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What They're Saying: Signing Day Links

Ole Miss landed back-to-back top-15 classes for the first time in school history dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002. It was a consensus top-20 class, ranked as high as No. 14 (247Sports.com). Here are a few related National Signing Day links to videos and stories:

VIDEO: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks National Signing Day, Jeremy Liggins with CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman on Signing Day Live

VIDEO: Ole Miss tight ends coach/offensive recruiting coordinator Maurice Harris talks National Signing Day with the Clarion-Ledger's Courtney Cronin

Mississippi's Freeze happy with haul, writes David Brandt from the Associated Press

Ole Miss locks down top area talent, get top-15 class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss fulfills needs with 2014 recruiting class, writes David Collier from the the Daily Mississippian

Change of heart: Rebels bolster secondary by swaying Shepard, leading with the signing-day flip of signee Tee Shepard from Mississippi State to Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Freeze: '14 class 'better top to bottom,' writes Neal McCready from RebelGrove/Rivals.com

2014 Signing Day Guide Download, a comprehensive introduction to the entire signing class, from Jeffrey Wright of RebelGrove/Rivals.com

Role Definition, answering the question what position signee Jeremy Liggins will play at Ole Miss, writes Ben Garrett from the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

And in case you missed it, Rebels Land Back-To-Back Top-15 Classes on OleMissSports.com and 'Bjork: It Lifts The Entire Athletics Program,' with Athletics Director Ross Bjork recounting the day that was for Ole Miss football, on Ole Miss Blog.



Wallace Earns Game MVP Honors

Game MVP Bo Wallace and head coach Hugh Freeze meet with members of the media after Ole Miss' 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl.

In the regular season finale at Mississippi State, junior quarterback Bo Wallace was 26-of-40 for 182 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble. A month later, Wallace responded to that adversity in a huge way, as he helped lead Ole Miss to a 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl and the program's first eight-win season since 2009.

"I have said that there's no way we would be sitting here with 15 wins, including two bowl victories, in two years had Bo not been here with us," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I knew from watching him prepare that the way we ended the season didn't set well him, nor did it for me. I liked the way he prepared and I'm proud that he was able to have the game he had today."

"Going into this game, I knew I needed to have a good one," Wallace said. "But at the same time, sometimes I try to make too many plays. All day, I was thinking, don't try to make too many plays; just make the plays that are there, and that's what I did today in getting the ball to those receivers. They can run after the catch and make the stats look pretty."

The Pulaski, Tenn., native threw one touchdown and ran for two more on the way game MVP honors. Wallace finished the game 22-of-32 for 256 yards, as well as a career-high 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. He also set the Ole Miss single-season records for completions and total yards, which were both previously held by Eli Manning.

"I wanted to get the win first," Wallace said of the game MVP honors. "I knew that if I had a good game, we would probably win the game. Like I said, I tried not to press too much out there. I knew the plays would come if I made the plays that were there."

Junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief led the Ole Miss receiving corps with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, his fifth game with 100 or more receiving yards this season. Wallace also credited his senior-laden offensive line, with four senior starters in offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, offensive guard Jared Duke and center Evan Swindall. 

The unit allowed just two sacks and helped Ole Miss outgain Georgia Tech, 221-151, on the ground. The Yellow Jackets entered the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense, and the 221 rushing yards were the second-most allowed they allowed this season.

"That was their best day as far as getting set to get the tempo going and rolling," Wallace said. "I felt really comfortable back there. That was probably as comfortable as I have been all season. We had a lot of seniors up there. They all did a great job, and I'm glad they get to leave on a good note."

Special Moment For Grant, Moore

Ole Miss fell 17-10 in overtime to intrastate rival Mississippi State, but the Rebels' one score provided a special moment for two of the team's unsung players.

Down 7-0 with 31 seconds left in the first half, Ole Miss called its third and final timeout to force a Mississippi State punt and try to score some points before halftime.

Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg stood deep in the Bulldogs' end zone and bobbled the snap. And then, two Ole Miss players just made plays.

Junior wide receiver Collins Moore beat his man off the line and took the ball right off Swedenburg's foot in the end zone, and senior wide receiver Terrell Grant pounced on the ball for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 26 seconds left. 

It turned the momentum in the Rebels' favor, as they drove 81 yards on 17 plays on the opening drive of the second half, capped by an Andrew Ritter 22-yard field, to take a 10-7 lead. Head coach Hugh Freeze called it a "huge lift" and "big special teams play."

"(Linebackers/Special Teams) Coach (Tom) Allen came up with a great scheme this week," Moore said. "I told Terrell Grant that if I was the one to block the punt that I wanted him to be one to recover it and hopefully score a touchdown, which we did, because this will the be last time he will play Mississippi State being a senior."

"It was a great feeling," Grant said. "It changed momentum, which we needed. (Collins and I) had been talking about it all day. It was a great moment, and I'll remember it forever, but I wish we could have won. I would have rather not have the touchdown and win than have the touchdown and lose."

 For those two role players, despite the loss, those five seconds will last a lifetime.

Moore has 13 career catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, while for Grant, it was the first time he touched the ball in his four-year Ole Miss career, having seen action in 24 games on special teams and as receiver.

"Everything that Coach Freeze preaches about -- playing for the guy next to you -- that's all that was going through my mind, that I made a dream come true for one of my teammates," Moore said.

"Having a peace of mind and understand that God has his ways. I stuck with it," Grant said. "I love the game of football. I could have transferred, but I love Ole Miss and I love my teammates. They helped me the most. That's what helped me." 

Battling The Elements Thursday Night

One of the core values for the Ole Miss football program is mental toughness. With a rivalry game in a hostile environment, it will carry a greater importance. 

"You're going into a hostile environment, and that's the biggest thing," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "When you're playing here, you have your home-field advantage. When you're playing there, it's a hostile environment and nobody likes you. It's kind of you versus the whole stadium."

One challenge is the weather, with the temperature expected to dip into the 30s, maybe the upper 20s, which is something similar to what they faced in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. Head coach Hugh Freeze said they have to be mentally tough to handle it.

"I did not think we handled the weather well the other night," Freeze said. "I don't talk about those things a lot, but I did talk to our team about it today. I didn't think we handled it really well, particularly when we got behind."

Another challenge is the 55,000-plus fans at Davis Wade Stadium, with the sound of cowbells. Each of the past two days, Ole Miss has had cowbell sounds, along with the usual loud music for road games, piped into practice in the Manning Center.

"We better get used to that," Freeze said. "I'm not sure how that process is going there with the regulations that they have on them. I'm certain in this game we will hear some."

"Barry (Brunetti) said that it's one of the toughest places he has played, so that's what I'm anticipating," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said, referring to Brunetti's start at quarterback in the 2011 game at Mississippi State.

Length, Size In Mississippi State's Front Seven


Freeze had praise for the Bulldogs' front seven, led by sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney and junior defense end Preston Smith. McKinney and Smith are tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks. McKinney also leads the team with 61 tackles, while Smith leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss.

"Their length and size of their front, they are one of the longer defenses you will face," Freeze said. "Their linebackers are tall, and their front is huge. It is difficult to win one-on-ones, so you have to create double teams, and their linebackers are good at running around and making plays. In the passing game, they do a great job of spot-dropping, and they're so long, that those windows to throw in don't stay open very long. 

"You have to take care of the ball. They're great at getting turnovers, and when you turn the ball over, you're not nearly as good. We have to be balanced, so we can be effective in throwing. The last thing you want with who we are is to get into a situation where they know we have to throw."

Another player to note in the front seven is freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones, who has started three games for the Bulldogs, two at defensive tackle and another at defensive end. He leads the team with nine quarterback hurries, ranks second with two sacks and tied for third with five tackles for loss.

"Any time that you're a freshman playing in this league, you better be pretty good," Luke said. "The biggest thing is adjusting to the speed of the game in this league. Any time you are able to do that as a freshman, it's good."

Wallace, Other Health Updates

Wallace battled flu-like symptoms in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. He is close to 100 percent, Freeze said Tuesday.

"He still felt some lingering effects this morning," he said. "We'll get him off his feet today and hopefully get him back to 100 percent. He went through everything in practice, but he felt a little weak today."

Also on the health front, Freeze said he doesn't think senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (various injuries) will be able to go, and senior running back Jeff Scott (thigh bruise/bone spur) is questionable like he was Monday.

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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

Tough Test In No. 8 Missouri

There's a different air surrounding this week's primetime showdown with No. 8 Missouri, the Rebels' first top-10 test since a 27-24 win over then-No. 6 LSU back on Oct. 19.

"It's a huge week for us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We get to see how good we are. We had some games that we felt like we didn't play as well in that we could have been in, but this is our redemption game that we can go back and see how good we are."

"In the weight room yesterday, it was crazy," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "No one was talking or doing anything. We're telling each other this a game that no one should have to get you amped for. You should be motivated and feel that urge to do what you can do.

The Rebels (7-3, 3-3 SEC) have won four straight, having eclipsed 500 total offense yards in each of the four games, including a school-record 751 against Troy this past Saturday. They also re-entered the BCS and Associated Press polls at No. 24.

The Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) rank in the top three in the SEC and top 20 in the nation in both scoring offense (41.3 points per game) and scoring defense (20.2). Other than their loss to South Carolina, none of their wins have been decided by less than 15 points.

"I don't know that having to win the game will answer the question, 'Are you really a top-25 team?'" Freeze said. "But if we go out, compete and have a chance to win it, that's what we're asking for right now out of our kids in Year Two. 

"Let's go find out where we stand and how we match up with the elite in the nation right. Hopefully, we'll be in it at the end and see. With the schedule we have played, looking back on it, we have had our share of tests, and this will be another one Saturday night."

When asked about keys to the matchup, Freeze mentioned two specifically: running the ball effectively and eliminating explosive plays in the passing game.

"We're pretty good when we can run it and mix in the play-action pass and the stuff we like to do off our run game," Freeze said. "When we're not running it -- you look at the Alabama and Auburn games -- we're not the same team. 

"(Cornerbacks coach) Jason Jones put together a reel of their explosive receivers play, and it's quite impressive, so we have a tall task there. If we can eliminate those and are able run the ball the ball effectively, that will go a long way in helping us be in this game.

The Challenge On Defense

Senior James Franklin is listed as the starter at quarterback for the Tigers this week, having missed the last four games since suffering a shoulder injury against Georgia on Oct. 12. 

Franklin averages 225.3 passing yards per game and has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His backup, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, averages 95.1 passing yards per game and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

"There's not much difference in the two quarterbacks, so that's the good thing," Freeze said. "They are going to be who they are. They have done the exact same things with their second guy that they do with their first guy, so it's not like you're preparing for two different schemes. They have confidence in both of them and have good reason to."

The Tigers also have a talented group of receivers, led by sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L'Damian Washington who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Each of their four starting receivers are listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, with Green-Beckham at 6-foot-6 and Washington at 6-foot-4. 

Ole Miss junior cornerback Senquez Golson compared it to playing against three or four Mike Evans from Texas A&M. Both he and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton said it's about playing physical with the tall, speedy receivers from Missouri.

"That's a physics problem that we can't solve," said Freeze of their height. "It's a concern for sure because there are times where their guys are more able to make a play on the ball than some defensive backs they have faced. That is a great concern and something that we have to try to figure out what the best answers are when those cases arise."

The Challenge On Offense

One of the keys to the game, Freeze said, is Missouri's ability to stop the run. The Tigers rank second in the league and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). In earlier losses to Alabama and Auburn, Ole Miss rushed for 46 and 124 yards, respectively. 

In recent games, the Rebels have run the ball better, including a season-high 382 yards against Troy, and Freeze credited the offensive line progressing and being more multiple, while senior offensive linemen Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray credited continuity and working better with double teams.

"Very few people have been able to line up and just run the ball effectively on them to keep you off balance, and then they get you one-dimension and those ends are quick and cause trouble in the backfield for you," Freeze said. "We have to try to find a way to run the ball effective enough so that we can be who we are and want to be and keep them thinking we're balanced, which we have been as of late."

Missouri also does a great job of generating pressure and forcing turnovers, and it starts with their defensive line. 

The Tigers lead the league in sacks and rank third nationally with 34 sacks, as well as lead the league and rank seventh nationally with 17 interceptions. It's a great challenge for junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who after throwing 17 interceptions last year, has only been picked off five times through 10 games this season.

"Sometimes the pressure is causing some of it, but they do a great job also of mixing up their coverages and causing you to want to be greedy," Freeze said. "If you're not patient against them, because they're going to make you go 8, 10, 12-play drives to get points and they're very good in the red zone. In most of their games, they're ahead and forcing you to throw a lot, and they're stopping the run, so the sacks are coming because when they get you in a position where they know you have to throw, their guys are very good at that."

"I have to be sharp every week, no matter who we play," Wallace said. "We play in probably the best conference in America. Every week, we're going to play against guys who can go get the ball and great defensive backs. There are great defenses in this league, so it's the same every week."

Their defensive line is led by a talented duo at the ends. Senior 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 Kony Ealy, ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks and leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.

"They do a lot of movement, so it will be a unique challenge for us," Burton said. "It's not just like I'm watching a defensive end every time. The defensive end is going to be slanting. They're doing run-game twists on first down. We haven't seen that all year except for SEMO. That's a really unique thing to see."

"They are very talented," McCray said. "They are slated as one of the best in the SEC. They play pretty hard and all have pretty good motors. It's not just about outstanding ability, they all play as a good unit."

Historic Day For The Ole Miss Offense

Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell caught a short pass from junior quarterback Bo Wallace, made six Troy defenders miss and dove into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. It was the start of a historic day for the Ole Miss offense, as the Rebels rolled up a school-record 751 total yards in a 51-21 win over Troy Saturday.

"When he caught it, I saw so many people around him, in my mind, I'm thinking what are we going to call next knowing that he's going to get tackled there," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "I'm thinking in my game plan we're about the 10- or 15-yard line, and then he kept breaking tackles and then he gets closer and closer, and then he pops it in for the touchdown. As an offensive coordinator, you love that because you set down the game plan and smile for a little bit."

The 751 total yards eclipsed the previous record of 623 vs. Auburn in 1951. It was also the highest in the SEC this year and fifth-most in league history. It was a balanced attack with a season-high 382 yards on the ground and 369 through the air, with completions to nine different receivers, while seven different players rushed at least once.

"Offensively, we broke a school record in total yards," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That's always good and means you're doing something right. We broke it in the third quarter, so it was a good day. We finished today, as far as our 1's and 2's, and now it's time to move on to the next one."

"We talk to our guys every week about it doesn't matter who we're playing; we got to make sure that we play as well as we can and prepare the same way every week," Werner said. "They came out with a game plan and understood it. They did a great job and were really efficient, especially in the first half."

Wallace continues to move up in the record books and now ranks fourth all-time in career passing yards (5,658) and career total offense yards (6,280). He completed 17-of-26 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

"In JUCO a couple of times," said Wallace of playing in a game where the offense eclipsed 700 total offensive yards. "It was pretty ridiculous. It took me back to those days. I think we ran the ball a little more today."

Treadwell led the receiving corps with four catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns, as he set freshman records for receiving yards (477) and touchdown catches (5) in a season. Fellow freshman Quincy Adeboyejo caught his first career touchdown, a 24-yard reception from Wallace.

"He's so physical that he reminds me of a young Michael Irvin," said Werner of Treadwell. "That's how Michael played. Michael wasn't a huge burner but he knew how to get open, had very strong hands, and when he caught the ball, he out-physicals you, and that's what Laquon does."

Ole Miss has won four straight, as it enters its final two games at home against No. 8 Missouri and at Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night. The offense has surpassed 500 total yards each of the last four games and five times this year, including Saturday's historic output.

Missouri, the Rebels' next opponent in Saturday's primetime showdown on ESPN, enters the game ranked third in the SEC in scoring defense (20.2 points per game) and leads the league with 34 sacks.

"The speed off their edge is tremendous," Freeze said. "They are very sound and athletic on the back end. Their front is as good as we have faced athletically, particularly on the ends."

"I watched a couple of games on the TV when we had late games," Wallace said. "Everybody talks about their defensive line. They have two good quarterbacks, so we have to be ready to put up points."

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."

After Ole Miss took a 20-10 lead into halftime, the momentum swung in favor of Arkansas after an interception, a touchdown-scoring drive and a defensive three-and-out to start the third quarter.

Now leading 20-17, senior quarterback Barry Brunetti converted a 3rd-and-1 from the Ole Miss 15 with a 4-yard run. Two plays later, junior quarterback Bo Wallace found senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan for a 75-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 27-17. 

"We put it in after the first series of the second half," said Freeze of that play. "I told our guys to go over and draw one up in the dirt kind of, and that was the Ja-Mes touchdown."

"On that drive, we had to go out and put something together and at least get a field goal, or something, because we couldn't let them have any more momentum than they had already gained," Wallace said. "I was really close to not throwing it. Ja-Mes wasn't really telling me what he was going to do, but once I saw him go the next time, I just laid it up and he was able to run under it."

It turned the momentum back in favor of Ole Miss, and the Rebels went on to win 34-24 to gain bowl eligibility for the second straight year under head coach Hugh Freeze.

Wallace completed 26-of-33 passes for a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Wallace's 407 yards passing is the fifth-highest total by a quarterback in Ole Miss history, and it was his second career 400-yard passing game.

Behind Wallace, the Rebels finished with a season-high 419 passing yards and surpassed 500 total yards for the third straight game and the fourth time this year.

"Bo's day was phenomenal," Freeze said.

"It seems like every year we get on a roll around this time, so we have to go back in to work tomorrow and keep that going," Wallace said.

The Rebels completed passes to seven different receivers, and had two receivers with over 100 receiving yards for the first time since 2003. Junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief had a season-high seven receptions for a season-high 149 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown catch, while Logan had five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

"I was trying to think back to the teams that I have had at other schools, and it certainly wasn't to this level," said Freeze, of the Ole Miss receiving corps. "I would venture to guess, having followed Ole Miss football for a long time, that our group can arguably be put up with the best receiving corps through its history. They're up there."

"I have said all year what I think," Wallace said. "I may have caught some flak for it. ... I want to say it, but I'm not going to say it, so we'll let that go, but I think they're great players."


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.

Rebels Not Overlooking Arkansas

As excited as they were about the open week, head coach Hugh Freeze said they're equally as excited to get back to playing this week against Arkansas. It's the fourth of six straight home games and will be the Rebels' first game of the year with a kickoff earlier than 5:30 p.m.

"To be at home again is always nice," Freeze said, as before the open date there were three straight home games and after the open date there will be three straight home games. "We're looking forward to getting an early kickoff. That's something we haven't had this year," Freeze said. "We've enjoyed the ones we've had, but it's always nice to get a variety." 

"I'm so glad that we have an early kickoff," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We wake up and go play, instead of having to sit in the hotel room all day and watch games, so yeah I'm excited about these morning kickoffs."

Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC) had won back-to-back games over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho entering the bye week, while Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC) won their first three games, but have lost six straight, including most recently a 35-17 loss to No. 8 Auburn.

"The off week came at a good time, and hopefully we won't be very rusty at all, but we'll continue to improve, as I thought we had the last couple of weeks," Freeze said. We're playing a very scary football team to me. If they ever convert drives, they'd be very, very dangerous. They control the time of possession, and they run the football extremely well." 

"They're a lot better than a lot people think they are," Wallace said. "They're close to coming through and win some games, and they're still playing hard. If you watched the Auburn game, you could tell they're still playing hard. They'll be a tough test."

Offensively, Arkansas is led by a dynamic running back duo of freshman Alex Collins (98.8 ypg) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (79.6), who rank fourth and seventh in the SEC, respectively. 

As a team, the Razorbacks have 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. Arkansas also ranks fifth in the SEC in time of possession (30:51), including 34:14 time of possession against Auburn.

"They are closer than people realize, and they scare you," Freeze said. "If you have one or two turnovers, you may not see the ball again. Last week, Auburn, which is somewhat similar to us in a tempo offense, only had 21 snaps in the first half."

"That's frustrating for me when I have to sit over there for so long, and they're just running the ball," Wallace said. "You just have to stay on the phone with Coach Werner and get what him and Coach Freeze are thinking about and keep all the guys up on the sideline."

More Depth, Flexibility On Defense


Ole Miss has been hit hard with injuries this year, with three starters out for the year in junior offensive lineman Aaron Morris (ACL), junior defensive end C.J. Johnson (ankle) and freshman tight end Evan Engram (ankle). Several other key players missed either LSU or Idaho game, or both. 

Entering this week, however, Freeze said they're as healthy as they've been in a while, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

"Still questionable are Charles Sawyer and Jeff Scott," Freeze said. "I think everyone else will be ready, except for those out for the year, like C.J. Johnson, Aaron Morris, and Evan Engram. Carlos Thompson is still on the doubtful list. The off week came at a good time. Hopefully we won't be very rusty at all and will continue to improve as I thought we had the last couple of weeks." 

Among those expected to return are three defensive starters in freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton. 

"All of the people who played and contributed whenever everyone was gone, it helps them and help us as a defense because it gives them confidence when they come into the game," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "They give us more depth on defense."

Their expected return, Freeze said, gives them not only more depth but also more flexibility on defense. 

"Robert gives us better depth and some flexibility to move people around up front," Freeze said. "Denzel was our leading tackler last year and hopefully to have him healthy for a stretch of games will pay great dividends. Hilton, I thought was maybe the most-improved player on our defense. We do a lot of things with him. He can play our nickel, our corner and anywhere in six-defensive back formation. All those guys give us some flexibility." 

Bowl Implications For Both Teams

A win over Arkansas would make Ole Miss bowl eligible for the second straight year under Hugh Freeze. 

In this week's bowl projections, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards both have the Rebels in the Music City Bowl, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has them in the Gator Bowl and SI.com's Stewart Mandel have them in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

"It's exciting," Wallace said. "We were 5-3 at this same point, so the first step is being bowl eligible, and then building on that. Any time you can get that sixth win, it's a big game and a big week."

On the other sideline, for Arkansas, it has to win out in its final three games at Ole Miss, at home against Mississippi State and at LSU to become bowl eligible. 

"They have to win these last three games to get into a bowl game, and they feel like we were in the Mississippi State game last year," Bryant said. "They're going to bring it and do everything in their will to win this game."


 

Rebels Enter Second Bye Week



Ole Miss is 5-3 for the second straight year, as it enters its second bye week of the year before a final four-game stretch starting with Arkansas on Nov. 9 from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The previous stretch of games included three straight losses, then back-to-back wins over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho.

"We could easily have a couple more wins, and we could easily have a couple more losses," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You're mind usually concentrates on the ones you let get away, but you have to move on from those.  Winning the last two games has helped tremendously with that.  I believe we have gotten better at mostly every spot."

"(5-3 this year) feels a lot different because we have been through the meat of our schedule," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said "But at the same time, every SEC team is great, and we know we can't take a week off, or somebody will come up and beat you."

Entering the bye week, Freeze said he does think they can get quite a few of players back who didn't suffer season-ending injuries.

"I'm confident that Mike Hilton will be back, as well as Isaac Gross being healthy," Freeze said. "Charles Sawyer, we'll hold out this week and Denzel Nkemdiche, we held out the other night, and I see no reason for him to not be ready.  Robert Nkemdiche and Jeff Scott, I'll need to wait until next Monday to better answer that, but we're hopeful on them. Carlos Thompson, I am doubtful on, we're getting concerned on his nerve not firing in his arm, so hopefully we can catch on soon and he'll be back in a couple of weeks."

Preparation for Arkansas will start on Thursday, Freeze said, and they will get in an extra practice on Sunday night.

"This week will certainly help that because we'll need those guys for this stretch run that we have coming up with the three SEC games and the one out of conference game," Freeze said. "It gives us coaches a lot of time to start self-scouting us, and give us a jump start against Arkansas and scouting other opponents, as well as plan what we would like to add, take out or just plan a little differently.  We'll also get a chance to look at some young guys in practice too, and get us some depth."

A win over Arkansas would make the Rebels bowl eligible for the second straight year under Freeze. In this week's bowl projections, Greg Ostendorf from ESPN has Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl, while Jerry Palm from CBS Sports has them in the Gator Bowl.

"We all want to win these games, and let all that care of itself," Wallace said. "We know if we win these games, we'll be in a big-time bowl. And that's our goal. Our goal is not just getting to a bowl game this year; it's going to a big bowl game. It's taking that next step for our program."


"A few guys talk about it but not too often," junior defensive tackle Bryon Bennett said. "We try to keep a narrow focus and not look at the big picture. We know a lot of our remaining games are home, which is always an advantage for us with the energy and excitement."


Wallace, Brunetti Improve Decision-Making



Last year, Wallace threw 22 touchdown passes compared to 17 interceptions. Through eight games year, he has thrown 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. His interception ratio (interceptions per pass attempt) improvement from last year to this year ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally.


Wallace also ranks fifth in the SEC and 31st nationally in total offense (266.2 ypg) and 5th in the SEC and 36th nationally in passing (247.0). His backup, senior Barry Brunetti, has completed 12-of-15 passes for 129 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games.


"It's been an on-going endeavor since last spring," Freeze said. "I think Dan Werner has done a really nice job of decreasing the package so there is no question of what to do and a clear understanding of what your read should be.  As the year has gone on we continue to cut back to make sure we put ourselves in position to take care of the ball and there should be no reason for us to not have great understanding of exactly what you're supposed to do and when.  


"I have to give a lot of credit to Dan Werner, as well as those two kids (Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti).  We must always take care of the football, and we've done a good job putting an emphasis on that also.  We've also been able to run the ball, which is a huge thing for anyone that understands what our offense is like.  When you're able to run the ball it gives you a little more time to throw, and the decisions become better."


Wallace's improved decision-making has even been apparent to him mid-play during games this year.


"It's just better decisions," Wallace said. "There have been a couple times rolling out, especially against LSU, I was thinking middle of the play, 'Last year, I probably try to fit the ball in there,' but then continuing to run and try to do as much as I can without trying to do too much. That has really helped me out."


Bennett Settling In At Defensive End



After playing the first five games, including two starts at defensive tackle, junior Bryon Bennett has started each of the past three game at defensive end, due in part to a season-ending injury to junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, as well as injuries to freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"He likes defensive end," Freeze said. "He's played two really solid games there. He's a physical guy. His motor turns up out there, it seems like. Moving forward, it will be interesting for us to look at what the best combination is and how to go about getting our best players on the field. I have been as pleased as I have been in my year and a half with him."


In the last two games, Bennett has three tackles including a solo tackle and a tackle for loss. With Bennett at defensive end, the defense has recorded five sacks in those games, including a season-high three sacks against LSU.


"It's exciting," said Bennett, of defensive end. "There's more room to roam around. I have to back further off the ball to make sure I'm not offside. Other than that, it's a lot of fun."


Bennett said took about two or three practice to adjust to playing defensive end. He gave credit to senior offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, as well as freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, whom he faced in practice. The two biggest adjustments, he said, were his positioning and how he rushed the passer.


"I have to make sure I maintain my outside presence," Bennett said. "To pass rush, I have to run a lot more. Inside, it's a few steps and then you make a move. On the end, you have to run the edge and make sure the quarterback can't bounce outside the pocket."

'Put It Away And Move Forward'


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


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


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


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


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


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



Wallace Has 'Best Game' Of Ole Miss Career



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Engram Out For Season, Parker's Role To Increase


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


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


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


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


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



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.

'They Bounce Back And Will Fight'


Coming off a heartbreaking 41-38 loss to then-No. 9 Texas A&M this past Saturday, Ole Miss plays its third top-10 ranked opponent in four games with No. 6 LSU. The Rebels will try to snap a three-game losing streak, as they also deal with a lot of injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.


"(Sunday), I thought was pretty good, and I know our coaches how we will handle it, said head coach Hugh Freeze of the team's confidence. "And talking to Coach Jackson this morning, he was pleased with the attitudes they had in workouts (Sunday). I just keep coming back to my experience with these kids, and they bounce back and will fight. And that gives me confidence to walk out there tomorrow with the same swagger we hope to have every Saturday."


"We're still confident," quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We played a tough schedule, but we're not using that as an excuse. We're 3-3, and we have a big game this weekend."


Among the injured players is junior Serderius Bryant, who left the Texas A&M game after being carted off on a stretcher. Bryant, Freeze said, suffered a concussion, then rejoined the team in meetings on Sunday and has started the concussion protocol to return.


On the field, Bryant had recently been added to the Bednarik Award Watch List and leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with 11 tackles per game, including a team-leading 12 tackles and forced fumble against Texas A&M.


"I'm extremely proud of him," Freeze said. "He runs the ball as passionately as any kid that we have, and he's a sold tackler once he gets there. He finishes plays. To lose him not only in that game, but to be without him going forward, if that's the case, it would be a big hit to us. 


"He's responsible for a lot of tackles, and I'm proud of him as the person he has become, on and off the field. He is making much better decisions for himself and how he goes about living, with academics and the social responsibility we're trying to get out kids to understand. I'm proud of the year he is having."



Freeze called it a "laundry list" of injuries, and it includes Aaron Morris, who was already out, starting running back and leading rusher Jeff Scott, starting defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson, starting nose tackle Issac Gross and starting cornerback Mike Hilton.


Also among the injured is backup linebacker Temario Strong, backup quarterback Barry Brunetti, backup safety Chief Brown and backup defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"The other injuries, you see other teams go through it, and unfortunately we joined the ranks with them," Freeze said. "... It's part of the game. You hate it for the kids and you fear that because of our depth issue, we won't be able to adequately represent the progress we're making against these top teams. That's part of the game, like I said, and we won't blink. We will get the ones we have ready that can play, and I know they will compete with great passion for university Saturday evening."


"It's tough," said Wallace of the injuries. "You feel bad for the guys, but at the same time, we still have a long season and we have to be prepared to paly this week. There a lot of defensive guys out, so offensively, we have to put up some points."


When asked about who is out for Saturday's game, Freeze said "most of them."


"Not sure about Barry," Freeze said. "I don't know that he injured it any worse than it was, so hopefully he will be fine. Issac will try to go, I'm sure. I doubt Temario will make it, Robert no, Serderius I'm not sure, C.J. probably not, Carlos definitely not, Hilton doubtful. We have a challenge ahead of us."


If something should happen, and Bo Wallace nor Brunetti would be available, Devante Kincade would the guy to get to the nod, Freeze said. If Brunetti is out for Saturday's game against LSU, Freeze said he would not have a guaranteed package for Kincade, like has had for Brunetti, but they would have him ready to play.


"Devante is the guy we have said would get the nod to go should something happen," Freeze said. "We'll get him prepared to go, and again, you always struggle with what's in the best interest in the kid. But we also have to look at what's best for our team with six games left to play. We're inching forward in our progress in getting better and having chances to win, and we probably wouldn't hesitate to put him in if that's what's best for our team.


"The only way that Devante would be the backup is if I felt like we didn't have Bo nor Barry available. We're certainly not, at this point, not going to burn a redshirt on a young man that I don't know if, at this point, would be further ahead of either one of them in game-type situations."


How ready is Kincade?


"I would be comfortable with Devante doing some things," Freeze said. "We have yet to see how he is going to respond in front of 62,000 against a rival of your school. I don't know if that's fair to him to expect miracles. I think he's going to be a very good player, and I wouldn't hesitate to put him in if that's what's best for our football team."



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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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

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

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


Comeback Falls Short On The Plains


No. 24 Ole Miss rallied in the second half and got to within five, 27-22, early in the fourth quarter, after Bo Wallace connected with Donte Moncrief for two touchdowns. Auburn later added a field goal with just over three minutes left, and Ole Miss had a final chance down one possession, but the comeback fell short, as the Tigers held on for a 30-22 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.


"It was a disappointing loss," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I thought they were well prepared and they were a great football team, but we had out chances. And certainly, we can't give them points off turnovers like we did and we have to score touchdowns when we get the opportunity. We had the ball three times with chances to take the lead and then could not protect... There are little things that they did better than us tonight."


Quarterback Bo Wallace completed 25 of 48 passes for a season-high 336 yards with two touchdowns and two interception. It was his fourth career 300-yard passing game, which is second-most in school history behind Eli Manning. However, he was also sacked six times, including back-to-back plays on the Rebels' final offensive possession.


"We lost a lot of one-on-ones," Freeze said of protecting Wallace. "When you feel like you have to abandon the run a little bit, they certainly can tee off and that happened a lot. We certainly feel like we got beat quite a few times.


"They played a lot of man-to-man coverage just like everyone has done here lately. We had people open. We did drop some balls and made some good plays here and there, but you have got to protect. We did not protect very well."



"Anytime you give up that many sacks, it goes back to down and distance, and us being behind the chains a lot in 3rd-and-long situations," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "I thought we had an opportunity to win the game (on the last drive), and we just didn't get it done. We got to get back to work."


On the other sideline, quarterback Nick Marshall led all players 14 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 11 of 17 passes for 93 yards.


"He had a phenomenal first half," Freeze said of Marshall. "He is an athletic guy, and we struggled to contain him at time. I thought we did a better job in the second half on him. He is a good player, and they make you defend the entire field. They have a player back there like him that is hard to defend."


For Ole Miss, Saturday marked the third straight road game and the fourth out of the first five games of the seasons. The Rebels return home for six straight home games over the next seven weeks starting with No. 9 Texas A&M and last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.


"We look forward to going home," Freeze said. "The road does not get much easier but at least we will have our people behind us and pulling for us like we have experienced on the road. We will keep fighting, I know, but that's a hurting locker room right now, and it is disappointing."


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