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Winning Formula for Rebels is No Secret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss faces Tennessee for Homecoming on Saturday.

'Third Down for What'

Tennessee is very dangerous, Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze said, because its talented, particularly if it gets momentum and confidence during the course of the game.

The talents starts on defense, led by senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson, a preseason All-American who leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles per game (11.3). Tennessee ranks top-20 nationally in scoring defense (19.2 ppg allowed), total defense (316.3 ypg allowed) and passing defense (160.2 ypg allowed).

One of the more interesting situational matchups will be third downs, where Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in defensive third-down conversion (26.4 percent), and Ole Miss ranks fifth in the SEC and 22nd nationally in offensive third-down conversion (46.8 percent).

"They have good cover guys and they have good athletes and can play some man coverage to get after you with the pass rush," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke said. "They have a nice third-down package where they bring in some more speed and take out a D-lineman. They're flying around and playing really hard, playing with an edge."

Landsharks Not Satisfied

The Ole Miss defense has been regarded as one of the best in the nation, if not the best in the nation, giving up just 11.8 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally. 

The Rebels are also tied for the SEC lead and eighth nationally with 16 turnovers forced, as they have scored almost as many touchdowns (4) as they have allowed this season (6).

Ole Miss shut out Texas A&M in the first half but allowed three second-half touchdowns, including two touchdowns on the last three drives of the game, which has not sit well with members of the defense.

"That was aggravating for us," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

"We gave up way too many points," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "It was a great thing we won, but after the game as a defense, we talked and said that it was not acceptable if you want the big games."

Big Games for Wallace, Nkemdiche?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace is coming off his lowest passing total, having completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions, but it didn't matter because the running game topped 150 yards and the defense accounted for two touchdowns in a 35-20 win over Texas A&M.

Depending on the flow of the game, Saturday might present an opportunity for Wallace to air it out and help his campaign for individual awards and honors.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 who are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Like Wallace, sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche finds himself in the conversation for individual awards and honors, having been named to various outlets' midseason All-America team and added to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List.

Nkemdiche has put up modest numbers, totaling 14 tackles with a tackle for loss and one sack, and now faces a Tennessee offensive line that ranks last in the SEC and 121st nationally, giving up 3.83 sacks per game.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him."

Highlights from today's media opportunity with SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears discussing the show's visit to Oxford for the SEC matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and Tennessee. 

Tessitore recalls calling the first college game for the Rebels' star-studded sophomore class, Tebow talks about Bo Wallace's improvement as a quarterback, and Spears sees similarities between this year's Ole Miss team and his 2003 LSU team that won the national championship.

SEC Nation Host Joe Tessitore

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"When I have done Ole Miss games before, I always get to the stadium early, so I can walk through The Grove and take that all in. It should be pretty special to have the SEC Nation set fired up. 

"When you look at our set, it should scream Ole Miss to you. When you look at it, you know what you're watching. That's one of the things I like about our set. You look at it and you know you're watching grand Southern football. It fits in beautifully here. It looks like it could be part of your campus. 

"I like how open it is, and it allows us to play to the crowd. You will see us tomorrow, when we're live on the air, stand up, turn to the crowd and interact with them during commercial breaks. This is a magic ride kind of season here, so it's going to be a celebratory kind of morning."

On the sophomore class, having called their first college game...

"That group, you knew. I could remember that afternoon, sitting there and hyping up (Robert) Nkemdiche in his debut, and you just knew it was going to happen. And to be able to say a year later that they have even over-delivered on all the hype, it's true. 

"It was an incredible recruiting class that, in a span of 18 months, has Ole Miss competing for a national title. That's as good as a group you're going to see. But it takes that kind of a group. It takes guys who buy in and all believe. Laquon Treadwell was a huge part of that. 

"I'm one of those geeks who follow recruiting, so I know the role he played in corralling everyone and buying into the vision early, a vision that's pretty easy to buy when Hugh Freeze is selling it."

SEC Nation Analyst Tim Tebow

On Ole Miss...

"What stands out is the heart they play with offensively and defensively. Everybody talks about the Landshark defense flying around, but you look at guys like Jaylen Walton fighting through tackles. That's just heart. They play together and they play as a family.

"Spending the day with Coach Freeze and the team yesterday, you could really see that and the environment they set. It seems like it's a fun time for all these players right now."

On Bo Wallace...

"He's improved a lot. In SEC play, he doesn't have a turnover. He's making big plays, but he's also not making big errors in the biggest of games. That's been huge, especially when you have a big-time defense. 

"What I like most about Bo is that courage and leadership and that 'it' factor he has, like on that 3rd-and-9 last week versus Texas A&M. 

"He knows where the sticks are, he fights through the line of scrimmage and he dives and goes over a defender to get the first down. That ultimately led to a touchdown, and they went up 28-7 and that was a huge play in the game. He has that 'it' that you can't necessarily teach."

SEC Nation Analyst Marcus Spears

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"It's awesome. We should have a pretty good crowd. This is their network. That's how we resonate on campus. People understand we're more personable and we know the history of each school. It will resonate with people, and hopefully it's hyped up out here. It's a pretty big game. 

"Tennessee is not whatever they think they are. Tennessee has played everybody down to the wire. They have lost some close games. They're one of those teams on the cusp. The energy in the crowd should be good tomorrow."

On Robert Nkemdiche...

"He's a man's man. He's a beast. He plays with a high intensity level. He can knock guys back and he has great bend. I know I sound like a pro scout, but he can win with leverage and he wins with tenacity. He has it all, all of the tools. He can be a D-end or a D-tackle in the NFL. That poses a lot of problems for offensive lines. 

"First of all, you can move him, and he can be as effective from different positions. That's what I like about him. More than anything, I like his attitude and I like the way he plays."

On the transformation of Ole Miss under head coach Hugh Freeze...

"Coach Freeze has done a tremendous job. He's implemented a philosophy with this football team. He's put guys in place and he's recruited well. In order to stay atop this league, you have to have players. That's what it really boils down to. 

"All these coaches, we call them great, and we say they won so many games. It's about these players. The coaches, structurally, put them in the right position and put them in successful spots to make plays, but it comes down to the talent and the talent level. 

"We talk about Alabama, LSU, Auburn, all these schools that have been at the top. It's about talent, and now Hugh Freeze has a team that's as talented as anybody in the country. 

"You have a great quarterback who's playing really consistent right now, not turning the football over, offensive line, (Laquon) Treadwell out on the corner making plays.

"And this defense. It reminds me of the '03 LSU Tigers. It's a good mix, and it's a great group of talent, and it's coming together. Everybody is believing in what they're doing. That's to Coach Freeze's credit. It's about those guys he's putting out there on the football field, and I'm sure he would tell you the same thing."

On comparisons between the 2003 LSU team and this year's Ole Miss team...

"It starts with winning games. It starts with a belief system that you can compete against anybody in the country, that you have the talented and the play-makers to win every football game. That was our train of thought. We thought we were stacked in enough positions that there was no team you could roll out in college football and say LSU was not physically better or LSU did not have level of talent. 

"Ole Miss is in that same boat right now. Alabama has a tremendous amount of talent like they have always had, but if you go man for man in the whole country, I stack this Ole Miss team up against anybody, especially on defense."

On the Ole Miss running game...

"What Ole Miss is doing as well as anybody right now, is they're winning games defensively, and you can do it. That has been proven in the NFL and that has been proven in college, but I think Bo Wallace gives them the extra oomph that they need to win big games and put themselves in position to be in the College Football Playoff.

"The run game is a little different. Sometimes your team ins't built that way, but throwing these quick bubble screens is the same as a handoff. Getting these guys in space to make plays in the open fields is the equivalent of a handoff. Everything is not deep down the field.

"We look at turning around and handing the ball off to the running back as the run game. A lot of these teams are revolutionizing that by throwing quick hitches to receivers, then they beat a corner and they might go to the house. They have implemented stuff like that to help them out a lot. 

"Eventually, it will come town to a game or this year, where they will have to figure out to establish the run game. If they can, they will have success. They are just as good as anybody, if they show they can do that."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"You have to overcome to so much as a football team playing against this defense. The way they play, not only the way they play, but they creative turnovers. And that's huge. 

"A team can only give up 305 yards per game, which they consider pretty good, and they only gave 70-80 rushing yards, and they consider that pretty good, but when you have a defense like this that does that and creates turnovers and scores, it's tough to beat. 

"We led the league in scoring touchdowns on defense when we won the national championship. It's a formula that you can win with, and they have the guys to do it."

What They're Saying: Midseason Honors

At the halfway point of the regular season, Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. It's No. 3 ranking in the national polls is its highest since being No. 1 in the 1964 preseason poll. 

With its success through the first six games, Ole Miss featured prominently in outlets' midseason honors and predictions for the rest of the season.

From CBS Sports: Dennis Dodd names Cody Prewitt the defensive player of the year, and Jerry Hinnen names Senquez Golson the most surprising player. Dodd, Hinnen and Jerry Palm all predict Ole Miss will win the national title, among other mentions.

From CBS Sports: Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were all named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

From ESPN.com: Gene Wojciechowski ranks Ole Miss No. 2 in his top 10 and seeds Ole Miss No. 2 in his four-team playoff, among other mentions in his awards for the first half of the season.

From ESPN.com: Chris Low forecasts the winner of the Egg Bowl will play for the SEC Championship, and Ole Miss will be included in the four-team playoff.

From ESPN.com: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team. 

From ESPN.com: Evan Engram, Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's midseason All-SEC team

From ESPN.com: Todd McShay names Hugh Freeze coach of the year and Cody Prewitt a prospect on the rise in midseason awards handed out by himself and Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider)

I'll go with Freeze, but I couldn't argue with Mullen, either. Freeze and his staff have done a great job of developing a lot of young key contributors, and they've also worked with QB  Bo Wallace to get him to play within the scheme and limit mistakes, which has been critical to the team's success so far. The Rebels are 6-0 for the first time since 1962, including consecutive wins over Alabama and at Texas A&M.

The entire Ole Miss defense (aka the "Landsharks") has been sensational. But Prewitt is the senior captain who shows up every week. He's not exceptional in any area, with just average straight-line speed at 6-1 and 220 pounds, and he's likely a midround NFL draft pick. But he's a very good all-around football player whose best quality is his football smarts. He came up big Saturday with a 75-yard pick-six. 

From ESPN.com: Brock Huard ranks Bo Wallace No. 6 among his top 10 quarterbacks in the nation. On a scale from 1-10, he rates him as a 9 on college production and rates him a 7 on NFL skills. (Insider)

The state of Mississippi is the belle of the ball at the midway point, and it's no surprise that QB play and defense are the signature staples of both teams' success. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen place a premium on QB run, decision-making and controlling tempo from the QB spot, and while Bo is not the physically imposing athlete of his in-state counterpart Dak, his ability to limit mistakes and play his best in the second half and fourth quarter in particular (six TDs/six INTs in first halves, nine TDs/0 INTs in second halves) is why the Rebels are unblemished.

In fact, Wallace's fourth-quarter efficiency (269.2) is tops in the country. Freeze told me in Week 2 that his defense was title-worthy, and if Bo and the Ole Miss offense could stay healthy up front, they could compete for the ultimate prize. So far, so good in Oxford.

From NFL.com: Daniel Jeremiah names Laremy Tunsil the best offensive line in the nation, and Gil Brands predicts head coach Hugh Freeze will win coach of they year and Ole Miss will will the national title.

From NFL.com: Bryan Fischer predicts Ole Miss will win the SEC West.

From Sports Illustrated: Brian Hamilton predicts Hugh Freeze will win coach of the year, and Andy Staples predicts both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will make the four-team playoff.

From Sports Illustrated: Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's first team All-America team, and Senquez Golson was named to the outlet's second team.

From Sporting News: Matt Hayes ranks Senquez Golson No. 10 in his re-ranking of the top 25 players in the nation.

From Sporting News: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

Phil Steele also released his All-America and All-SEC teams, with Ole Miss featuring prominently on both team. Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Senquez Golson were named to the first team All-America team, and Cody Prewitt was named to the second team. Tunsil, Nkemdiche, Golson and Prewitt were joined by Evan Engram on the first team All-SEC team, while Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Conner were named to the second team.

Rebels Slow Offensive Tempo

With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions.

Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive plays (74.0) in the SEC in 2012 and averaged the most offensive plays (78.3) in the SEC in 2013. Through six games this season, the Rebels average a more modest 70.8 plays per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC. 

"You're more concerned now with not putting yourself in the hole because of negative plays, whether they are turnovers or plays of minus-two yards or minus-three yards," Freeze said. "When you go fast, the possibilities increase as defenses catch up to it."

The more deliberate tempo has also helped quarterback Bo Wallace manage the game more and allowed the team to play to its strength on defense.

"When the defense has played like it's playing, you just want to make sure you manage the game from an offensive perspective, where it gives you the best advantage to win," Freeze said.

O-Line Continues to Progress

Fahn Cooper has started every game at right tackle, but he's made great strides of late, as he graded out well and helped Ole Miss play a clean game with only two penalties, two sacks allowed and zero turnovers against Texas A&M.

"He played more, and then we tried to work (Robert) Conyers in at center," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Cooper. "That plays a factor, too. I have a lot of confidence in Robert, but Fahn has obviously been getting better each and every week."

Another offensive lineman who has made great strides is freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor, who continues to play more snaps as the season progresses, and Luke will look to play him more this week against Tennessee.

"Rod had probably his best week of practice last week and this week," Luke said. "He's just a very, very talented young man. He has got a bright, bright future ahead, and you're going to see him play a little bit more this week. I wrote that down in my notes when he got in there. He was very productive. He needs to be playing more, and he will."

Webster Impresses in First Career Start

With the suspension of Rover safety Trae Elston for the first half against Texas A&M, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Elston's spot, and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback.

Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said Webster did well, noting his maturity for his age, as helped Ole Miss pitch a first-half shutout against Texas A&M.

"In fall camp and practice, we put him up against Laquon to see how he would hold up, and at times, he held his own," Jones said. "If he continues to work, like I think he will, he's going to end up being a really good player."

Coaches continue to rave about Hilton, who's now started at four positions in the Ole Miss secondary in three seasons. The do-it-all player ranks second on the team with 34 tackles and leads the teams and ranks second in the SEC with six pass breakups.

"Mike is a sharp football player," Jones said. "He understands it. He's played every position in the secondary, almost every position on the dense except for defensive line. He's a coachable young man. 

"Whatever you ask him to do, it's always, 'Yes, sir.' We came in and had to move him to Rover, and he said, 'OK, coach, whatever I need to do to help the team.' That's the attitude he has. He's smart and he can get out there and execute and play fast."


Freeze Talks Defense, Tennessee

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Oxford.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:04:00 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to another great SEC football game here in Oxford. I know our fans are enjoying the year we're having, and it's always good to play in front of them and the excitement we have here in town. It's an extremely talented Tennessee team. 

"The job that Coach Jones has done there in a short amount of time is impressive. They're scary on tape because they're hungry and they're playing very passionate football with great young talent. We're going to have to play another solid game for us to have a chance on Saturday."

On the development of cornerback Senquez Golson...

"The first thing I probably need to point out is how much he has changed as a person, which is the key to why he's playing better. He's always been a talented kid. When I first got here, I definitely questioned whether he had the heart, drive and discipline to be quality enough to play in a program like this. I think he would tell you the same.

"Now that he has made the decision to be dedicated and be a team player who buys into our core values and the way we want do things, his talent on the field has really taken off. He dedicated himself this year in the offseason to be the best he can be. And I'm thrilled he's getting the results on the field."

On avoiding a letdown game against Tennessee...

"I don't know that you can. You depend on the leadership of the team. I know our coaches are peaching the right things to them. If our team vales their standing right now, they will certainly come out and play. I don't know if you are always going to have your team emotionally charged, but it's very possible to play with passion. It shows in the way you pursue the football on defense and the way you execute on offense.

"I don't really worry too much about that. I know it's a popular question, but if we're ready to take the next step and value our standing, then you will be accountable to doing that, and that's the message they hear from us consistently."

On quarterback's Bo Wallace lack of turnovers in SEC play, whether it's maturation or better decision-making by him...

"I think it's both, and we have changed some that has helped him. With our defense playing so well this year, I have really been trying to manage the game differently. 

"Bo has understood and accepted that, and he's had to make to make plays when he's made them. He's definitely much more mature and understands now we don't have to score every possession. He can make better decision when things aren't there."

On whether he expected this type of defensive success before the season...

"I did. I began to question that when we lost two starters and one backup in Tee Shepard, Chief Brown and Carlos Davis. Tee was going to be a really vital part to give us a long, rangy corner that could win a lot of 1-on-1 battles. Chief is an experienced kid that has played a lot of snaps for us.

"You begin to doubt what would happen if we have more injuries like we did last year. Fortunately, we have not. I did feel like we were going to pretty good up front, which I know is the starting point. And I knew we were longer and faster."

On adjusting offensive tempo and play-calling in two-plus years at Ole Miss...

"I have definitely changed this year. We're not as concerned about tempo in a consistent manner. We still do it, and we'll have spurts of it. I kind of did a study last year, and we had too many negative plays in tempo. 

"Some of the change has to do with our defense. We have recruited well and built this team around the defense. The last thing you need is a lot of quick possessions and creating negative plays, where you don't convert first downs. I have changed this year, and we have tried to manage the game quite a bit differently."

On similarities between Ole Miss and Tennessee...

"The first thing I see is they have recruited extremely well. None of us are great coaches without players who can make plays. Coach Jones and his staff have certainly done that. They have tremendous young talent. That's how we were after our first full recruiting class. We played a ton of freshmen just like they're doing. 

"Those freshmen are scary. They're obviously young and make mistakes sometimes, just like ours did and still do. They are so talented. It's a scary talent because not only have they recruited well, but they're playing with hunger and passion, which I think we did in our first couple of years also. 

"We were in a lot of games where maybe we didn't stack up as well. We were in a lot of games with those teams. That's what they're proving this year, and it's only a matter of time before they break through."

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones (starts at 40:50 mark)

Opening statement

"It's a great, great challenge going up against a very, very solid football team. They're very complete in all areas -- offense, defense and special teams. They're very well-coached and play with an entire mentality. They're the No. 2 in scoring defense in the country. They returned nine of their 11 starters from last year, and their backups have had significant playing time as well. They take the ball away.

"Offensively, it starts with their quarterback Bo Wallace. He's been very competitive, gritty, andy e's playing winning football. It's going to be a tremendous, tremendous challenge for this football team."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"They have been very dominant. And it starts up front. They have been able to win the line-of-scrimmage game. Their linebackers are very, very active, downhill players, very physical, and they have a tremendous, tremendous secondary. 

"They're playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger right now, and again, they're very, very physical. It's a very, very complete defense, when you look at all levels of their defense, starting up front, then the linebacker position and then in the backend as well. They feed off of each other, and you can see where they have played a lot of football together as well."

On points at a premium against the Ole Miss defense...

"You do (expect points to be at a premium). You look at how many touchdown they have given up, and a lot of those touchdowns were in end-of-game situations. When you go into a game like this, every point is critical. And field position becomes critical as well."

On the status of running backs Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd...

"I do expect them. Jalen is progressing exceptionally well. He has not missed a rep in practice. Marlin is a little bit slower than Jalen right now in terms of getting back, but he did practice. Again, there's time yet. They're getting extra treatments. I fully anticipate Jalen will play, and we're hoping Marlin will be available as well."

Game-Manager Bo

Head coach Hugh Freeze admitted the offense played well enough to manage the game and let the defense win it. 

Ole Miss leaned on its running game, rushing for 160 yards on 35 carries, while Bo Wallace completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. 

Most importantly, the Rebels won the turnover battle and protected the football, which proved to be a winning formula, as the Rebels cruised to a 35-20 win at Texas A&M.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 that are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Wallace is the only SEC quarterback to rank top-four in the SEC in total offense, passing yards and pass efficiency. He also ranks second in the SEC, completing 68.5 percent of his passes, and ranks third in the SEC, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

Most impressively, since the second half of the season opener, Wallace has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has also not turned the ball over through three games in SEC play.

"I feel so much more relaxed going into games," Wallace said. "I know if we punt the defense is going to go out and make a stop. I'm going into games confident and feeling good. I'm definitely not trying to force any balls."

Defense Limits Explosive Plays

The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally, giving up just 4.31 yards per play. A large part of that success is due to limiting explosive plays. 

Opponents have run 428 plays this season. Among them, Ole Miss has allowed 64 plays of 10-plus yards, 19 plays of 20-plus yards and six plays of 30-plus yards, all of which rank among the top-20 nationally.

"I've always been a believer from being an offensive coach, if you make an offense have to drive a consistent drive, over and over again for 60-70 yards, we make mistakes on offense," Freeze said. "You're going to block a look wrong or something. It's very difficult if you don't get explosive plays. 

"When you get explosive plays, those drives get easier. If you really have to grind out first down after first down and then convert in the red zone, it's difficult. Our team has given up very few explosive plays and then we've been stingy when it does get in the red zone and made people settle for field goals."

This emphasis showed against Texas A&M, an explosive offense that ranks among the nation's leaders in yards per play and long plays from scrimmage. Ole Miss limited Texas A&M to 5.2 yards per play and just three plays of 20-plus yards, both of which were well below its season averages.

"We were playing a pretty good offense the other night at their place," Freeze said. "Over the last three years, they've probably been the No. 1 offense in the nation in yards and points, top three for sure. I would have to say we've improved. You're only judged by your last game, as we all know."

Prewitt Wants More on Defense

The Ole Miss defense ranks among the nation's leaders in most categories and has drawn praise from opponents and pundits alike, but safety Cody Prewitt, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, is his own harshest critic.

"I would give us a 'B' right now," Prewitt said. "I'm sure people from the outside would look in and say A-plus. Knowing the defense and knowing everything that goes into it, I would give us a B, maybe a B-plus, because I know about the small things that most people don't recognize -- small fits here or there, or missed assignments here or there. I would give us a B-plus, but on effort, I would give us an A-plus."

Ole Miss held the explosive Texas A&M offense to 20 points and shut out the Aggies in the first half for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era. The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"That was aggravating for us," Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple of more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

Related Links: 

Big Picture: Ole Miss' nasty D could have next Ndamukong Suh & more, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports 

AP voters who put Ole Miss No. 1 really like Rebels' defense, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Ole Miss' defense is college football's most impressive unit, writes Matt Brown of Sports on Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- What could Ole Miss do for an encore?

After a thrilling win over No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss put its No. 3 national ranking on the line on the road at No. 14 Texas A&M. 

Playing in front of a state of Texas and SEC record 110,633 fans, Ole Miss went wire to wire with a 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

"We knew it wasn't a fluke," defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We knew we were ready for Texas A&M. Both games, we knew we were supposed to win. We don't really care what the media says. We're going to keep playing and keeping getting better as a team."

Outside of a few moments in the third quarter, the Rebels took the crowd out of the game, taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and going into halftime with the same 21-0 lead. 

By the end of the game, most of the 110,000-plus had cleared out of Kyle Field, and the small but vocal pockets of Ole Miss fans drowned out their Texas A&M counterparts.

"It was important to come out with a great intensity in a hostile environment," Nkemdiche said. "The defense was great. We came out and didn't let them get anything. We went into halftime 21-0 and that was really big for us."

That intensity started with a defense that's one of, if not the best defenses in the nation.

Ole Miss held Texas A&M to 455 yards of total offense, a 5.2 yards per play average, with a significant amount of the yardage coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. 

The Aggies entered the game ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and scoring offense (47.8 ppg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5).

"I couldn't be more proud of the staff and the kids on defense and the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We stressed tonight in the second half because the offense didn't stay on the field enough. Those last couple of drives showed. The offense takes the blame for that. But any time you get defensive scores, it's big for you."

The Ole Miss defense, behind two touchdowns, equaled Texas A&M's scoring output, if not for the Aggies' last touchdown as time expired. 

Safety Cody Prewitt put Ole Miss ahead 21-0 with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and linebacker Keith Lewis, making his second start of the season, pushed the lead out to 35-7 with a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

"We executed the game plan," Prewitt said. "We play how we're coached. We have great coaches and they have harped on all season to take the ball away and score."

The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"We're probably going to get ripped for letting them score 21 (sic) points because that's the level of expectation we set for ourselves," Nkemdiche said. "We have to do a job next week of cleaning things up and come out and play a better game.

"If somebody scores on us, someone wasn't doing their job because of the talent level and the people we have on defense. Nobody should score on us, no matter what."

With No. 3 Mississippi State's win over No. 2 Auburn, poll talk and playoff talk will only intensify going forward, particularly in the Magnolia State that took center stage in the college football world for the second straight week. Freeze was very candid in regard to the subject after the win over Texas A&M.

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

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

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

Stout Defense Starts with Nkemdiche

Through five games, sophomore Robert Nkemdiche has put up modest statistics, totaling 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hurry, but his impact has gone beyond the numbers.

Nkemdiche has been an integral part of an Ole Miss defense that ranks second nationally in scoring (10.2 ppg allowed) and leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed (three). The Rebels have also allowed just 4.1 yards per play, best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him. 

"He has a desire to get better. He just absolutely loves defensive tackle now where before, he didn't know if he wanted to play that. He's playing very well for us. You don't really notice it until all of a sudden you realize you're in the top five in total defense. Something is happening up front where he is."

Watching the film Wednesday, Kiffin also noted the improvement freshman Marquis Haynes has made through five games this season. Haynes started the season opener against Boise State and recorded his first career sack against Memphis.

"I was telling my guys how good Marquis Haynes is becoming for being a true freshman and really playing with zero game experience," Kiffin said. "He's constantly getting better, and the sky is the limit for him. He's so athletic. I see him getting better and better every week."


Wunderlich Wins Placekicking Job

After some shakiness in the kicking game in the win over Alabama, head coach Hugh Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, and freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt Andy Pappanastos.  

"Gary is going to get the start," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll go from there, but it's his to win or lose."

Wunderlich, an Under Armour All-American and rated the No. 1 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com, has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Prepping for Garrett

Texas A&M boasts one of the nation's best pass rushes, recording 19.0 sacks, which leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally. And it started with freshman Myles Garrett, who was rated the top defensive end prospect in the nation. 

Garrett has started only two games, but he already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"He is a phenomenal talent," Freeze said. "He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

Similar to piping in noise to prepare for what is expected to be 106,000-plus fans at Kyle Field, which would be a state of Texas football attendance record, Ole Miss is trying to simulate Garrett in scout team work this week.

"Victor Evans is the best we have," said Freeze of simulating Garrett. "He's a special athlete for sure. It's hard to prepare for him."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in College Station.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:23:16 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to going to College Station. It's one of the great venues in college football. It's certainly going to be a great challenge because of the atmosphere and the wonderful team that Kevin (Sumlin) has put together. 

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys and playing in that environment. It's going to be very tough, and we're looking forward to it, and I'm sure they are too. They're hungry to get back out and play after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game."

On refocusing his team after a big weekend and a big win...

"Every week, either you're going to be on the bitterness of a difficult loss or you're on the the high of an emotional win. Either one, we try to treat the same, and that is we have our normal Sunday meeting where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash and then get back out and get going for the next one.

"It's worked for us on the bitter end. We have had some difficult losses in our two-plus years here and we have bounced back the next week from those and played really well. I don't know if we've had a lot of experience yet on this side of it. We had just the one last year when we beat LSU, which was ranked sixth at the time. I do like what I see right now in our preparation, and they follow the coaches' lead and move on very quickly."

On the difference with this year's Texas A&M team compared to the two previous years...

"They are more athletic on defense. Offensively, they don't have the threat of a guy extending plays quite like (Johnny) Manziel, but they are deeper at receiver and they really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well. Their offensive line is one of the better ones I've seen in a long, long time. They're really good and athletic, and they do a good job.

"The only real difference you see is they may be a bit more athletic at every spot, but they don't extend plays quite like we have experienced the past couple of years."

On earlier players laying the ground work for the current success...

"I think of Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I'm sure I will forget somebody that is very key to us. Evan Swindall, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray are others. They were solid kids that were 100 percent bought-in to our core values and doing things the right way. Mike Marry is another. 

"Those kids that I knew were bought-in really helped us overcome the negativity that may have existed when we got here within the team. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning."

On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He is a phenomenal talent. He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

On Kevin Sumlin and the progressions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the last three years...

"We're old friends and we go way back and we did come in to the league at the same time. We've kind of made sure we knew what was going on in all those meetings and didn't embarrass ourselves too much. He's helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities in our progressions.

"We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well right now that I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it."

"There are a lot of similarities as far as how we're going about building it and recruiting. He's recruiting really well, and we have done OK in recruiting. Our philosophies are very similar. He's a player's coach, I know that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me."

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin (starts at 1:31:35 mark)

Opening statement...

We're coming off of a disappointing loss last weekend at Mississippi State. We look forward to this week. We have another huge challenge. Ole Miss is a team playing really well. They're one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the country. 

"This will be our first SEC game at home. That will important for us to get back to Kyle Field and play at home. Our guys have approached the week in a good way and ready to get back on the field again."

On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace...

"He is one of the few veteran quarterbacks in this league. This our third time playing against him. Bo has had his ups and downs over his career, but this year, he has really played like a true veteran. He made plays to win the game last week in a critical moment in a big game. There is no substitute for experience. 

"There's no doubt you see his leadership and his ability to be in the system for the amount of time he's been in the system. You see his confidence level and the confidence the coaching staff has in him with the situations they put him in. He's improved. He understands what they're trying to do, he's operating at a high level right now, and he's a big reason for their success offensively."

On defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He's a very talented young man. He was the number one defensive end in the country as a prospect. He's extremely explosive and naturally gifted. He's working on his technique, which is something all young guys are going to do. He's starting to see different blocking schemes, which is the greatest compliment. He was frustrated, and we explained to him that was the best compliment to pay him. 

"He's gone through that phase of it. Right now, it's a hard time for all talented freshmen that are playing or have been starting midway through the season, particularly in this league. He's still very young, he's raw, and he's getting better. Over the course of time, he's going to pick up weight and get stronger. He will be the first to tell you there's still a lot of room for him to improve."

On what a win over Alabama can do for your program...

"Alabama is such the standard program for college program, particularly when you're in this league because of their success over the course of the last decade of so, particularly when you're in the West. It becomes not only a big deal for your team, but also for your fan base and your university to say you can compete with the top of the league. It helps in recruiting, too.

"You don't me to tell you what it can do for you. All you have to do is look at the postgame at Ole Miss, and that will tell you enough and how big it was for them."

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It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:

1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.

"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously. 

"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."

2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display. 

And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.

3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show. 

She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.

4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace. 

The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.  

He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.

"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."

5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?

The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.

6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play). 

7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.

From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.

"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."

8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.

"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."

9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.

10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.

11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.

12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.

13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here

And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove. 

14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet. 

15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.

"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."

16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.

17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.

"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group. 

"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."

18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.

19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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


Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.

Wallace Gets Another Shot at Alabama

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has said he wants to be the first quarterback to get Ole Miss to Atlanta, and becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning (2003) to defeat Alabama would be a big step forward in achieving that goal.

Wallace keeping his composure, ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff said, is one of the keys to victory for Ole Miss.

The Southeastern Conference's active leader in most passing categories, Wallace ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally passing (317.8), but he's been up and down some this season, and he's coming off a game against Memphis where he completed 22-of-37 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"His mindset never changes," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday's game. He's always that way. It's a really good quality about him. He's very resilient. He'll be looking forward to this game."

Alabama ranks fifth nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg), second only to Ole Miss among SEC teams, but the Crimson Tide have been more susceptible to the pass than the run. 

On the ground, Alabama ranks second nationally, giving up 62.0 yards per game, including just 2.67 yards per attempt, while through the air the Crimson Tide rank 25th nationally, giving up 188.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt.

"It's obviously a big challenge playing Alabama," Wallace said. "They're a top-five team and the distractions are going to be here. It's a great opportunity for our team. We're excited about the challenge, and we know it's going to be a good game." 

Eliminating Negative Plays, Staying on Schedule

The biggest mismatch on paper is the Ole Miss rushing offense against the Alabama rushing defense. The Rebels' rushing offense ranks 76th nationally, averaging 160.8 yards per game, and ranked 82nd nationally, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, while the Alabama rushing defense ranks second nationally.

Ole Miss has showed more two-tight sets to help in the run game, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins has found success in short-yardage situations, converting three third-and-shorts, three fourth-and-shorts and scoring a 2-yard touchdown in his 10 carries this season.

"It's a tall task to consistently do it," said Freeze of running the football against Alabama. "You have to be balanced. You have to mix it up and find things that give your kids a chance to do what you're asking them to do, but it's a difficult defense to do it against." 

Eliminating negative plays, staying on schedule and staying out of third-and-longs, offensive line coach Matt Luke said, are among the little things it takes to win close games, and those little things start with running the ball effectively and finding balance offensively.

"They're big and fast," Luke said. "They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball."

Tough Test for Stout Defense

If called upon, whether to keep Ole Miss in the game, or win the game, can the Rebel defense rise to the challenge as they have so far this season?

Through four games, the Ole Miss defense has been among the nation's best, giving up just 8.5 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

More impressively, the Rebels have given up just two touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation.

"I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," said Freeze after holding Memphis to three points and 104 total yards in a 24-3 win this past Saturday. "They were really phenomenal. That was a team that was putting up some really good numbers."

In Alabama, the Ole Miss defense faces a balanced attack, one ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (42.0 ypg), 19th in rushing offense (258.5 ypg), 12th in passing offense and fourth in total offense (594.3 ypg), headlined by senior quarterback Blake Sims and junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Sims ranks second nationally in completion percentage and fourth in passing efficiency (190.3), leading the SEC in both categories, while Cooper leads the nation with 163.8 receiving yards per game, and leads the SEC with 10.8 receptions per game and five receiving touchdowns.

"The most impressive thing with Sims is his accuracy and how efficient he's been running the offense," Freeze said. "He's completing a huge percentage of his passes and throws the deep ball extremely well.

"Cooper is arguably one of the top three receivers in the nation, if not the best, and he's been super explosive. You have to guard him on runs because of the screen game, and you have to guard him on the deep ball. He's a difficult matchup for everybody, including us."

Highlights from today's media opportunity with ESPN College GameDay producer Lee Fitting, host Chris Fowler and analysts Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit discussing the show's first-ever visit to Oxford and the SEC West Showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss on Saturday.

College GameDay Producer Lee Fitting

On when he starting looking at Ole Miss-Alabama as a possibility for College GameDay...

"Over the summer when the schedule came out. We're always looking for opportunities to come to Oxford, so this one has been sort of earmarked for a while. We followed it for the first several weeks and it got real about two weeks ago. It made us sweat a little bit last week with Memphis.

"Every year we're looking for opportunities to get here. We are thrilled to here. I mean that. This is awesome. It re-energizes us whenever we go somewhere for the first time. This weeks feels different than all the other weeks. In turn, our show is typically better because of that. It's exciting to see how excited the fans and people are here, and the product reflects that."

On the excitement to be in Oxford...

"Behind closed doors in our little group, we talk about the Grove all the time. 'When are we going to get there? When is it going to fall on the right week? I want to get down there and I want to experience.' Our crew typically after the show, most weeks, will leave and go home. 

"This week, there is a huge pack of us sticking around, tailgating in the Grove, going to the game, hanging out after the game. This is a big deal for us. I'm not in here just to say that for a quote in the newspaper or TV. This is a big deal. This is fun. I'm excited, and the guys are excited. This is more than Oxford. This is a chance to introduce and explain to the country in further detail what the Grove is about."

On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...

"We're excited. She's really fired up to do it. We may have had equal superstar status on our show before, but she's up there. This is awesome. Twitter doesn't tell you everything, but she has 57.5 million followers, which is pretty good. She's pretty popular."

College GameDay Analyst Desmond Howard

On Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss...

"He's done an excellent job recruiting, bringing in some great young talent. They have been doing a tremendous job of coaching the young men up. Defensively, I was really impressed early in the season when I watched them play Boise State. 

"Not only were there guys in the right position, but I also thought they did an excellent job of tacking. You watch a lot of football nowadays and guys just want to hit and try to put their shoulder pads on somebody, but these guys are actually hitting and wrapping, making excellent tackles in the open field against Boise State. That was refreshing to see, so defensively I was very impressed.

"Offensively that night, there were too many interceptions and too many poor decision with the ball, but it was something that Boise wasn't good enough to take advantage, so Ole Miss ended up winning that game. Those were the pros and cons of what I saw earlier in the season with Ole Miss."

On the opportunity Saturday's game and this weekend presents for Ole Miss...

"This game doesn't just have the potential to define a season, but it has the potential to define a program."

On Ole Miss playing on the big stage...

"As a former player, they will be very excited. They will come out with a tremendous amount of energy, but after the first couple of plays, things will settle down for them and they will get back to the basic. You look toward your coaches and team leaders to make sure the guys get focused on the task at hand. It's going to be a tremendous atmosphere for those guys.

"In my opinion, this is why you to come to Ole Miss. You come to Ole Miss to play games like this and in atmosphere like we're going to experience tomorrow, so hopefully they're prepared for it."

College GameDay Analyst Kirk Herbstreit

On getting the opportunity to come to Oxford for College GameDay...

"For us, the pageantry of the sport and the passion that fans have for it, that's we love about it. To be able to go place like Fargo, North Dakota, even though it's not necessarily what people think of as big-time college football, but in their world, it is. We have always had in our mind that it would be great to get to Seattle, and we got there last year.

"We always talked about getting to the Grove forever. I have been on the show 19 years, and it's one of those landmarks that people love to come to. We have never looked at ourselves as 'Hey, we have arrived. Everybody pat us on the back.' 

"We're very much more about the place we're visiting and being a conduit between the fans nationally and the university we're on that week. And what better place to celebrate a college football Saturday than in Oxford, Mississippi with a huge showdown, arguably one of the biggest games in school history. We're thrilled to be here. 

"I have been here for the Egg Bowl, but it's during Thanksgiving and it's like 45-50 degrees, so it doesn't really count. This will be my first real experience of the Grove and looking out over the stage, I can't imagine what it's going to be like. It's going to be sweet. We feed off the energy of the crowd, and this crowd will be one of the best we will have all year."

On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...

"We have so much fun with segment, not just because of Lee (Corso) at the end and whatever he might be up to it, but the person and whatever their background and industry is, they get up there and they get intertwined into the fun and the prediction. 

"Lee's telling them, 'Not so fast my friend,' and it's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to see how she does and hopefully she will have fun with it."

On Ole Miss and the opportunity Saturday...

"In the past with a new coach, when they would get into these types of games, there was a hope they could compete and they needed something good to happen for them to buy in. 

"When you're down for so long as a program -- and there have been some moments with Eli and some other moments over the decades -- it's hard to go from being irrelevant in the SEC West to mattering over night.

"There have been enough steps forward that when they get into this setting now against Alabama, at home especially, I don't think they hope they can catch a break and compete. Deep down, they think they can play. 

"The X's and O's to me would be Bo Wallace and the running game. They have to run just enough to avoid those 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-9 plays. If they're not running the ball, they're not going to win. They have to be able to run the football to take pressure off of Bo Wallace.

"If you put him into obvious passing situation, you're going to turn it over two or three times, and you're going to lose. Running the football and getting into those 3rd-and-manageable situations will be really big. 

"The other thing is Lane (Kiffin), who everybody kind of made fun of when Nick Saban hired him, has become maybe the national story with what he's been able to accomplish with a new quarterback who's really never played. 

"That's the difference with Alabama and the old Alabama teams. It's no long defense, special teams and running the ball. Now, they're spreading you out with empty formations, throwing the ball down the field. Its' very different from what AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy operated in. Defense has been a strength for Ole Miss, and it will be interesting to see how they matchup against Amari Cooper and arguably the best group of receivers in the SEC."

On Saturday as a program-defining game for Ole Miss...

"It would earn them instant credibility on a national scale. I was talking to Huge (Freeze) yesterday at practice. If you win the game, it's exciting, everyone runs on the field and you took advantage of a great opportunity, but you're going to Kyle Field next week, and you can lose that game and be forgotten.

"I wouldn't say this is a program-defining moment, but this is definitely an opportunity to prove to people that you can beat the best teams in the SEC and that gets a lot of attention from a lot of people. Look at their schedule. No matter what happens Saturday, it's not as if they beat Alabama, reserved your hotel tickets for Atlanta and the Final Four. They can beat Alabama, but I don't know if anybody in the SEC West is going through the gauntlet of all these teams. It's just too tough."

College GameDay Host Chris Fowler

On mentioning Oxford as College GameDay destination in the opening segment of the picks last week...

"We go where the game is, and we have wanted to come here for a long time. The people who follow this program might know there have been some close calls and some games we had circled, but then the result didn't quite fall the right way, namely Ole Miss stumbled before the big game we had circled. We were just hoping that it didn't happen this year. 

"Obviously this game has been on the schedule and we have looked at it from the beginning of the season. We thought there was a very good likelihood that both teams would be undefeated. It came down to one final hurdle to clear with Ole Miss home against Memphis as a three-touchdown favorite. We thought we would have fun with it. We have started to talk more in the show about games that have GameDay implications and let it out there that if this happen, we will likely be at this place next week. 

"That was the blatant I have ever been about it. We had some fun, although I wasn't really kidding. If the game here had fallen through, we likely would have been in Starkville." 

On the experience so far in Oxford...

It's great. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We have all been here for games. To be clear, the show hasn't been here, but those of us who have been around for a long time in this have been to Oxford for games and to do features. 

"It's just the first time the show has arrived here on Saturday. Doing some of the Thursday games, it's not quite the same. I have been looking forward to a big Saturday atmosphere for a long time. You can tell the buildup is as advertised, so we can't wait until tomorrow morning."

On what Hugh Freeze has done at Ole Miss...

"It starts with inheriting a situation where he needed to make drastic changes right away, and he talked to me about that yesterday, on the field and off the field. He has brought in top-flight talent, which is one of the reasons he was an attractive coaching candidate. 

"Now, the next step is getting those guys to not just win the games they're supposed to win, but to beat people like Alabama and LSU. Everybody knows, in soccer teams, the SEC West is the group of death. There's no easy passes. Every game is going to take the best effort that Ole Miss has and now it's time to step up. 

"I sense a real difference from being around practice yesterday and some of the comments I have read. It's no longer viewed as Ole Miss just trying to be respectable against big, bad 'Bama. Now, those guys really believe they belong with anybody and should win the game. 

"Nationally, there's always going to be skeptics because until you have done it, you haven't done it. There will be a lot of eyes on this town tomorrow afternoon to see if they can take that step and beat Alabama. And then keep it going because the season isn't over, win or lose, and that's what Hugh has preached, and rightfully so. You can't let down for one week in this division."

On Saturday being perhaps the biggest college football day in the history of Mississippi...

"The ingredients are there. You talk about two top-15 matchups that are 75 miles apart as the crow flies. Any place in the country would be thrilled to have that. The fact that it's been a long time down here certainly makes it fun for us. 

"It's hard to imagine it being bigger, but if they keep winning, there are going to be a lot more big weekends. Tomorrow's result will determine whether Mississippi gets a lot more weekends like this and if there will be biggest Egg Bowl in the history of Egg Bowls."

On the Grove and Oxford...

"It's a place of good food and drink and great atmosphere. I have been to the Grove before, but I haven't seen it quite like that. There is stuff that's unique about it. I was trying to explain it. You see this picture on television with these red and blue things, and I don't think people even knew what that was, and I explained they were staking out territory and what it is going to look like tomorrow.

"It's our job to capture what's unique about it because at first glance, you might look at the show and say every week is kind of the same where there's a bunch of screaming kids with signs. If we're not doing our job, we won't be able to point out what's distinct and what's unique about this. We're going to get on the ground and go all over the place and try to capture it as best we can sprinkled throughout the show. There are few surprises thrown in there too that even the people on the desk don't know about yet."

Ahead of the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and one of the biggest weekends in school history, here's an exhaustive link roundup of stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss:

Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 1969: The night college football went prime time, writes Lars Anderson for AL.com

Katy Perry for GameDay? Katy Perry for GameDay, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Two top-15 games make for the biggest weekend ever for Mississippi football, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

New York Giants' Eli Manning likes Ole Miss' chance against Alabama, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Mississippi's Moment: The Newly Relevant Rebels and Bulldogs Take Center Stage in the SEC West, writes Matt Hinton of Grantland

Mississippi becomes epicenter of college football, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

Good Guys Finish 1st: The Hugh Freeze Story, writes Lars Anderson for Bleacher Report

Big week in Mississippi a milestone for coaches Freeze, Mullen, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

Alabama's got 'chinstrap in and locked and loaded' for Ole Miss' 296-pound running QB, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama QB Sims has Ole Miss' respect, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

This is the Rebels' best chance, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Alabama's top-ranked run defense poised for different sort of challenge vs. Ole Miss, writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com

At Ole Miss, evolving perception both outward and inward, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today

Bo Wallace eager for another shot at Bama, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Hugh Freeze preps for Lane Kiffin curveball, says 1-on-1 battles could determine Alabama-Ole Miss, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama defense to be tested by Ole Miss tempo, Laquon Treadwell, writes Alex Scarborough of AL.com

How Lane Kiffin improved Bama's offense, writes Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN.com

Ole Miss can make a statement vs. Bama, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Blake Sims (then a RB) had a memorable night in Alabama's last Ole Miss trip, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama-Ole Miss: Kiffin has turned Tide into nearly unstoppable force, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports

Game-changers: Cooper, Treadwell major keys in Ole Miss-Alabama matchup, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Amari Cooper 'banged up' after Florida win, not listening to Heisman talk, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

No. 11 Mississippi prepares for Alabama offense, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

History on schedule for Mississippi, writes Chris Low of ESPN.com

Ole Miss and its Landsharks a legit threat to Alabama's run as the SEC's best defense, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com

Ole Miss confident it can compete with Alabama, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Alabama faces biggest test yet in Ole Miss, writes Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com

Wild, wild SEC West set for historic day, writes John Zenor and David Brandt of the Associated Press

Epic, writes Chuck Rounsaville of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

In case you missed it, 3 Things You Should Know About Gameday, The Memphis episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football and Get Your Grove On - Get Up. It's GameDay

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Alabama head coach Nick Saban on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's much-anticipated matchup.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (starts at 36:16 mark)

Opening statement...

"It's always a tremendous challenge to play on the road in our league. Ole Miss has a very, very good team. They're undefeated and have played extremely well all year long. The most important thing for our team is to understand that executing, paying attention to detail, maintaining discipline, playing smart and playing our game are really important and that all starts with the preparation that you have and how you focus on getting ready for the game. That's something our guys have done a pretty good job of this week.

On Blake Sims...

"Blake has done really well in practice. He hasn't had any issues this week so far in terms of throwing the ball. We're really pleased with the way he's progressed and he's been able to take all the reps he's prescribed to take, so we're pleased with that."

On Tony Brown and confidence in playing younger players...

"Tony has progressed very nicely for us. He's made really good progress, so we're pleased with that. We have no problem playing younger players, but we also try to protect our players and make sure they have enough knowledge, experience and understanding of what's expected of them before we throw them in there. 

"Tony got to play almost half the game in a couple of games prior to the Florida game. Eddie (Jackson's) been battling injury and that created an opportunity for Tony, and he did a pretty good job. We continue to work with him every day in practice so he can continue to improve. 

"Experience is important to any players being able to play well so they can maintain focus and be able to execute on a consistent basis. For young players, the only way to gain experience is to play. That's been our plan with Tony to this point."

On the bye week and execution on offense...

"Nobody really knows exactly how a bye week is going to affect your team. Sometimes when you have good momentum going and you're making progress and improvement, you rather just continue to play. There are other times when your team needs rest and time to recover. We have a lot of young players who had a chance to develop during the bye week and improve their ability to start, play more, be backups and play on special teams. 

"The bye week is whatever your team makes it and the commitment they make to improving. Hopefully, we had a good bye week and our players will come out and be ready to play. The environment is going to be difficult, and the noise will be difficult. There will be circumstances that we will have to overcome in this game, but the most important thing to keep executing, play your game and play through those things." 

On the challenge of facing Ole Miss' tempo on offense...

"We haven't faced one play of huddle all year long. This is the way of the world now. We made some progress in how our players play against that and the rhythm and routine we can create by playing against this offense a lot more often. It takes a lot of poise on the defensive players' part, especially when they go fast. You have to have a good substitution plan for trying to keep players fresh. 

"It's the way of the world now, and our players have gotten more accustomed to it. We probably practiced it a little bit better and prepared them a little bit better for it, but Ole Miss is a very challenging team not only because of the no-huddle and the pace of play, but also because they have really quality players at a lot of positions."

On matchup problems Evan Engram presents for the Alabama defense...

"Any time a team has a guy who has the versatility that he has, it always creates problems. The guy lines up in the backfield, and then he lines up at receiver, and sometimes you got to have a linebacker on him. Tight end is one of the most difficult mismatch guys, and he's certainly a quality player and a really good receiver.

On experience in spotlight games...

"We're talking about our team. We're still trying to develop an identity relative to the players and leadership we have on this team. You're always trying to develop the team chemistry and maturity  that it takes to play well on the road. We really haven't played a road game yet, other than playing a neutral-site game. It's going to be interesting to see how we respond. Our players have to believe their actions are going to affect what happens in the game, and their ability to have the poise and focus to execute is still going to be the most important things."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:12:36 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're looking forward to the challenge. I have said before of the respect I have for Coach Saban and his staff. The job they have done there with the consistency of being a measuring stick in this conference is pretty special. When you get into this, you want to measure yourself each year and we have taken steps in the right direction in the last couple of years to give ourselves a chance to compete in this game. 

"It's still a tall task, but it's one we're looking forward to. We're excited about having GameDay here for the first time and being able to showcase our great university, the campus and the Grove, and hopefully our team will represent very well on the field Saturday.

On the state of Ole Miss and Mississippi State with two big games this weekend in Mississippi...

"It speaks volumes for our state and the job that both staffs have done, not only in recruiting, but also developing the talent we have here in this state, and then adding to it from outside the state, and it also speaks to the vision of the administrations to continue to elevate our facilities and resources to compete it this league. 

"We have made great strides at both places in all of those things in the last few years. The Mississippi people, they deserve this. They're great people, generous people with great hearts. There is tremendous passion for this game at both places, and it's exciting for this to happen."

On the importance of mitigating risk and efficiency on offense playing Alabama...

"It will be one of the huge deciding factors in this game as to how we perform in regards to turnovers and negative plays that get us off track, where we can't be in any kind of tempo. Bo (Wallace) is a huge part of the that. 

"He has had a game and a half where he was not really solid in his decision-making. Some of it wasn't just him. We've had a couple of poor routes that probably caused it. And then he's also had two and a half games where he was phenomenal, so we hope that it's time for him to be phenomenal again."

"It will factor into my play-calling probably early, depending upon how our defense is playing, how our special teams are playing, field position, all those things, you can't help but thinking about minimizing the risk as a play caller."

On managing the outside attention surrounding the game...

"We're just a little over two years in here. We have played in arenas like Alabama and the others in our conference but nothing to quite this attention and magnitude. Hopefully they will follow the example that we have tried to set and we focus on what we can do today to be ready for Saturday and stay in the moment. They're hearing that from us constantly in our meetings. 

"Is it totally possible to isolate them from everything with the social media access today? Probably not. Yo just hope we have enough mature leadership that the only way you can have a chance Saturday is to prepare by staying in the moment today."

Striking The Right Balance Offensively

Ole Miss has been held under 100 yards rushing in each of its last meetings with Alabama, a 33-14 loss in 2012 and a 25-0 loss in 2013. Running the ball effectively and finding a balance is one area, the coaches and players have said, that would go a long way on Saturday.

"Top to bottom, they're a great team, arguably the best team in the country," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We have to play really, really well to win. We have to protect the football. When a break comes our way, we have to score. We have to be efficient in the red zone. 

"We have to try to eliminate negative plays, stay on schedule and stay out of third-and-longs. We have to do the little things it takes to win close games and win close games in the fourth quarter."

Behind senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Rebels rank third in the SEC and 13th nationally in passing offense (335.5 ypg), but they rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 160.8 yards per game. Alabama, meanwhile, leads the league in rush defense, giving up just 62.0 yards per game

Ole Miss has found more consistency on the ground in recent games, rushing for 214 yards on 35 carries against Louisiana-Lafayette and 178 yards on 42 carries against Memphis, but Alabama undoubtedly will provide the toughest test yet.

"They're just pretty good," Luke said. "They're big and fast. They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball.

"You don't want to be one-dimensional against any team," sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "You want to run the ball, pass the ball, mix it up."

Replacing Alford on Defense, Special Teams


Without sophomore Anthony Alford, who decided to leave the Ole Miss football program and pursue a professional baseball career, players are thrust into bigger roles on defense and special teams.

Alford, who transferred to Ole Miss in January 2011, played in all four games this season as a backup to junior Trae Elston at Rover safety and punt returner. He registered six tackles and two punt returns for eight years.

"We had a great talk last night and this morning about what was best for him and his wife and his future," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I hate it for our team and for him because I love having good kids a part of us but he really felt like it was best."

In Alford's place, sophomore David Kamara and freshman C.J. Moore, who have both played primarily on special teams, stepped into the backup Rover safety spot in practice Tuesday. 

Freeze said they didn't have to shuffle a lot, but should they need to shuffle players going forward, senior cornerback Cliff Coleman and junior cornerback Mike Hilton both have previous experience at safety. On a semi-related note, sophomore Derrick Jones, who started the year at cornerback and then moved to wide receiver, practiced at cornerback Tuesday, providing extra depth there

"I know they're both athletic kids," said Freeze of Kamara and Moore. "They haven't been in the battles but really neither had Anthony. This was really his freshman year to be a defensive player. He has more experience than them from being in the early games, but we'll get them ready and I think they will do well."

On special teams, freshman wide receiver Markell Pack has been the primary punt return option, returning seven punts for 38 yards. Freeze also mentioned redshirt freshman Eugene Brazley stepping in as a punt return option.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Memphis

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

Battle of the Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stopping the Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Staying in the Moment'

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

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

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

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

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