," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We obviously didn't play great. I know our stats weren't very good, but we did not turn the ball over. That's the thing I have been harping on with those guys. 

"With the way our defense is playing, if we protect the football, we have a really good chance to win games."

The Rebels are 7-0 for just the second time in school history, and it's no secret what the winning formula has been.

"We try to set the tempo for the whole football team," Johnson said. "We know our offense is capable of scoring points and they have a lot of playmakers."


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In this week's edition of Observations from the Best Seat in the House, Metz Camfield and I teamed up to give you our thoughts and opinions of the week that was in Ole Miss athletics. I was able to travel with the football team to College Station, Texas, and it was a great experience. Here's what we have looking back on the previous week:

Austin Miller - The best seat in the house Saturday was among the 110,633 at Texas A&M's Kyle Field, a football record crowd in the state of Texas, an SEC record, and the largest crowd that Ole Miss has ever played in front of. The Rebels silenced the record crowd in a wire-to-wire 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated. 

AM - Attending Midnight Yell was another big item to check off my bucket list. Seeing and experiencing other schools' traditions is one of the best parts of covering a team, and this was my first time to visit Texas A&M. I watched, more than I participated, but between the clapping, swaying, singing and yelling, it's something else. Here's a quick video.

AM - Texas A&M is in the middle of a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field. Half of the stadium was demolished and rebuilt before the 2014 season, and the other half will be demolished and rebuilt before the 2015 season, bringing an expanded seating capacity of 102,500, making it one of the five largest stadiums in college football.

AM - The press box at Kyle Field is located on the 9th level of 10, and it literally sways during the Aggie War Hymn before the game and before the fourth quarter. It makes for a surreal experience, but it's not a recommended one for those who suffer from a fear of heights.

AM - When you travel with the team, you travel first-class, from the chartered planes and buses, to the hotel accommodations. The game ended before 11:30 p.m., and we arrived back in Oxford shortly before 3:30 a.m. That's traveling in style.

Metz Camfield - Ole Miss' impressive showing in the Lone Star State started from the very beginning. After holding Texas A&M to a three-and-out on the Aggies' opening possession, Ole Miss got its offense in gear by going 69 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead and temporarily silence 110,633. I took this as a major sign of maturity with this team coming off a major victory over then-top ranked Alabama to come out strong on the road in a hostile environment. If the Rebels had gotten off to a slow start and allowed Texas A&M to take an early lead - no matter the margin - the entire game could have been different.

MC - It seems senior quarterback Bo Wallace is realizing he doesn't need to be the one to win games for this football team. When you have a defense as talented, as impressive and as overwhelming as the Rebels' is, the quarterback doesn't need to force the issue. Over the last two weeks, Wallace has not committed a single turnover, and while his numbers haven't been as over the top as they have in the past (to be fair, Ole Miss' past two opponents have been two top-15 teams in Alabama and Texas A&M), his performances have been quite possibly his best two of the season.

AM - Wallace may have laid the "Good Bo, Bad Bo" narrative to rest with his performance against Alabama. And against Texas A&M, he may have emerged as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. There might be more talented players on the team, there might be players with a brighter NFL future on the team, but it's hard to argue there's a more valuable player on the team. And that's sometimes enough, especially if you're the quarterback of a national championship contender.

MC - With this defense, if the Ole Miss offense does not commit a turnover, the Rebels are as difficult a team to beat as there is in the country. Period.

AM - The Ole Miss defense allowed 455 total yards but allowed just 5.2 yards per play against a Texas A&M offense that ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5). The Rebels allowed just 54 rushing yards on 35 carries, a 1.5 yards per carry average.

AM - The Ole Miss defense was not only stingy, but it was also opportunistic, forcing three turnovers and returning two of them for touchdowns. The Rebels have forced at least one turnover for 29 straight games, the second-longest active streak among FBS schools.

AM - You might have missed it among the other big-time players and big-time plays on defense, but sophomore Tony Conner led the Rebels with a career-high 11 tackles, his second straight game with a career high in tackles.

AM - With the first-half suspension of Trae Elston, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Rover safety and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback, as they helped the Rebels pitch a first-half shutout. Hilton has now started at every position in the secondary, having started at Huskie, cornerback, free safety and now Rover safety.

"Mike is so smart," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Hilton. "I brought him in Sunday last weekend started going through the film and he kept shaking his head. I said, 'How do you know this?' He said, 'Coach I played Huskie so I understand rover too.' He has a great football IQ and he is one of the most valuable players on our defense."

MC - To anybody getting caught up in the polls, worrying about whether Ole Miss is currently projected to be in the College Football Playoffs or what seed it'd be right now, just stop. It doesn't matter right now. First off, there are way too many weeks left in the season. Secondly, if Ole Miss continues winning, everything will take care of itself. Enjoy the ride. It'd be a shame to stress yourself out about those types of things and look back on the year kicking yourself for not enjoying it as much as you could.

AM - Ole Miss is No. 3 in both polls, picking up five first-place votes in the Coaches Poll and three first-place votes in the AP Poll. For fans who are worried about polls and playoff projections, rest assured, if the Rebels keep winning, everything will take care of itself.

"We beat the number one team in the country last week, by some polls, and then we beat a top-15 opponent in their house in front of 110,000 tonight," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I'll tell our team tomorrow, 'No one, no poll and no media gets to decide for us how we define ourselves,' and I'll tell them that again tomorrow. 

"It's good for our fans. They like that stuff. We could lose every game left on our schedule with the league we play in, so we better just focus on us. It would be great to be voted wherever they vote us. We would consider that an honor and we'll try to represent and be worthy of that voting. I'll tell our team, 'We don't give credence to it until the end of the year. That's when it really matters.'

"I do think the SEC West deserves two in the playoffs, though."

AM - As of Sunday, Oct. 12, the road to Atlanta goes through Mississippi. As the last two undefeated teams in the SEC West, two of just six remaining unbeaten FBS teams, Ole Miss and Mississippi State control their own destiny. 

AM - With that said, if you haven't already locked up your Egg Bowl tickets, you might want to get on that. Think about the seating capacity of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. It might not only be the biggest Egg Bowl ever, it might be the hardest ticket for a regular season college football game ever.

AM - In case you missed it, here's the story of the Ole Miss Landsharks from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the latest episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football. You want to watch both, if you haven't already.

MC - Also, don't miss out on Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game at Texas A&M.

AM - The Ole Miss volleyball team swept arch-rival Mississippi State 3-0 Sunday to improve to 16-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. The Rebels also remained unbeaten at home, improving to 9-0 at the Gillom Center this season.

AM - Former Ole Miss Rebel Lance Lynn gets the start for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lynn took a no-decision, as he allowed two runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

In the aftermath of Saturday's historic win, the Rebels' first win over win over a top-ranked opponent and the first win over Alabama since 2003, senior quarterback Bo Wallace was at the center of it.

After throwing three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-tying and game-winning scores, the fans stormed the field and mobbed Wallace and his Ole Miss teammates. They would later raise him up and carry him for a distance, and they would go on to tear down the goal posts.

With the game on the line, he completed each of his final three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns, as he finished the game 18-of-31 for 251 and three touchdowns. 

"It was special because I know a lot of those guys that rushed the field are doubters, and for them to lift me up, it was special," Wallace said. "And it's huge for the seniors. Those guys have been through some rough times here. And to get a win against the No. 1 team in the country, it's definitely special."

"He just played so solid," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us. Who knows what the next week holds, but tonight, Bo led his team to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. He deserves credit for being a big part of that."

Down 14-3 at the half, Ole Miss held Alabama scoreless on its opening drive and then put together a four-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Wallace's first touchdown pass, a 14-yard one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to help set the stage for late-game dramatics.

"Our team has never quit, not one single time, not even when we got beat that first year bad by Texas here," Freeze said said. "They fought to the end. We're not going to quit. We're going to fight to the end. That was never really a question in my mind. 

"Whether or not we were going to stop Alabama and score points, I didn't know, but I knew our kids were going to fight. Playing for 60 minutes is a trademark of our program."


For the seniors such as Senquez Golson, it was one big step forward to the top after starting their Ole Miss careers at the bottom, playing through a forgettable 2-10 season. His transformation and emergence as a leader continued, as he sealed the win with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the game. 

"I knew we were going to get a stop," Golson said.  "We're that good of a defense. I knew we were going to come up and make a big play. I didn't know who it was going to be, but I knew we were going to get a stop."

The interception by Golson provided the exclamation point to a dominant defensive effort, as the Rebels held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. Alabama entered the day averaging 42.0 points per game on offense.

"They play for each and care for each other," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They want to do good. They came from the bottom and are trying to head back to the top. 

"We have some good leadership and we have a nice mixture of seniors who have been here in the past and juniors and sophomores who are really talented play. The experience and maturity has helped them get to where they are now."

On one of the biggest weekends in school history, complete with the first-ever visit of College GameDay, it marked another moment of arrival for the program. 

"It's a great feeling," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "I have seen this team put in the work all through the week. We have worked toward this since spring practice. We have a new spirit. We believed we could do this, and that's where it started. We believed we could beat these guys, and we did."

With the schedule ahead, there are possibilities of many more moments of arrival, as well as Wallace's goal of becoming the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game.

"Right now, we have to focus on winning the West," Wallace said. "If you win the West, with the opponents you're going to play, you're going to be in the conversation, and that's all you can ask for."


 

After Senquez Golson's interception to seal the win over Alabama, here's what the last 32 seconds looked like from the field, including the fans storming the field and then lifting up and carrying Bo Wallace.


Wearing the lighter blue helmets for the first time since 1994 to honor the late Chucky Mullins, the Ole Miss defense also honored his memory with perhaps the most dominant defensive performance of the Hugh Freeze Era.

"Chucky would have been proud of the helmets, the baby blues, and particularly how the defense played," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I know Chucky would have loved that. We will continue to honor him because of his character traits, his selflessness and his attitude about life and the university."

Against a Memphis offense that averaged nearly 45 points and 500 yards per game, the Rebels held the Tigers to only a field goal and 104 total yards, the fewest by an opponent since Mississippi State in 2008, as they defeated the Tigers by a score of 24-3.

"I'm extremely proud of our defense," Freeze said. "I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here. They were really phenomenal. That was a team that putting up some really good numbers."

"We were dominating up front," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "The linebackers played well and the secondary was in the right position most of the night. You don't get many of those, but we did a lot of good things."

The Ole Miss defense created some big plays, an interception by junior safety Trae Elston and a sack and a sack-strip by freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes that helped lead to the Rebels' second touchdown drive, making it a two-score game in their favor at 17-7. 

The Rebels also finished with a season-high 12 tackles for loss and four sacks, as they limited the Tigers to just 1.7 yards per play.

"We were flying around, doing our job, being in the right place and making the plays we're supposed to make," junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. "Playing as one defense. This is probably the most emotional we have played since we have been here. That's us now. That's who we are. We have seen what we can do. We have seen how our defense is coming together."


One of the biggest question marks entering the game was the rush defense, which Ole Miss answered emphatically, holding Memphis to negative-four rushing yards on 17 carries.

"We were fitting our gaps, flying to the ball," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We had a lot of energy and we were running to the ball and hitting as much as we could. That's what gave us so much success against the run."

Prewitt said the only thing he could remember they did wrong on defense was a 42-yard pass late in the first quarter. Despite that long gain to the Ole Miss 7-yard line, the defense responded with three straight tackles for loss and held Memphis to a field goal.

The defensive effort was especially important given that the Ole Miss offense was held to seven points through three quarters and also committed four turnovers.

"We're a team," Prewitt said. "There's going to be some games where the offense is going to win the game. There are going to be some games where the defense carries the load. That's how a team goes. It goes back and forth. I'm just really proud of the way the defense played. We never blinked."


Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Memphis

Three areas to watch as No. 10 Ole Miss faces Memphis Saturday.

Battle of the Quarterbacks

Ole Miss and Memphis have both gotten steady quarterback play, as both teams rank inside the top-15 nationally in scoring offense. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5 percent) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He also ranks eighth in the NCAA in passing offense (341.0 yards per game) and ninth in total offense (346.3 ypg). Behind the arm of Wallace, the Rebels have put up 132 points, the second-most through three games in school history (145 in 1935).

"My understanding of his career is that he's been through some ups and downs and persevered through it and plays with a true toughness out there," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "He does a good job of getting the football to those guys on the perimeter, and he seems to have good control of what they're trying to accomplish offensively and thus has gotten them to where they are now."

In his second year as the starting signal caller for Memphis, sophomore Paxton Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions, including a career-night against No. 11 UCLA, when he completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

After scoring 30+ points just once in 2013, the Tigers have scored 30+ points in each of their first three games, including a 63-point explosion against Austin Peay.

"When you look at last year's and this year's film, (Lynch) is more of a field general and feels comfortable with his checks," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "He's more accurate with his passing. They have good backs and receivers, too. They do a nice job with their scheme and coaching it. We'll have to play well."

Stopping the Run

The Ole Miss defense has allowed just two touchdowns this season, giving up just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

But if there's been a weakness on the defensive side of the ball for Ole Miss, it's been rush defense.

The Rebels' total defense (296.0 ypg) and pass defense (151.0 ypg) both rank second in the SEC and top 15 nationally, but their run defense ranks ninth in the SEC, giving up 145.0 yards per game on the ground.

"That was probably my fault because I was trying to get the ends up the field too much and we weren't squeezing on some of the things that we needed to squeeze on," Wommack said. "It was scheme more than it was the players. I think we got those things answered, I believe. We'll see."

Memphis will provide a test for Ole Miss in this area with a top-25 rushing attack (242.7 ypg), ahead of a five-game stretch for the Rebels including four top-20 teams, starting with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4.

"I've said from the beginning that I thought these guys are different and their mentality is different, that they want to do well," Wommack said. "They've worked extremely hard and they're not into letting things slip and move in the wrong direction. They're hungry to play this week. I'm proud of where we are right now, but it's important to get better each and every day you go out to practice and each and every game."

'Staying in the Moment'

Ole Miss stressed focus and attention leading up to Saturday's matchup with Memphis. 

Head coach Hugh Freeze said he hasn't really talked to the team about it being a rivalry game, but he expect both teams will be emotional because of their close proximity and connections between the two teams.

And then there's the elephant in the room: The impending Oct. 4 matchup with No. 3 Alabama and likely visit of College GameDay, should Ole Miss defeat Memphis on Saturday.

"With all the media attention and the social media that continues to talk about the future, I wake up thinking about those things and what can I do today to make sure our kids are focused on staying in the moment and preparing ourselves today for what the next step is in our journey, which is Saturday against Memphis," Freeze said. "We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. It doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Memphis Not Fazed by Big Stage

Memphis is 2-1 heading into Saturday's matchup with wins over Austin Peay (63-0) and Middle Tennessee (36-17) and a 42-35 loss at No. 11 UCLA. The Tigers scored two early fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the Bruins at 35-35 with 13:44 left in the game before falling short in its upset bid.

"Going to UCLA, it was a big stage," Memphis junior linebacker Wynton McManis said. "This is another big stage but now we are more prepared for it and we know how to handle it. It's just another game on the schedule that we have to handle."

"As a team, we got a lot of confidence, even though we didn't come away with a win," Memphis senior cornerback Bobby McCain said. "We feel like we can compete with anybody in the country. Having true confidence out there as a team, offensively, defensively and special teams wise is huge. Going to Ole Miss and playing in that environment, playing in the SEC is a big deal, but you have to take it as the next game."

Memphis rolled up 469 yards of total offense against UCLA, and it started with sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch who completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

For the season, Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing 20 times for 77 yards with three touchdowns.

"They've gone toe-to-toe with one of the nation's best at their place," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "If their quarterback keeps playing solid, their defense is good enough to keep them in every game. That's what they've done."

Opportunistic Rebel Defense


Through three games, the Ole Miss defense has been one of the nation's best.

The Rebels are allowing just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third in the NCAA, and allows 4.37 yards per play, which also leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the NCAA.

Ole Miss has also forced nine turnovers, including a nation-best eight interceptions, led by senior cornerback Senquez Golson who leads the SEC and ranks top-five nationally with three interceptions.

"They force you into mistakes," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "When they hit you, it's usually hard. You have to hold onto the football, and you can't let some pressure force you into poor decisions."

On the other side, Memphis is tied for fourth in the NCAA with just one sack allowed and tied for 18th in the NCAA with just three turnovers lost. 

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack noted how Memphis moves quarterback Paxton Lynch around and how quickly he gets the ball out. Going against the Ole Miss offense in practice, Wommack said, has helped in preparing for Memphis.

"It's discouraging sometimes to the D-line when you don't get the sacks, but we have had so many pressures and hurries, which have resulted in good things for us," Wommack said. "We have to explain that to the D-line because they want the sacks."

Wallace, Rebels Look to Avoid Negative Plays


The SEC's active leader in most passing categories, senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5%) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He has thrown for 341.0 yards per game, which leads the SEC and ranks eighth in the NCAA.

Wallace and the Rebels will face a Memphis defense that mixes up its looks and has created a lot negative plays that have put teams behind the chains. The Tigers rank top-15 nationally in tackles for loss (8.67/game) and sacks (3.67/game).

"These guys are really scary," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "They bring a lot of different blitzes. They disguise it really well. The teams that we have seen have given up a lot of sacks and negative plays. That's one thing we have been fairly good on so far this year. They bring a lot of different things for the table."

Golson's Buy-In Pays Off

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman. 

That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Three years later, as part of a defense that has allowed just two touchdowns all season, Golson is making his own highlights, intercepting two passes, including one that he returned 59 yards for a touchdown, in a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

"This is, in my opinion, the first year that he decided he was really going to buy in," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Not that he was bad the last couple of years, but there's no question with the way he comes to work every day and the way he allows me to coach him, he's just a different guy and he's definitely more in. 

"When somebody does that and has success on the field, it's rewarding when you see good things happen because a kid has decided to buy in."

After saying it before in past interviews, Golson believes he's finally playing the best football of his career. He already has three interceptions this season, tying his career high and giving him nine for his career.

Golson credited his maturation off the field for the change on the field.

"I was a senior this year and I wanted to go out with a tradition with the corners, the secondary and the defense," Golson said. "I wanted to try to lead them with the knowledge I have from four years and what we used to be and what we are now. I wanted to step up and be the leader that I'm supposed to be as a senior."

Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack told Golson he was going to get a pick-six this week, and he proved him right.

"I knew when I saw him jump it, he was going to take it away from the guy," Wommack said. "He's pretty fast, so there was probably going to be no catching him."

Wallace Keeps It Going


Senior quarterback Bo Wallace said he couldn't remember going as deep into a game without an incompletion as he did against Louisiana-Lafayette.

He completed each of his first 14 passes on the way to his third 300-yard passing game in as many games this season, completing 23-of-28 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also tied Eli Manning for the school record with 10 career 300-yard passing games.

"He really made good decisions today," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "I was proud of him today. He keeps getting better and better, and hopefully we can keep that going."

Since the start of the second half against Boise State, Wallace has completed 80.5 percent (58-of-72) of his passes and thrown for 875 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

"It's what I'm expecting out of myself," Wallace said. "I'm trying to get in a rhythm as soon as I walk out. Get in a rhythm, and I have felt good the past couple of games. I'm playing how I expect myself to play. I have to continue it each week."

Explosive Plays in the Run Game

One of the areas Freeze looked for improvement was to work out ways to effectively run the football. 

Behind long touchdown runs from junior running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the first time this season, as the Rebels rushed for 214 yards on 35 carries, a season-high 6.1 yards per carry.

"It's better, but not where we need it to be totally, and we'll keep working on it," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We have to keep working. There were some good things today."

"We got a bunch of big plays and that's only going to help us in the long run," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We need to get more consistent three and four-yard runs. That's the big things. You want it to be 2nd-and-6, not 2nd-and-10, but the backs did a good job of popping some big ones for us."


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This is the second installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss sports. Let's get into it:

1. What a weekend. The football, volleyball and soccer teams went a combined 5-0-1 on the weekend, headlined by the 15th-ranked football team's 41-3 win over Vanderbilt at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

2. Let's start there. Head coach Hugh Freeze may have downplayed the play of his team in his postgame press conference, but Saturday's win over Vanderbilt may have been the Rebels' most complete performance in the Hugh Freeze era.

3. Since the first half against Boise State, Bo Wallace has completed 35-of-44 passes for 559 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Between the Boise State second half and Vanderbilt first half, he threw for 488 yards, which would have broken Archie Manning's single-game school record.

"He didn't make any bad decisions, or anything that was even close," said co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner of Wallace's performance against Vanderbilt.

4. A lot of it is the small sample size, but here are some more fun stats: Bo Wallace is seventh nationally averaging 10.7 yards per attempt and has accounted for a nation-best 15 passing plays of 20 yards of more. That's a big credit to Wallace getting the ball in the hands of his talented group of receivers.

"We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night," said Wallace after the Vanderbilt game. "Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."

5. Another note: The 41-3 win over Vanderbilt was the Rebels' largest margin of victory in an SEC game since defeating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.

6. On a very related note, the margin of victory (38) was also former football player Chucky Mullins' jersey number, while the total number of points (44) was also former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines' jersey number. The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between Mullins and Gaines, debuted on Thursday on the SEC Network.

7. Robert Nkemdiche called the defense's performance in the season opener against Boise State the new normal. The defense showed up again, as they allowed only a fourth-quarter field goal and 167 yards of total offense against Vanderbilt. Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just 4.19 yards per play and just eight plays of 20 yards of more.

"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," head coach Hugh Freeze said after the win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."

8. Speaking of Nkemdiche, the former consensus No. 1 overall recruit recorded his first sack of the season, the third of his career, against Vanderbilt. It likely won't be his last.

9. It may get lost in the team's overall performance, but Cliff Coleman may have turned in the play of the game, making his first interception and returning it 39 yards for his first career touchdown to keep the momentum in the Rebels' favor and stretch their lead to 27-0 early in the third quarter.

10. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack earlier said this freshman class was a hit across the board. Through two games, Kendarius Webster has been the one who has stood out. He had a well-timed pass breakup late in the game against Boise State and had two massive tackles to keep the shutout intact against Vanderbilt.

11. The reigning national punter of the week, Will Gleeson did not see the field, as Ole Miss did not punt in a game for the first time since 2002. Andrew Fletcher connected on each of his first two career field-goal attempts, one from 31 yards and another 25 yards, while Gary Wunderlich made his collegiate debut kicking off four times with three touchbacks and one kick out of bounds.

12. College GameDay producer Lee Fitting has said the Ole Miss looks like a strong a candidate for a visit from College GameDay on Oct. 4 if Ole Miss and Alabama are undefeated. It would be their first trip to the Grove. Home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis stand in the way for Ole Miss, while home games against Southern Miss and Florida stand in the way for Alabama.

13. With that said, don't sleep on Memphis. Under second-year head coach Justin Fuente, Memphis put a scare into No. 11 UCLA before falling short 42-35. The Tigers rolled up 469 yards of total offense, led by second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch who threw for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns.

14. The Ole Miss volleyball team is the last undefeated team in the SEC. With a 3-0 weekend to win the Memphis Invitational, the Rebels improved to 7-0 on the season for the first time since 2007, when they started a school-best 9-0.

15. In their first match of the weekend at Memphis, the Rebels saved a match point down 14-13 in the fifth and decisive set before scoring the next two points to clinch the match. Those are the kinds of wins where you can see the mentality change that first-year head coach Steven McRoberts has talked about since arriving in Oxford.

16. The Ole Miss soccer team had their own share of dramatics this weekend. Down 2-0, Olivia Harrison netted a pair of goals within four minutes of each other in the final 12 minutes of regulation to force extra time against Minnesota. She capped off her hat trick with the golden goal in the second overtime period.

17. Even more impressive, it was the second straight game where an Ole Miss player scored a hat trick, with Addie Forbus scoring three goals in their previous match against Louisiana-Lafayette.

18. The NFL is back, and so is the large contingent of former Rebels among its ranks. Mike Wallace caught a game-tying touchdown, as the Miami Dolphins scored 23 unanswered to rally to defeat the New England Patriots. On the defensive side of the ball, Greg Hardy, who was third in the NFL in sacks last year, recorded his first sack of the season, while Patrick Willis intercepted a pass and led his team in tackles.

19. Looking ahead, there's another big weekend on campus upcoming with volleyball's first three home matches of the season as part of the Magnolia Invitational on Thursday and Friday, football's home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, and a home soccer match against Middle Tennessee State on Sunday.

Rebels Continue Prep for Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt played three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, with sophomore Patton Robinette getting the start and graduate student Stephen Rivers earning the majority of the playing time, as he completed 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards to lead the Commodores. 

Vanderbilt was limited to 4.41 yards per play and committed seven turnovers that directly led to 27 Temple points. Robinette, Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters entering Saturday's game

"You can't just go off that one game," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Tuesday. "I totally don't expect to see that offense this week. Our players are mature enough to know it's not going to be like that."

For Ole Miss, junior defensive tackle Issac Gross practiced Tuesday after missing the season opener against Boise State. While he did not know his official status, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Gross practiced well and he fully expects him to be back for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. 

The coaches are also excited about the return of junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. An All-SEC second team selection last season, Nkemdiche is expected to split time at Stinger linebacker with senior Serderius Bryant. There may also be third-down and 4-3 packages with both of them on the field.

"Last year, after the knee injury and surgery after the Vanderbilt game, I don't know that he ever recovered," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "He always had a little gimp in his leg, and I don't see that during fall camp. I see a kid who is hungry to play and hungry to prove himself again. 

"He has gone through everything with us, and he's ready to play. It's just a matter of getting the game plan down this week. He and Serderius (Bryant) will split time at that spot.  I'm sure we'll have a third-down package for both of them on the field. We're excited to have him back."

Sophomore Derrick Jones had been listed as the No. 3 boundary cornerback behind junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman each of the past two weeks. It might be something, it might be nothing, but Jones worked with the wide receivers during the portions of Tuesday's practice open to the media.

"There's great competition there (at cornerback)," Freeze said Monday. "The other guys are playing really well, not that he didn't play well. We'll need him before the year is up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to play the best kids out there, and we love Derrick. I expect him to play a lot of football for us before his time is over. 

"Right now the others, Senquez (Golson) and Kendarius Webster and those, are playing pretty solid. There are some things Derrick is better at than they are. They didn't really threaten us, but if we get in the red zone against big receivers you'll see Derrick. There are certain things he has to continue to improve on."

Adjustments Along the Offensive Line


In Monday's press conference, Freeze challenged the offensive line after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts, a 2.1 yards per rush average, in a 35-13 win over Boise State.

"We didn't play physical, and that's a result of the stemming and noise that was being made," Freeze said Monday. "We jumped offsides so many times. You know what we're saying to them, and they think they better not jump offsides so they were a little tentative. We got it fixed at halftime, but it was still not physical in the second half in the run game."

It appears the offensive line has answered that challenge in the practices since the Boise State game last Thursday.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," offensive line coach Matt Luke said Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game and you want to try get that corrected going into game two."

Luke also noted some possible changes and the challenge of developing chemistry with playing different players in different spots along the offensive line.

"It will take a little while, but everyone has to do their job and step up and handle their job," Luke said Tuesday. "That will occur. We'll look at (Robert) Conyers at center some more and Fahn (Cooper) playing more and you're going to see Rod Taylor some at guard because the heat will be a factor and it will be important to keep some guys fresh."

"We'd never really played beside each other, but at the end of the day, we trust each other and that's the most important thing," junior offensive guard Justin Bell said Tuesday. "I feel like we got things clicking. We have worked real hard on this week, feeling each other out. I expect big things out of us."


Relentless is the Word on Defense

ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless.

The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense. 

And it starts up front with the defensive line, headlined by sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.

"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us."

"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."

Much is expected from Nkemdiche in his sophomore campaign after recording 34 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 8.0 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in his freshman All-American season. He bounced between defensive end and defensive tackle but has found a home at defensive tackle this season.

"I expect really big things from him," Kiffin said. "The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."

"He's definitely found his way in college football," Johnson said. "His get-off is probably second to none. He's going to acquire a lot of attention, and everybody knows that. It makes us raise our level of play because we know what they're going to give him. We're going to have to step and pick up the slack a little bit."

The defensive line looks to improve the pass rush after experiencing a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013, in addition to taking pressure off the secondary. 

The defensive backfield is arguably the deepest and most experienced unit of the defense with a combined 96 starts among the five starters on the depth chart, led by the Southeastern Conference's lone returning All-American in senior safety Cody Prewitt.

"I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years," Wommack said. "I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."

"Having C.J. (Johnson) back takes our pass rush to a whole new level," junior defensive back Mike Hilton said. "We know if we can hold up on the back end and make the quarterback hold it the pass rush from the front four can be something special."

With the depth, experience and promise of more aggressive play-calling, the sky is the limit for the Ole Miss defense in 2014.


Like defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with his players throughout fall camp, particularly the depth bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the addition of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.

"I don't think it's any secret that we have some depth there," Kiffin said. "We finally have the numbers we want at all four positions. I have been really pleased with the guys. For the most part, it's been guys I thought we could count on. Marquis Haynes is a guy who has surprised as a freshman, but he was here in the spring, so it's no surprise. Him and Fadol (Brown) have both been coming along really well."

One area he looks for marked improvement is the pass rush after a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013. Wommack said earlier this week that they would like to get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.

"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us. I think we're there right now. We obviously haven't done it in a game. There are a lot of variables that go into it. You still have to win first down and be able to get them in passing situations, get a lead, and a lot of those things come late in the game when teams are playing from behind."

In addition to depth, Kiffin also noted the position flexibility along the defensive line, as he looks to play at least eight players in the season opener. 

"This year, I challenged the guys to be able to play multiple positions," Kiffin said. "C.J. being able to do that gives us flexibility with Marquis. Bryon (Bennett) being able to do that gives us flexibility inside. John Youngblood, I can't say enough about him. He's a limited-rep guy. He knows the whole defense. He's going to get the job for us, so I can play him at multiple positions. It allows us to do a lot of things."

With the depth and experience at the position, Kiffin and the coaching staff might be afforded the luxury of redshirting the freshman trio of Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks, who have all been practicing with the scout team this week.

"Early on, we had the split practices, and those guys got a ton of reps," Kiffin said. "All three of those guys I'm really happy with. I'm glad we signed all three of them. Victor is a really long guy, Gerrald is more of just a football player, and Breeland is a really big athlete right now. He needs to get his weight down a little but he gives us a lot of things in there. I'm very excited about those three guys' futures. With our depth, we probably won't need to use them right off the bat. That's a good problem to have."



NOTABLE

On Wednesday, head coach Hugh Freeze challenged a group of his backup wide receivers to step up alongside the top four players at the position, and from that group, freshman Markell Pack and redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe have emerged.

Pack joins sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and junior Cody Core in the rotation at slot receiver, while Bledsoe joins sophomore Laquon Treadwell, senior Vince Sanders and Core in the rotation at outside receiver.

Sophomore Anthony Alford has continued to get reps at wildcat quarterback, in addition to backing up junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, while junior Jeremy Liggins is focusing on three packages where he will line up at tight end.

Freeze had a lot of praise for redshirt freshman Will Gleeson for sky punt stuff and his coming-out punts in Thursday's mock game, while senior Andrew Fletcher remains in the lead for field goal duties from inside 40 yards.

In the return game, junior running back Jaylen Walton, Elston and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore are in the mix on kickoffs, while Pack and Alford are in the mix on punts.

QUOTABLE

Hugh Freeze on Jeremy Liggins: "We centered in on three packages for him in week one where he doesn't have to feel like he has to learn everything. He's concentrating on those three. He's getting better and better. He still makes some missed assignments. When he does it right, he's pretty good."

Freeze on C.J. Hampton: "He will back up Cody (Prewitt). We really like the way he's working with his attitude and the way he's coming on. He made some checks to some different looks that the scout team gave, so his reps will pick up even more. We have to make sure he's ready."

Freeze on injuries: "Issac is coming on. He put a helmet on today and did some running around. Monday will be a big test for Issac to see where he is. Mentally, he understands what we're doing. That's the good thing. Collins Moore has a shot. We'll know Monday. They're going to turn him loose tomorrow. Even though it's an off-day, he's coming in and let him run around some and see how he is. He can't practice until school starts because he's not in the 105. He's getting treatment, but Pat feels like he's way ahead of schedule. We'll check him out Monday and see what he does."

Chris Kiffin on Marquis Haynes: "He's a guy right now who can do it all. He's 230 pounds and we move a lot. C.J. (Johnson) has gotten away with playing 230 here for a number of years... Marquis is going to play all downs for us, not just the third down, starting off."

Kiffin on Robert Nkemdiche: "I expect really big things from him. The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."

Nkemdiche Headlines Retooled D-Line

The return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes have changed the face of the defensive line, but freshman All-American Robert Nkemdiche remains front and center. 

With a season of experience under his belt, it's been a different experience for the former consensus No. 1 recruit this fall.

"I know the playbook so much better," Nkemdiche said. "I'm so much more chilled out. I'm not freaking out right now. I'm not nervous. My head's on straight, and I'm ready to have a huge game.

"I had a really good camp. I was focused. I'm bringing it every day, 100 percent, no matter what. I'm ready for the season and to have a really dominant season."

Beside Nkemdiche at defensive tackle has been a rotation of senior Bryon Bennett and junior Woodrow Hamilton with junior Issac Gross out due to injury.

"You lose quickness in there," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of missing Gross. "But kudos to Bryon Bennett because I have never seen him play as well as he's playing right now, across the board. He has some size, quickness and been super in there for us. I have been really pleased with him, but it affects your depth.

"Woody's issue has been staying out there on the field. When he stays out on the field, he's a really good football player. He's extremely tough to block. He's not just an anchor. He has some quickness and he can move around. He fits our scheme really well."

With the depth and experience on the defensive side of the ball, Wommack looks to rotate more players and be more aggressive this season. 

On the defensive line, Wommack said, they would like to play 8-10 players and get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.

"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Dave Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."

"We weren't able to do that last year because of the pass rush we didn't have and we lacked the corner play that we needed," Wommack said. "Boise is going to see some things they haven't seen in the last two years."


Haynes, Freshmen Show Out on Defense

Nkemdiche described Haynes as a physical freak. 

A former high jumper and 100-meter sprinter in high school, Haynes enrolled in January and broke into the two-deep early in the fall camp and has remained there.

"He has a knack for the football," said Nkemdiche of Haynes. "He's a freak. He gets to the football no matter what. If he has a missed assignment, he's still going to get to the ball either way. I like him. He plays 100 percent every down. That's what I like about Marquis. He's going to be really good in the future."

Wommack noted his raw talent, speed and quickness, adding that he's done a good job learning what they have asked him to do. He might not start in the season opener, Wommack said, but in certain packages, he will certainly be at one defensive end spot.

In addition to Haynes, Wommack raved about a trio of freshmen in defensive back A.J. Moore, linebacker DeMarquis Gates and cornerback Kendarius Webster. With the injuries in the secondary, Moore has stepped up as the team's third Huskie and Webster is in the mix as the team's fourth cornerback.

"Both of those freshmen hit a ceiling and then they came back down," said Wommack of Moore and Gates. "Kendarius Webster, too. They pushed forward and have gotten smarter each and every day, and they're going to play for us this year.

"This freshman class was a hit across the board. From top to bottom, it was better than last year's class, if you want to say that. I know there were some stars in that class the year before, but top to bottom, I don't think we missed on anybody. We have some really good football players. Some of them, if we're not going to use them this year, we absolutely don't want to burn them, and we will make that choice later on."


NOTABLE

In individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line featured sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Ben Still (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT). Sophomore Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle when Cooper moved from right tackle to left tackle.

When the offense showed sets with two tight ends in team drills, it featured sophomore Evan Engram lined up at a traditional tight end spot and in the slot, with senior Nick Parker also at tight end on the first team. 

Sophomore Matt Brown played a role similar to Engram, with sophomore Jeremy Liggins also at tight end on the second team.

Freeze said he's looking for at least one wide receiver to emerge from a group that includes junior Quintavius Burdette, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshmen Dayall Harris and Markell Pack.

Johnson, Brown and Haynes all got first-team reps at defensive end, with Nkemdiche and Hamilton at defensive tackle.

Brown, along with sophomore John Youngblood, got second-team reps at defensive end, with Bennett and senior Lavon Hooks at defensive tackle.

Senior Andrew Fletcher, Freeze said, remains in the lead for extra point and field goal duties from 43 yards and in, with redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and freshman Gary Wunderlich in competition to handle longer field goals.

In other special teams work, the first-team kickoff returners were junior running back Jaylen Walton and sophomore running back Mark Dodson. 

The second-team kickoff returners were sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore and junior safety Trae Elston. Redshirt freshman running back Eugene Brazley and junior running back I'Tavius Mathers also worked with the kickoff returners.

The kickoff return units also included freshman defensive back A.J. Moore on the first team and Gates on the second team. 

Other notables on the kickoff return units included junior defensive end Channing Ward, redshirt freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, senior linebacker Keith Lewis and sophomore safety Anthony Alford on the first team.

QUOTABLE

Hugh Freeze on Robert Conyers: "Robert is very, very valuable to us and will play three positions. He may be one of the most valuable pieces of us offensively because he can grasp all three of them and do them well."

Freeze on the center position battle having named Ben Still the starter: "They're pretty even and knowing that we're going to rotate Robert at all three on various possessions, it gives us a little more flexibility, but they're about equal. Robert probably needs to concentrate on both tackle positions between now and then and it gives the ones more reps with Ben."

Freeze on Fahn Cooper's action at left tackle: "He's athletic. It depends on who you're playing and what the matchups are. It's always about matchups. No matter who we put there, there are guys in this league, sometimes you're going to cringe when you get in too many one-on-one's, if you're not able to run the ball some. If they know you're throwing it, I don't care who we put out there. It's difficult, so you have to be balanced. That's been our whole goal since we have been here."

Freeze on Issac Gross, who missed practice with a neck injury: "Issac had the procedure yesterday to get some kind of shot that we think will help speed up the recovery and hopefully cure. We should know Monday if he will be ready to go for Boise."

Robert Nkemdiche on improvement: "Something that can make me stronger as a player is knowing the playbook a lot better. Last year, I feel like I had all the tangibles to be great, but I didn't know the scheme as well. I was out there about 50 percent. I didn't know what else to do. I was trying to go out there and make plays. This year, knowing the playbook a lot better and being more mature as a player and having an SEC season under my belt helps me because I know what to expect now."

Nkemdiche on returning to Atlanta for the season opener against Boise State: "It's a great feeling going back to the Georgia Dome. I started all four years in high school there, so let's go back and start one. We want to try to finish there too."

Dave Wommack on Mike Hilton practicing at both Huskie and cornerback: "Any time you have to double-train somebody, you lose a little something. You can't get totally focused on one thing, but he's a veteran and been here for two years and knows it better. You couldn't do it with a young guy for sure."

Wommack on the secondary: "I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years. I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."

The Week That Was: Ole Miss Football

Ole Miss continues its preparations for the the 2014 season with the second full week of fall camp starting Monday. Here's a look back at the first full week of fall camp with some observations and takeaways, as well as some linked stories of interest for Ole Miss fans. We will look to do something similar each week on the blog throughout football season.

1. Southeastern Conference coaches talked anonymously about conference foes for the 2014 season, and they had a lot of praise for Ole Miss

"They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better," said one anonymous SEC coach.

2. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks compiled a list of the top 25 college football teams with the most NFL talent, and headlined by the sophomore trio of Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss came in at No. 13.

"With the Rebels poised to dominate the NFL draft the next few years, it's time to view Ole Miss as a viable contender in the SEC West," wrote Brooks of Ole Miss.

3. ESPN.com's Travis Haney compiled a list of the top 50 breakout players for the 2014 season, and Nkemdiche came in at No. 10, and if the first week of fall camp is any indication, he's primed for a breakout season. 

"In our gap schemes we can't back block because of him, and that causes us to have to change some things," said Freeze of Nkemdiche. "When you're installing you want to be able to just run your stuff and teach it, but it looks so bad you get frustrated. He's a handful."

4. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Anthony Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team. He's pushing junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, he's in the mix as a punt returner, and he's taking snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. He looks the part and he's going to play a significant role this season.

"I love him in a lot of ways," said Freeze of Alford. "He took some snaps (at quarterback) yesterday too. He looked explosive. He looked good at punt return this morning. Defensively, he's getting better and better."

5. With the injury to sophomore Tee Shepard - who had an MRI on Saturday and we will learn more from Freeze on Monday - it will be interesting to see where senior Cliff Coleman and junior Mike Hilton gets reps. Both versatile defensive backs can play cornerback, Huskie and free safety.

6. On a related note, with the injury to Shepard, freshman Kendarius Webster may play a bigger role at cornerback. He shed his non-contact green jersey for the first Saturday and made a couple of nice plays, including an interception of sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan.

7. Going back to spring practice, the coaches have raved about freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes. He's run with the first-team defense in place of sophomore Fadol Brown, who's been sidelined with an injury. Look for him to contribute as a rush end opposite junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, if not in a larger role this season.

"He's getting some different looks over there with the tight end and different things that he's not used to, so he makes some mistakes," said Freeze of Haynes. "But one thing I know about him is he makes them 100 miles an hour. We can live with that. We're pleased with where he is and we expect him to get better each day."

8. While the defense dominated on Saturday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace showed off his stronger arm, rolling left and completing a back-shoulder pass to Treadwell for a touchdown, and later throwing another touchdown to sophomore tight end Evan Engram in a red-zone drill.

9. On the offensive line, it appears to be six players competing for five spots, with Tunsil at left tackle, junior Aaron Morris at left guard and junior Justin Bell at right guard the constants throughout fall camp. Concerning the center and right tackle position battles, Freeze said it would probably be another week before deciding on the first-teamers.

"We've been going back and forth this week," Freeze said Saturday. "It will probably be another week before we say, 'This is who we're going with in the first group.' Fahn (Cooper) has been going with the first group (at right tackle) until today I think we made a switch back to look at Robert (Conyers) there and Ben (Still) at center."

10. If you're looking for a walk-on to contribute, junior Craig Frigo, a 6-foot-1, 301-pound offensive lineman from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is a prime candidate. He has consistently worked with the second-team offense and has also showed some versatility, moving around from left tackle, to right tackle, to left guard, even taking some snaps at center.

11. With six running backs also competing for playing time, it's hard to notice any separation, but it appears that sophomore Mark Dodson and redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins have taken a lot of first-team reps and have shown out thus far in fall camp.

12. Without much fanfare, junior Quintavius Burdette moved from cornerback to slot receiver during the spring and entered fall camp as a backup behind sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo. The two-sport athlete, who also competes on the Ole Miss track & field team, has gotten his share of first-team reps with Adeboyejo and sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who has also lined up in the slot.

13. In special teams work, freshman Gary Wunderlich, the No. 1 kicker prospect coming out of high school, has split reps with redshirt freshman Will Gleeson at punter and redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and senior Andrew Fletcher at kicker. Wunderlich has the strongest leg of the group but he must improve his consistency.

14. When asked after practice Thursday, Freeze said Gleeson was in the lead at punter. The Melbourne, Australia, native gives the team some options to do some out-of-the-box stuff, such as the rugby-style punting from his Australian football background. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tim, who plays for Rutgers, the younger Gleeson has played the American game for about two years.

"I basically had to forget all my instilled knowledge of kicking Australian football on the run low and hard, and basically kick it high and as long as possible in two steps with hang time," Gleeson said.

15. We're 18 days away from the season opener against Boise State, but here's an interesting profile of first-year Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and his stamp on the program after the departure of long-time Broncos coach Chris Petersen for Washington. Prior to his arrival at Boise State, Harsin was the head coach at Arkansas State (2013), where he followed Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (2012), who followed Freeze (2011).

Rising junior running back I'Tavius Mathers turned in the highlight of the Grove Bowl Saturday with a 96-yard run before he was caught from behind by rising sophomore defensive back Kailo Moore to prevent him from scoring the touchdown.

"He's made some plays," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "He made a move yesterday in practice, one of the best I have seen. He put a safety, sat right on his back to score a touchdown. 

"The other thing is, you saw on the long play today, the only guy who caught him today was Kailo, who's a sprint champion. He obviously has some speed. He's deceptive. People think because he's stockier that he's not as fast as he really is."

Rising sophomore Mark Dodson also had a solid game with two carries for 10 yards and two catches for 69 yards with a 24-yard touchdown catch from redshirt freshman DeVante Kincade. Rising sophomore Jaylen Walton, who did not play Saturday, as well as redshirt freshmen Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins will also figure in the mix at running back.

"These guys are all making big runs," said Werner of the running backs. "That puts a lot of pressure on whoever that starter is. You better be healthy and you better produce. Otherwise, someone behind you is going to step in."

Backup Quarterback Battle To Continue Into Summer

Rising senior quarterback Bo Wallace was 10-of-21 for 152 yards with a 25-yard touchdown to rising sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell during the goal-line session. 

Offensive coordinator Dan Werner noted he took a big step this spring, while the battle for the second-string job continues between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

Buchanan was 6-of-10 for 100 yards, while Kincade was 5-of-8 for 57 yards with a 24-yard touchdown pass to rising sophomore running back Mark Dodson.

"It's neck and neck," said Wallace of the competition behind him. "One will have a good day, and then the other one will have a good day. They're both two different players, though, so situationally you can see both of them. It's a tight battle, and those guys are competing."

"I like the way those guys are playing right now," Werner said. "We still have long way to go to get them game-ready, but I'm really pleased with both of them. Jeremy Liggins comes in and you can see that he can get physical in the short-yardage-type stuff. He can keep on progressing, too. It will be interesting to see what happens throughout the summer and summer camp."

Transfers, Mid-Year Additions Change Look Of Defense

Two transfers, defensive back Anthony Alford and defensive lineman Fadol Brown, and three mid-year additions, defensive back C.J. Hampton, defensive end Marquis Haynes and linebacker Christian Russell, bolstered the Rebels on the defensive side of the ball in the spring. 

Haynes punctuated his first spring with seven tackles and two sacks in the Grove Bowl Saturday. He looks to help improve the pass rush, as does rising senior C.J. Johnson who returns after missing the last nine games last season due to an ankle injury.

"It starts with C.J.," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of the pass rush. "Just having him back defensively is huge. Not having him for eight or nine games last year really hurt our defense. His pass rush and ability makes a huge difference to what we want to do. Carlos Thompson has made vast strides in pass-rushing situations. 

"Marquis (Haynes) is another guy, who it hasn't clicked with, but his motor runs so hard. Sometimes when he's going the wrong place, he's still athletic enough to do the right things. Robert (Nkemdiche) and Bryon (Bennett) have important. I don't think there's any question our pass rush has improved."

Moore, Coleman Named Most Improved Of Spring Practice

When asked about who surprised during the spring, rising senior wide receiver Collins Moore was the first player Freeze mentioned. Moore, who stepped in for an injured Vince Sanders, was presented with the Eli Manning Award for the most improved offensive player during the Grove Bowl festivities.

"He has always made plays for us," Werner said. "We just weren't sure where he would fit in because we have so much talent at wide receiver. Because of an injury this spring, he got to step in there and play, and he made a bunch plays for us all spring. I was proud of him."

On the other side of the ball, rising senior Cliff Coleman, who has settled in at the Huskie position, was presented with the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award for the most improved defensive player.

"He's not the best athlete on the team, but he's smart and he's gotten stronger," Wommack said. "Those two things. He makes very few mistakes, and physically, you're not going to throw him around out there. When you play guys like Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram, those guys will run you over, knock you around and catch the ball. Cliff's got himself strong enough that he can defense those type players."

First Look At The Egg Bowl

The Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving night for the first time since 2003, which is also the last time Ole Miss won in Starkville. 

Thursday's game is the 110th meeting of one of the nation's most-played rivalries and the 86th "Battle of the Golden Egg," as the two schools stated playing for the trophy in 1927. The Rebels (7-4, 3-4 SEC) look to defend the Golden Egg and improve their bowl standing, while the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-6) are playing for bowl eligibility.

"The Egg Bowl intensity is always going to be about as high as you get in a given game," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "With them having to win to a bowl like we were last year, if it's possible to ratchet it up a little more for your kids, particularly your seniors, that's something that will do it if it's possible. You don't have to have that to make this game feel emotional. But if there's anything that would make it more, it would be those factors."

"I know they're going to play hard against us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "Their backs are against the wall. We know how that feels. They're in the same situation as we were last year. They're going to come out and play, so we have to be ready for them."

Keeping The Momentum

Freeze said they gained considerable momentum after last year's Egg Bowl win. That win clinched bowl eligibility and a berth in the BBVA Compass Bowl, which may have been a determining factor for several recruits in their decision.

And on National Signing Day, Ole Miss landed a consensus top-10 signing class, which included eight Mississippi prospects, headlined by Huskie Tony Conner (Batesville) and cornerback Derrick Jones (Eupuroa).

The Rebels look to reclaim the Egg Bowl and continue to build momentum with a win Thursday night.

"I have seen it work both ways," Freeze said of the recruiting impact of winning the Egg Bowl. "There's not any recipe you can put on it. I know that it doesn't to win, and it's going to help you with some. But by the time February rolls around, there are a lot of things that have occurred, people have made decisions and relationships have been built. It's not the only factor, but it doesn't hurt, and it will help in some cases."

Wallace Feeling Better


Wallace was back at practice Monday and said he is at the end of his flu-like symptoms he suffered from in Saturday's 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri.

"There won't be any effect at all," Wallace said of any lasting effects. "Tomorrow, I'll be almost 100 percent almost."

Despite the fatigue and feeling awful, Wallace was was 26-of-42 for 244 yards with an interception. 

"It was awful," Wallace said of Saturday. "I knew I was going to attempt to play. It was just hard to focus Saturday on what I had to do at the hotel, when I was just worried about trying to feel. I played OK. Definitely, I could have played better. It's something I'm not proud of."

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Wallace-to-Moncrief

In last year's meeting, the Ole Miss offense exploded for 24 unanswered points in the second half to take a 41-17 lead, as the Rebels went on to win 41-24 and clinch bowl eligibility. 

Wallace was 15-of-22 for 294 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite target was junior Donte Moncrief who had seven catches for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns.

"They're a little different than they were last year," Freeze said of Mississippi State's coverages. "They will still do some of the same stuff, but the percentages are different."

A year later, Wallace ranks third in the SEC in total offense (286.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (264.4 ypg), while Moncrief ranks top 10 in the SEC in receiving (72.8 ypg), receptions (4.5/game) and receiving touchdowns (5).

"We showed them some looks that we didn't show earlier in the year," Wallace said of last year's meeting. "We will have a few new wrinkles in this week just like every week, and hopefully we will able to score some point on them."

Uncertainty At Quarterback For MSU


For Mississippi State, sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott ranks fifth in the SEC in total yards (251.6 yards per game) and leads the team in both passing (171.3 yards per game) and rushing (80.2 ypg). 

However, Prescott has missed the last two games due to injury and is listed as the backup on this week's depth chart to freshman quarterback Damian Williams, who is 14-of-27 for 186 yards with an interception this year. Williams also scored the game-winning touchdown with a 25-yard scamper in a 24-17 win over Arkansas last week.

Senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who has started the last two games, is not listed on the depth chart, having been replaced by Williams in each game due to injury. All this uncertainty at quarterback presents a different challenge to Ole Miss this week.

"I really don't know exactly what's going on," Freeze said. "I know they have been resting Dak, and the other two have played in the last few game. I saw where Tyler left the game last weekend at the end. I don't know what the significance of that is. We have to prepare for all three I think. Fortunately, two of the three are very similar and do the same things, and the other is still similar. They are like watching us on film. They do most of the same stuff that we do. You don't like not knowing, but that's the situation we're in, so we have to prepare for all three."

The Bulldogs are averaging 438.0 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC and would also break the school record of 422.0 yards per game set in 1982. Another weapon in the offense is junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis, who leads the team with 49 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns, to go along with three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns.

"They want to run the football and then play-action pass, just like our offense does," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "It's an advantage for us, and both defenses, because we get to see this type of thing all the time. We have to prepare for it all."

Another Look At No. 8 Missouri

Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Ole Miss is the only school in the upper half of the SEC statistical rankings in every major offensive and defensive category. This week, the Rebels face one of their toughest tests on both sides of the ball in No. 8 Missouri. 

The Tigers defense ranks second in the SEC and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). Missouri has held opponents under 150 rushing yards in all but one game (Georgia), while the Ole Miss has been held under 150-yard mark four times this year, including each of their three losses.

"They're one of the best rushing defenses in the nation," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It presents a challenge for us. We're not near as good offensively when we can't run the ball. It puts us a bit in a disadvantage in having to protect against a D-line like this, especially. There's a premium on being able to run it."

"The strength of their team is up front," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We know that, and that's probably going to be where the game is won and lost."


Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

On the defensive line, senior defensive end Michael Sam leads the league and ranks sixth nationally with 10 sacks and also leads the league and ranks fifth nationally with 16 tackles for loss. On the other side, junior defensive end Kony Ealy, ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks and leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.

"They provide probably the biggest challenge we have had all year from top to bottom," Luke said. "They're good in every spot. It's not like they have one guy you can focus on. (Sam) has the most sacks, but the other ends provide their own challenges. One of them is faster; one of them is bigger, and they're two inside guys are good, so you can't slide your line a certain way and protect against one guy."

It's not only the personnel, but also their scheme and movement, which presents a great challenge for the Ole Miss offensive line, both in run blocking and pass protection.

"They do a good job of movement," Luke said. "They're never in the same place. They move about every snap. They're a moving front and don't let you double-team because they're constantly moving, twisting and mixing up the front and making it tough on you. 

"Nothing is ever easy, and you always have to figure something out. You can't just do your assignment; it's always movement, so that's a unique challenge for us."

Jones, Wommack Prepare For Missouri Tall, Speedy Receivers


Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

On Monday, junior cornerback Senquez Golson compared the Missouri group of receivers to playing against three or four Mike Evans from Texas A&M. 

In the Oct. 12 meeting against Texas A&M, the Ole Miss defense, notably Golson, held Evans to a season-low 46 yards on four catches and without a touchdown, but Missouri presents a different challenge this week with all four of its starting receivers listed at 6-foot-2 or taller.

Sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L'Damian Washington (6-foot-2), who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns, are listed at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-2, respectively. For the Rebels, Golson and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton are listed at 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-8, respectively.

"Most of the time you have one guy who is 6-5 guy, but to have several like they have is unusual," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "All three, they can run and catch the football. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

"We can't make them any taller," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "There's nothing we can do about that. We have to go with what we got and work the fundamentals to try to challenge those guys."


Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Another cornerback in the mix for Ole Miss will be freshman Derrick Jones, who made his college debut at No. 1 Alabama and has started three games since then. At 6-foot-3, he can help the Rebel defense match up against Missouri's tall receivers.

"After recruiting, I hoped he was going to be a safety, but I'm glad to have him as a corner," Wommack said. "I didn't realize he had the kind of hips and speed that he has. A lot of times long guys like him struggle with change of direction, but he's got all those things. He will make a bunch of money someday."

Dungy Visits Campus, Scott Returns

Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, visited campus Wednesday. He spent time with head coach Hugh Freeze, spoke to the team and signed the equipment room Wall of Fame.

"He's one of my heroes," Freeze said. "It's a special time for him to come. He spent about an hour with me in my office and then spoke to our team for about 20 minutes. I'm honored to have a man that stands for what he stands for and has done this job at the highest. Hopefully that helps and inspires us to finish strong.

His message? Choose the narrow gate. The wide road is what most folks go on.

"The whole theme of his books is there are very few uncommon people, therefore success won't be enjoy by the common man," Freeze said. "He challenged us to be uncommon in the way we do things, particularly the little things."

Scott Bolsters Backfield

Senior running back Jeff Scott, the team's leading rusher, has been sidelined since the Texas A&M game with a bone spur. He has had two good days of practice in a row and is expected to return Saturday against Troy. 

"He's doing good," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "The last few days, he's looked great. We're going to try to bring him along slowly for the game on Saturday. We'll have a couple of packages to get him involved. Just do what he can do and not try to run him into the ground right off the bat.

He will also resume his punt returning duties, Freeze said Wednesday.

"He had a good day today," he said. "That's two days in a row. And unless something sets him back between now and then, I feel like he will do that for us."

Scott has rushed for 434 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries this year. Behind Scott, sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers has 370 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries, while fellow sophomore running back Jaylen Walton has 329 yards and five touchdown on 70 carries.

"I think that's the whole idea that we're trying to get here at Ole Miss, especially in the running position back position room," Nix said. "We want competition. We want guys to come out and every day and in every rep in practice and in individual work and during the course of the game. I don't know that it helped speed his recovery up but it made him anxious to get out and make plays.

Freshman Mark Dodson, who set career highs with seven carries for 57 yards and recorded his first career touchdown against Idaho, will also remain in the mix at running back.

"Mark has shown he can do a little bit of everything, be an inside guy and an outside guy," he said. "And again, it's about getting different packages to get them all involved in the game."

Familiar Foe In Troy

Saturday marks the first ever meeting between Ole Miss and Troy in football, but Freeze and some of his assistants have coached against the Trojans when they were at Arkansas State. 

When Freeze was the offensive coordinator in 2010, the Red Wolves lost 35-28 on the road, and then with Freeze as head coach in 2011, the Red Wolves won 45-14 at home to win the Sun Belt Conference title outright and finish undefeated in league play with a perfect 8-0 record.

"Very little," said Freeze, of how Troy has changed since he was at Arkansas State. "It's a new defensive coordinator but it's very similar. They maybe play a little more man. I went back and watched my two years against them, and it's still similar."

Troy leads the Sun Belt Conference in passing (324.4 ypg) and total offense (47.5), which rank 15th and 23rd nationally, respectively. The Trojans also rank second in the league and 35th nationally in scoring offense (34.6).

"They always have offensive weapons that are scary," Freeze said. "They've been able to put up points against anybody they have played this year with the exception of one team. They are a scary team offensively because they are going to spread you out and they are athletic. (Corey Robinson), he's one of nation's leaders in passing yards. I have played against him and know he can throw it, so we'll have a challenge there for sure."

"When they had the other quarterback, (Deon Anthony), they changed quite a bit because they were running some of the same stuff that our offense runs with a little more option and so forth," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, who also served as Arkansas State defensive coordinator in 2011. "They tried to do a little bit of that for a game or two, but they're more similar to what they were two years ago with (Corey) Robinson play quarterback."

Robinson holds 11 Troy and Sun Belt Conference career records, including both the school and league marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total yards. His 24 300-yard passing games leads all active players in the NCAA.

"He's got a quick release," Wommack said. "He's thrown for a lot of yards in his career and his high school. He's had his ups and downs at times, he's been banged around, he's been inconsistent at times, but he is dangerous from the standpoint of having a great arm and a quick release."

Rebels Continue Arkansas Preparations

Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Robert Nkemdiche will return against Arkansas, having missed the LSU and Idaho games after suffering a hamstring injury against Texas A&M. The freshman defensive lineman has played in and started six games, recording 15 total tackles (11 solo) and four tackles for loss.

"He looks really good," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "He looks quick and light on his feet. We just got make sure he's 100 percent. He's still feeling it a little bit out here. He's down 15 pounds. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing, but he looks really quick out here. It's just him picking up the mental side again."

Nkemdiche will move inside to defensive tackle, where he started against Alabama, while junior Bryon Bennett will remain outside at defensive end, where he started the last three games.

"That's the plan with who we got right now with C.J. (Johnson) being out for the year and Bryon doing a good job out there," Kiffin said. "Maybe that's Rob's future, so that's where we're at right now.

"He's physical enough. He gives those guys problems inside because of how quick he is, and he's not afraid to get physical. It's just natural for him."

Nkemidche and the Ole Miss defense will be tasked with an Arkansas offense that has rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC. The Razorbacks also lead the league and rank fifth nationally allowing just 0.78 sacks per game.

On the offensive line, Arkansas has opened each of the last four games with the same five starters, including a pair of freshman guards in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who have started each of the last five games.

"They look like freshmen that are getting better every game," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, of Kirkland and Skipper. "They didn't play them as much early in the season. Both of them are going to be really good football players. You see them make mistakes at times, but they're getting better every time."

Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

'We're not afraid to use any of the four'

With senior running back Jeff Scott out each of the last two games with a thigh bruise, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have carried the load on the ground for the Rebels.

Mathers carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards against LSU, then notched his first career 100-yard rushing game with 138 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 64-yard run for a touchdown, against Idaho.

Walton rushed for two touchdowns in both games, as he set career highs with 19 carries for 106 yards against the Tigers, then rushed 11 times for 86 yards against Vandals. With those four scores, he now leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this year.

"They took the bull by the horns, so to speak," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "It's never been about their ability. They had just been waiting for the opportunity to get on the field and show what they could do. 

"I'm glad a year ago they got the little experience that they did, so right now, they don't any type of stage fright, and the big lights don't bother them at all. They just go out and perform to their capabilities and do the things they could always do."

The Idaho game was also an opportunity for freshmen Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore, as Dodson set career highs with seven carries for 57 rushing yards and recorded a 30-yard touchdown catch, the first score of his career.

"He earned the right to get some looks," said head coach Hugh Freeze, of Dodson. "I'm not afraid at all to play him. He'll probably get a carry or two."

"He's had more excitement and enthusiasm about practice," Nix added. "Not that he didn't have it all year but you could see more of a bounce in his step. I feel like he has a real shot of helping us out on Saturday."

The status of Scott for Saturday remains uncertain, but Freeze is confident about his other four running backs.

"I like the way they're going about their business," he said. "They're taking the chances they have been given and made the most of it. All four of them have looked good in some things this week. We're not afraid to use any of the four. Jeff, I'm not sure. We'll have to make that call tomorrow."

Running backs coach Derrick Nix meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Tunsil, Golson Continue To Progress

Freshman offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson have played in every game this season, with Tunsil starting five games at left tackle and Golson playing extensively at guard.

"Laremy has played solid the entire time," Freeze said. "He's really special. It's a little easier to play on the edge. We threw Austin in the middle in that first game, and there is a lot of different things happening in there. It's been more of a process, but he's improving and not making as many mistakes."

Offensive line coach Matt Luke has also been pleased with Tunsil and Golson.

"He does a lot of things well," said Luke, of Tunsil. "He can get bigger and stronger, but technically, that's what makes him special. He does a lot of things naturally. He's good with his hands and has a really good base with his lower body. He's a natural pass protector. We're very fortunate to have him. He's playing really well overall."

"He's probably not the prototypical guard," said Luke, of Golson. "He's more of tackle, but because of the seniors we have at tackle, he has stepped in there for us and played it well for 40-50 snaps a game at least.

Tunsil's emergence at left tackle, where he has started each of the last four games, has allowed senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray to move around and contribute at both tackle position, left guard and tight end, when the Rebels are in their six offensive lineman set.

A strong Arkansas defensive line is led by senior defensive end Chris Smith, who is tied for second in the SEC and tied for 13th nationally with 7.0 sacks. As a team, the Razorbacks rank third in the SEC and tied for 27th nationally with 22.0 sacks.

"They're very good," Luke said. "Their front four collectively is as good as we have seen. 86 (Trey Flowers), 42 (Smith), 91 (Darius Philon), 54 (Byran Jones), all those guys are good players. I have been very impressed."

Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.


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."


Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

After going through a "laundry list" on injuries in Monday's weekly press conference, head coach Hugh Freeze had some good news on Wednesday with the possible return of defensive tackle Issac Gross and linebacker Temario Strong.

"It looks like we might get Issac (Gross) and Temario (Strong) back," said Freeze after practice on Wednesday. "Temario surprised us today and was moving around quite a bit better than what they expected. We might get him back. Those are the only two I expect at this point to get back."


Ole Miss was hit particularly hard on the defensive side of the ball, where it is expected to be without starting defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson, as well as starting cornerback Mike Hilton and backup defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"We ain't got but so many," said Freeze Tuesday of defensive line. "We're going to play four down linemen. I really don't know who is playing exactly where right now."


Bryon Bennett, listed as a co-starter at defensive tackle with Carlton Martin, also got some reps at defensive end in practice this week, opposite senior defensive end Cameron Whigham.


"It was fun," said Bennett of defensive end, where he also started against Texas A&M last week. "I played a little in high school, but there's still a lot to get used with adjustments and stuff... There's more reading. It's more fun going against the tackle.


"It's a next-man-up attitude. Everybody is excited for the game and wants this win. We're trying to stay fresh, stay healthy and be ready for the game." 


Defensive lineman Bryon Bennett meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

Starting running back and leading rusher Jeff Scott was held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and Freeze said Wednesday that he doesn't expect him to play on Saturday. The running back position would then fall on I'Tavius Mathers (22 carries, 137 yards for the season) and Jaylen Walton (34 carries, 129 yards).


"I feel good," said Freeze Wednesday of Mathers and Walton. "Both of them have proven they're ready to have that responsibility that comes their way. I have been pleased with their performance and think we'll be fine there."


"I feel like we can pick it up," said Mathers Wednesday. "We always have to be ready. I just have to play my role."


The injuries have also affected the special teams units, such as punt return, where Freeze said Wednesday that wide receiver Korvic Neat would return punts in Scott's absence, with Trae Elston as his backup. 


Cornerback Carlos Davis, who Freeze called "a great cover guy," will be back this week, and the possible return of Strong will also help the special teams units, but Freeze said Tuesday it did take a hit this week, and they're going to have to call on guys to play even more snaps because of injuries.


The injuries may also affect tempo, as Freeze said the Rebels will likely use a similar strategy to last week against Texas A&M.


"We managed the first half not going tempo to try to limit the opportunities that Texas A&M had and get to halftime in the game, and it worked," said Freeze Tuesday. "We were probably more patient than we would be, but it worked, and it gave us a chance at the end. We will probably manage the tempo similarly this week."


 
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.
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