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Ole Miss, MSU Renew Rivalry on Hardwood

Ole Miss meets Mississippi State on the hardwood the for 250th time Wednesday, which makes it the most-played rivalry in the Southeastern Conference. 

Like the rivalry in football, where the road team last won in 2010, the home team has also held serve in the basketball series, with Ole Miss (12-7, 3-3 SEC) last winning in Starkville in 2009 and Mississippi State (9-10, 2-4 SEC) last winning in Oxford in 2011.

For some players, such as Aaron Jones, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, all seniors and all Mississippi natives,  it's a rivalry renewed. For others, such as leading scorer Stefan Moody, a junior college transfer, and key contributors M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith, both graduate transfers, this is their first taste of the rivalry. 

"The rivalry will become pretty evident to them," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the newcomers. "They had the opportunity to see the impact of the Egg Bowl and how important that was for both schools. It's important for us, first and foremost, because it's the next game and it's a home game, and we need to make sure we match the intensity that I'm sure Mississippi State will bring to the game."

Ole Miss won two of the three meetings last year and has won three straight games in Tad Smith Coliseum against Mississippi State, but it's the Rebels' 76-72 loss in Starkville last year that serves as a reminder of the nature of the rivalry as well as a motivating factor going into Wednesday's game.

"Last year, when we lost to them, they started having a party in their locker room," junior guard Martavious Newby said. "It's like the Super Bowl to them. We're trying not to let that happen again. We're trying to beat them, so they won't do the same thing they did last year."

The game also holds importance because, as Kennedy said, it's the next game and it's a home game, and Ole Miss looks to establish some consistency and stack wins together.  The Rebels have a 5-4 record over their last nine games, alternating wins and losses since, having last won back-to-back games in late December.

After a 72-71 win over Florida, Ole Miss moved up to No. 46 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA. Looking ahead, the Rebels face three potential RPI landmines in their next four games, starting at home against Mississippi State (No. 210), followed by road games at Missouri (No. 162) and Auburn (No. 146). 

Sandwiched between the road games at Missouri and Auburn, Ole Miss has an RPI quality win opportunity at home against Texas A&M (No. 31). Both teams were among ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi's "first four out" in his latest bracket released Monday, with Texas A&M as the third team out and Ole Miss as the fourth team out.

"We're playing well, but we just have to be consistent," sophomore forward Dwight Coleby said. "One game we'll look like the best team, and then we'll come back and be sluggish. If we can ever be consistent, we should be good."

What They're Saying: Ole Miss-Mississippi State

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from CBS Sports

VIDEO: Ole Miss bounces back, wins Egg Bowl from ESPN

VIDEO: Bo Wallace fights through injury for win from ESPN

VIDEO: On-field Celebration from Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze: 'It's a great night for the University of Mississippi' from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Bo Wallace discusses his legacy, Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Jordan Wilkins breaks down trick touchdown pass from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Evan Engram on Ole Miss' Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Senquez Golson on containing De'Runnya Wilson from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi State's fairy tale run ends in thud as rival Ole Miss plays spoiler role, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports

State of Mississippi's spotlight not leaving after Ole Miss Egg Bowl win, writes Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated

Mississippi State Bulldogs' playoff hopes dashed in Oxford, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Freeze's game plan pays off for Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Wallace delivers golden performance in Egg Bowl, writes Rick Cleveland for the Clarion-Ledger

Leaving a Legacy, writes Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Rebs use line play to reclaim Egg, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com

Wallace Cements Legacy with Gusty Performance

If his legacy remained in doubt, senior quarterback Bo Wallace cemented it Saturday night in his final home game.

Playing with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Arkansas, Wallace helped lead his team to a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, his second win over a top-five opponent this season, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Archie Manning in 1969.

"He couldn't practice any this week," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told everyone you would have to chain him down to not play in this game. You would have to really chain him down. 

"For all the stuff he gets talked about, I hope this would cement his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback who came and helped restore pride and returned us to relevancy. He won two Egg Bowls and at least two bowl wins, taking us to a third. I hope this cements his memory here by everyone in a positive light because he deserves that."

The school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and added a touchdown run, rebounding from a four-turnover game in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last season.

"I have been thinking about this game since last year," Wallace said. "Every single day, I have thought about this game. It pushed me this offseason to work harder than I ever had. The crazy thing is, looking back, I'm kind of thankful for that game because it made me have a better season this season. That game drove me every single day."

Tightly taped up and given pain medicine to deal with the ankle injury, Freeze said Wallace never complained as he prepared this week and then played Saturday night.

"There was a little more motivation there," Freeze said. "He has wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 365 or whatever number of days it's been, and he prepared like it. Even though he was unhealthy, he spent a lot of time in the film room and made sure he felt good about the things we were going to call. He was locked in."

Despite the injury, Wallace was sacked only once, a credit to his much-maligned offensive line that helped pave the way for a 532 yards of total offense. He was also helped by career efforts from sophomore tight end Evan Engram and junior running back Jaylen Walton.

"Hats off to the O-line because I couldn't move back there and they kept guys off of me," Wallace said. "I told them the whole game, 'Keep doing what you're doing. You guys are playing great.' If it weren't for them playing as well as they did, I don't think I would have had a shot."

"It was unbelievable," said Engram of Wallace. "He's definitely one of the toughest players I have played with in my whole career. A lot of guys could have easily just milked the injury and sat on the sideline and not do anything, but that wasn't going to happen with him."

Stepping into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, capped by his second Egg Bowl win and the program's first nine-win regular season since Eli Manning in 2003.

"I had to win this game," Wallace said. "I knew it. I talked to Quon (Laquon Treadwell) about it. I talked to a lot of guys about it. I had to win this game for what I want to be remembered for."

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State Motivational 2

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State Motivational 1

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-MSU

Three areas to watch as No. 18 Ole Miss hosts No. 4 Mississippi State in the regular season finale both teams Saturday.

Stopping State's One-Two Punch

Mississippi State boast the SEC's third-best rushing attack and two of the league's top six rushers in junior running back Josh Robinson (98.6 ypg) and junior quarterback Dak Prescott (81.0 ypg). The duo have also combined for 23 rushing touchdowns.

The SEC's leader in total offense, Prescott leads SEC quarterbacks and ranks fourth nationally among all quarterbacks in rushing yards, averaging 81.0 yards per game, and ranks second nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Nicknamed "Bowling Ball" for his 5-foot-9, 215-pound stature and running style, Robinson ranks second in the SEC, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, including an SEC-best 6.8 yards per carry in league games.

In their lone blemish on the season, a 25-20 loss at No. 1 Alabama, the Bulldogs were held to 138 yards on 40 carries, a season-low 3.45 yards per carry. Forced to throw, Prescott attempted a season-high 48 passes, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Prescott. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part. Every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Red Zone, Turnover Battles

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined for 18 wins, the most at the time of the matchup in series history, and one of the keys for both teams has been red-zone defense.

The Rebels rank third nationally, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 38 percent of the time once they enter the red zone, while the Bulldogs rank lead the nation, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 35 percent of the time.

This area made a clear difference in Mississippi State's wins over Auburn and Arkansas and its loss to Alabama. Mississippi State allowed a combined three touchdowns in 11 red-zone opportunities in the two wins compared to three touchdowns in five opportunities in the loss to Alabama.

Another key has been turnover margin, where Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and Mississippi State ranks ninth, but the difference in the wins and losses is where the stat is key.

Ole Miss has a plus-11 turnover margin in their eight wins compared to a minus-3 turnover margin in their three losses, with a minus-5 turnover margin against Arkansas and the timeliness of the turnovers against LSU and Auburn proving to be a difference.

An opportunistic defense, Mississippi State was unable to force a turnover against Alabama on the way to a minus-3 turnover margin, compared to a plus-3 turnover margin in its 10 wins.

"The one thing that really stands out if you look at the three games is turnovers," said head coach Freeze, referring to the Rebels' losses to LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. "That's probably a direct correlation to us not having success. That'll be a big, big key."

Legacy on the Line for Wallace?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has led Ole Miss to some big wins in his career, defeating Mississippi State in 2012, LSU in 2013 and Alabama earlier this season, and Saturday's rivalry game with No. 4 Mississippi State presents another opportunity to cement his legacy.

The school's all-time leader in career total yards, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, having stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games.

Wallace has had his ups and downs, notably in his two previous Egg Bowls, completing 15-of-22 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-24 win in Oxford two years ago and then completing 26-of-40 passes with three interception and a lost fumble in a 17-10 overtime loss in Starkville last year.

With two games remaining in his career, it's premature to label his legacy, but his performance Saturday will likely play a role in how he will remembered, for better or worse.

"You hope people focus on all the good," said Freeze, when asked about Wallace's legacy. "He's led us to three consecutive bowl games. He's been very, very relevant in returning relevancy to this program in the conference and nationally. He's now become the all-time total offense owner of that record, passing the great Eli Manning. 

"Those are some great things. I think in time people will recognize that and he'll be remembered for those things. Hopefully he can add another two to it, win another bowl to it and get the Egg home."

Wommack, Rebels Prep for Prescott

Battling injury, junior quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench and helped rally Mississippi State to a come-from-behind 17-10 win in last year's Egg Bowl. He led a drive that ended with the game-tying field goal at 10-10 and then he ran for what proved to the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

This season, he has helped Mississippi State to a 10-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the latest College Football Playoff poll. He leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in points responsible for, accounting for 36 total touchdowns and 216 points.

"They're a very good football team," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Dak Prescott makes them better than very good."

The SEC's leader in total offense averaging 327.7 yards per game, Prescott ranks third in passing (246.7 ypg) and sixth in rushing (81.0 ypg). His 23 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing touchdowns also lead the league.

With more experience and better health, Prescott has improved as a passer, upping his completion percentage (58.4 to 61.4) and his yards per attempt (7.3 to 8.8) from last year.

"I think the injury (last season) and the experience," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "That's the two biggest things. He got beat up in that Texas A&M game last year. You can tell he's an extremely tough kid. He fought through an ankle injury in that Arkansas game. He just keeps pushing through it. And he's throwing the ball much better. He knows where he's going with it."

"He is a major part of their program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It starts with him. It starts with the way he gets his guys to play. He can throw well, and he can also run the ball. That's always a big thing when you're faced with a quarterback that has a run threat also."

Prescott also combines with junior running back Josh Robinson for a powerful one-two bunch in the Mississippi State backfield. Robinson ranks third in the SEC in rushing yards (98.6 ypgs) in rushing touchdowns (11).

"I watched our game last year and some games from last year when he was playing," said Wommack of Robinson. "He has a low center of gravity. I thought we tackled him last year, but you better gang tackle him. There is one play that comes to mind against Kentucky where he broke eight tackles, spun this way and that way. It's a mindset with him. You can tell that he's determined to make positive yardage every time he touches the ball."

Alabama has had the most success defending Prescott this season, holding him to 56.3 percent passing for 290 yards with two touchdowns and a season-worst three interceptions in a 25-20 win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama also contained him on the ground, limited him to just 82 yards on 22 carries, a 3.73 yards per carry average.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," Wommack said. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part - every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Wallace 'Ready to Go'

As head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace is expected to play Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

 "He's been limited some, but you would have to chain him down to keep him from going in this game," said Freeze on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Wednesday. "He's getting better every do, so I anticipate him being ready to go."

Rebels Not Lacking Motivation in Rivalry Matchup

Head coach Hugh Freeze called the Egg Bowl the most prized possession of this university's football program, and getting the Egg Bowl back should be enough motivation for his team entering Saturday's game against Mississippi State. 

An Independence, Mississippi, native, Freeze said he and his team have a clear understanding of how much this rivalry means to so many.

"I know this one is pretty intense and sometimes in my opinion it crosses the line to what is good and all of that," Freeze said. "I want to beat them as bad as they want to beat us, particularly two days out of the year -- this Saturday and then National Signing Day. Those are the two days I feel that way."

The rivalry means a lot of graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford, the most senior member of the team, who will be a part of his sixth Egg Bowl, playing in his third after missing the others due to injuries.

"Although it's a rivalry, you don't want to make it such a big deal that the players can't play," Shackelford said. "You want everybody even-keeled and ready to prepare throughout the week. Saturday is just a result of what you've done throughout the week."

It also means a lot to senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, not only because it's Senior Day for him and his fellow seniors, but also because he's one of 53 Mississippi natives on the team.

"It's the most important game of the year, especially with them being 10-1," Sanders said. "They're going to come in, after seeing our performance last week, and feel like it's going to be an easy win. All of our guys know the importance of this game. All the hard work we put in during the spring and summer, we work toward this game."

The Rebels met as a team on Sunday, the day after the 30-0 loss to Arkansas, and they about the game in Fayetteville and then put in the trash and moved on Mississippi State. 

The team watched a video with some clips from last year's game, a 17-10 overtime loss, and several players spoke up about the upcoming game, including junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and injured sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"We've had time to meet and talk and discuss," Shackelford said. "I like the way this team is feeling going into this game. Of course, this is a game that doesn't take a lot of motivation to get up for."

Finishing Strong in Year Three

After starting the season 7-0 and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, losers of three straight Southeastern Conference games and relegated to a spoiler role against rival Mississippi State, which remains in SEC West and College Football Playoff contention.

"We worked hard all year to be in the playoff, so it's disappointing to us that we're not there," Sanders said. "Teams in front of us had the same opportunities we had and they made the best of them. We came up short a couple of games. You have to take your hats off to them because they did what they had to do. Overall, we're disappointed, but we're not going to let not being in the playoff affect how we're going to perform on Saturday."

Speaking to the media after the loss to Arkansas, Freeze said he told his team that he didn't like the way they finished year two -- losing its last two regular season games to Missouri and Mississippi State -- and he didn't like the way they played Saturday. 

On Monday, Freeze said they have to evaluate why the disappointments down the stretch have happened, whether it's depth or the energy you have to expend to compete in the SEC, but he's confident not only in the big picture, but also in getting his team ready to play Saturday.

"The big picture is I still think we're ahead of schedule," Freeze said. "We're disappointed but ahead of schedule. We have a lot to play for with pride on the line and eight or nine wins in the regular season." 

Wallace, Tunsil Expected to Play

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas, which caused him to miss two series, but he came back to play through the third quarter but sat for much of the fourth quarter.

Wallace has missed not a start during his three-year career, and he is not expected to miss his final regular season game, Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

"It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game," Freeze said. "He's hungry and wants to play in this game in a bad way. He's going to try to go no matter what. He's gotten better each day. Hopefully he'll be close to 100 percent."

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, are getting more reps in practice in case they have to play. 

Speaking generally about injuries, Freeze said all of the players who made the trip to Fayetteville are expected give it a go against Mississippi State, including sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked really good for the first half but didn't play much after the shoulder popped out again," Freeze said. "He looked really solid in the first half. We'll give him a lot of treatment this week. We'll get him ready to go Saturday." 

Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Nov. 23


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It's that busy time of the year with the Ole Miss football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball teams all in action. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was in Ole Miss sports:

- A slow start (17-0 first-quarter deficit), a stalled running game (33 carries for 37 yards) and six turnovers (two in the red zone) all had a hand in a 30-0 loss at Arkansas, ending the Rebels' SEC West title hopes. There's not much else to say.

"I told our kids in locker room," Freeze said, '"I don't like the way we finished year two and I don't like the way we played tonight.'

- It's clear Ole Miss misses Laquon Treadwell, not just his production, but also his leadership and playmaking abilities. Playing without the sophomore star for the first time in SEC play, Ole Miss was shut out for the first time this season. The Rebels managed just three plays of 20 or more yards, and their active leading receiver, Vince Sanders, was held without a catch in the contest.

- Give the defense credit for keeping as close as they did for as long as they did. Facing a short field for much of the game, the Ole Miss defense allowed just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone for Arkansas. The Razorbacks started on average from their own 43-yard line and they had scoring drives of 52, 24, 49, 41, 0 and 0 yards, respectively.

- Ole Miss also found itself on the wrong side of history, as Arkansas became the first unranked team to ever shut out two ranked opponents in back-to-back games.

- With Arkansas becoming bowl eligible, an entire division will advance to the postseason for the first time in Southeastern Conference history. What's more impressive, the SEC West is a combined a 38-3 against non-SEC West opponents, including a combined 28-0 against non-conference opponents.

- For the second straight season, both SEC divisions will be determined on the final weekend. Alabama and Missouri each control their destiny, while Georgia needs an Arkansas win over Missouri, and Mississippi State needs a win over Ole Miss and an Auburn win over Alabama. Ole Miss, like Arkansas and Auburn, will play a spoiler role, looking to eliminate Mississippi State from SEC West title contention.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

- Ole Miss volleyball's Nakeyta Clair set the school single-season kills record in the rally scoring era, putting down nine kills in a four-set loss to No. 6 Florida this past Friday. The Rebels bounced back with a five-set win over Alabama on Sunday, the second match in a four-match homestand to close out the regular season. Ole Miss will host Texas A&M on Friday for Senior Day, where the Rebels will honor the senior trio Marie-Pierre Bakima, Cara Fisher and Rachael Weathersby.

- Father, Rick, and Middle Tennessee State got the best of son, Matt, and Ole Miss, in the first-ever meeting between father and son head coach in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. The result was not what Matt and the Rebels wanted, but the matchup provided a tough test for a young team learning every game and created some buzz and excitement surrounding the program.

- Here's a nice story on Rick and Matt Insell from Will Borthick from the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Check it out.

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team rebounded nicely from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Charleston Southern, rattling off three straight wins over Troy, Southern and Northern Arizona, going into this weekend's game in Niceville, Florida. The Rebels will face Creighton and then either Cincinnati or Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Jays, which return one starter from last year's 27-8 team, is off to a 4-0 start, including a win over No. 18 Oklahoma.

- Head coach Andy Kennedy said he has been surprised by how much he has learned a lot about his team, one that includes five newcomers, and he spoke very honestly about what he has learned through four games: "We're not as tough physically as I would have hoped," said Kennedy after an 80-74 win over Northern Arizona. "We make excuses. I didn't know this group would do that. I know some of it is a defense mechanism. I get that. I have done this a long time. Sometimes, that's the easy way out. It's the default mode. I get it, but we have to get tougher. We have to play to our abilities. I don't think we have played to our ability yet."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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