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Wallace Looks to Make More History

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, like his head coach, stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight games. 

Three years later, Wallace helped lead the ninth-ranked Rebels to their first nine-win regular season since 2003 and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, one of the "New Year's Six Bowls."

"I was just trying to come in and play and compete," Wallace said. "I came here because it was probably my best chance to play. For us to kind of turn it around, it's special."

Already the school's all-time leader in total offense and the first quarterback to defeat two top-five teams since Archie Manning in 1969, Wallace has a chance to make some more history with a win over No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

With a win, which would be his 25th as the team's starting quarterback, Wallace would pass Eli Manning as the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history, and he would also become the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games.

"I'm really kind of looking forward to practice and all that just because I know I'm not going to get to do it much longer," Wallace said. "I'm just taking advantage of every day. We're excited about going to Atlanta, to be going to a New Year's Six bowl and have a chance to get 10 wins and elevate this program to another level." 

Wallace said he's planning to train and pursue a potential professional career after the bowl game. Asked about his legacy, when his Ole Miss career is over, Wallace said it's not for him to decide but getting that milestone win is important to him.

"I don't know," Wallace said. "I really don't care. I mean, I do care, but everybody's going to have a different opinion. It is what it is."

TCU's Boykin Draws Manziel Comparisons

The Ole Miss defense has faced the likes of Alabama's Blake Sims, Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and now the nation's top scoring defense prepares for another unique challenge in TCU's Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and an AP second team All-American selection, Boykin leads the league and ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0).  He is also on pace to become just the third quarterback since 2009 to average over 300 yards passing (309.5) and 50 yards rushing (53.5), joining a pair of Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. 

"You can be in the right spot and have everything covered, and there's a 20-yard gain because of the ability of Trevone Boykin," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It makes them difficult to defend. Schematically, it isn't something you are just wowed by, but they have really good players. And then they have a dual threat quarterback that's very difficult to contain, and they do it at tempo." 

Ole Miss coaches and players alike have compared Boykin to Manziel, who led Texas A&M to wins over Ole Miss in 2012 and 2013. Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, a unanimous first team All-American selection, said this will probably be the most athletes they have played on one side of the ball this season.

"He's a very good athlete, and he improved his throwing as the season progressed," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They take a lot of shots deep, so I can see a lot of similarities. Their passing game is very similar to Texas A&M as well. All of those guys came from the same background."

"Johnny would sit in the pocket a little bit more," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "Trevone Boykin, he likes to get out of the pocket a little bit. And they do a lot more with him in the run game than A&M did with Johnny. They use a lot of empty personnel, so the way they run the football is kind of the same, but the way they use him in the offense is a little bit different."

Boykin has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,714 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he's also a threat on the ground with 642 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

"Going into this game, you have to have really good pocket awareness," Johnson said. "It all comes down to the fundamentals of football. Spread offenses, they like to get you out in space and make you tackle. We're a good tackling defense. We don't give up many yards after the catch. We don't give up many big plays. We rush the quarterback. We stop the run. It's going to be a good challenge for us with all the stuff they present on offense. If everybody stays locked in on defense and we do what we have to do, I think we'll be fine."

Johnson to Return, Golson '50-50' on Baseball

When asked about underclassmen who requested an evaluation from the NFL's College Advisory Committee, head coach Hugh Freeze said junior defensive end C.J. Johnson may have but he's confident he will return for his senior season. Johnson said the same earlier in the week.

"Not really," said Johnson, when asked if he had thought about submitting paperwork to the NFL. "I'm planning to be back."

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, once an eight round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, and now consensus and unanimous first team All-American, said he remains undecided on whether to play baseball for Ole Miss in the spring or focus 100 percent on preparing for the NFL Draft.

"I haven't really decided, probably going to decide more after the bowl game," Golson said. "I still don't know. It's definitely 50-50 right now."

A finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the national defensive player of the year, Golson leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions and has been a key cog in the nation's top-ranked scoring defense.

"With my success this season, football is definitely more attractive now," Golson said. "Three or four months ago, I was definitely going to play baseball, but it's a different situation now. I'm not sure exactly how it will play out, but I'm still thinking about it."

Good News on Injury Front

Head coach Freeze had good news to report on the status of Tee Shepard (toe), Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle) and Laqon Treadwell (leg, ankle), who all suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season.

"Tee (Shepard) started running this week," Freeze said. "The injured area remains tender, but started his running, so when he gets back after Christmas, we will really pick up his rehab. Denzel (Nkemdiche) and Laquon (Treadwell) are off the scooters. Laquon is on one crutch, and Denzel is in just a boot. They're much more active, so things are progressing nicely. 

"We definitely expect Tee and Denzel to be back with us in the spring. Laquon is going to be right at that time, so we expect him to be in some of spring practice."

Containing Johnny Manziel


The first two questions of head coach Hugh Freeze's weekly press conference centered on Texas A&M quarterback and last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.


In last year's game, Manziel accounted for 320 yards of total offense, 191 through the air and 129 on the ground, and two total touchdowns, one each through the air and on the ground, as Texas A&M erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 30-27 in Oxford.


Through five games this year, Manziel leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 360.6 yards/game. He also averages 9.59 yards/play, which ranks second in the league and ninth nationally, and 36.1 percent of his offensive plays have resulted in a gain of 10 or more yards.


"You have to be multiple," Freeze said of defending Manziel. "You can't just give him one thing. There are no bad coaches in this league, and they have tremendous players, so they will make adjustments, if they get a beat on what exactly you're doing. We did have a good plan and we contained him for the better part of three quarters, but the fourth quarter, he showed why he won the Heisman Trophy.


"We will look at last year very closely and use what we think was very good and try to mix in some new stuff. We were able to create some turnovers last year, which I think was big, so hopefully we can have a repeat of that performance and contain him a bit. You're not to going to stop him but hopefully contain him and give us a chance to be in it late in the game."


A large part of the defensive game plan last year involved sophomore Mike Hilton, who made his first career start against Texas A&M last year. From his dimeback position, he spent most of the game spying Manziel and had three solo tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble.


"We're going to have someone spy Manziel this game," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "Mike Hilton did a great job with that last year. Hopefully, we're going to put him back on him this year. Our corners and defensive backs are going to have to step up this week because they're going to throw the ball to Mike Evans a lot. He's a great, very tall receiver, so we're going to have to make some plays on Mike Evans."


"The coaches are going to think of a different type of scheme this year," Hilton said. "We have a whole year under our belt watching him, so we're going to have more defensive packages set for him."



One of those packages might include a 3-3-5 defensive look the Ole Miss defense showed some against Auburn, with Bryant and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche on the field at the same time, along with senior linebacker Mike Marry. 


Bryant has started the last four games at Stinger linebacker and leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally with 10.8 tackles/game, while Nkemdiche returned from injury against Alabama and led the Rebels with nine tackles and recovered a fumble last week against Auburn.


"That package went pretty well," Bryant said. "The coaches told us they were going to put something else in this week that we're going to run. They want to try to get me and Denzel on the field at the same time. We're both playmakers, and we're both fast and have speed. They want to try to get to playmakers on the field at the same time.


"When me and Denzel are on the field together, Denzel takes on blocks better than me, so he plays down close to the line, and I'm free to roam back at Stinger linebacker about six yards off the line and read the ball, and wherever it goes, I go to the ball."


Along with scheme, players said it's as much, if not more, about winning 1-on-1 battles and just making plays when defending Manziel and the Texas A&M offense.


"Don't overdo anything," Hilton said. "Play your game. If you get a chance to get him on the ground, make sure you get him on the ground because he can make plays. Everybody knows it. You got to make a play when it happens."


"It's physically, you got to make a play," sophomore safety Trae Elston said. "If you play athlete on athlete, the best athlete is going to make the tackle, so that's what he have to do against him."



Both Freeze and Hilton noted that Manziel has played a lot more in the pocket this year compared to last year. And his passing numbers are up, from yards per game, to completion percentage, to pass efficiency.


Through five games this year, Manziel ranks second in the SEC and 14th nationally in passing offense (297.8). He also leads the SEC and ranks eight nationally in completion percentage (71.4) and ranks second in the SEC and fifth nationally in passer rating (188.06).


"You notice that he doesn't mind standing in the pocket longer," Freeze said. "I thought he was a good thrower last year, too. We were hoping he wasn't, but when you faced him live, you realized he was. He certainly does not mind standing in the pocket longer this year. They have worked on that to minimize some of the hits that he takes and him developing as more of a complete quarterback. You can tell work has been put in on him doing that."


"You have to let it come to you," Hilton said. "You have to be conservative. Everybody knows how he plays. He has actually played a lot more in the pocket this year. He still has the ability to escape and make plays happen. We have to sit back and let him come to us and make a play when it happens."


Manziel's favorite target in last year's game and again so far this season is 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore Mike Evans. The two connected for a 32-yard gain on 3rd-and-19 from the Texas A&M 3-yard line, as the Aggies rallied to win last year in Oxford.


A Freshman All-SEC selection last year, Evans leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in receiving yards (138.2 ypg). He also leads the SEC and ranks second nationally in yards per reception (24.7). He has also accounted for 10 plays of 30 or more yards, which leads the nation, including four plays of 40 or more yards.


"Everybody wanted us to copy Alabama's plan against A&M, and I wanted to show them on tape where 270 yards came from," Freeze said of Evans. "It was a guy going up and just making a play, which he's very good at. We saw that on 3rd-and-19 last year at our place. Senquez had perfect coverage on him, and he just went up over him. 


"We have got to think through that. We have thought about a lot of crazy things, trying to think out of the box a little bit on who we might put on him in some situations that can compete for a jump ball with him, so we're thinking along those lines. Certainly, even if you have him covered, there's no guarantee that he's not going to make the play." 


Who might the Rebels put on Evans? The Rebels' two starting cornerbacks, Hilton and junior Senquez Golson, are listed at 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9, respectively. 


Senior Charles Sawyer, who also plays a lot at cornerback, is listed at 5-foot-11. Freshman Derrick Jones, at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, who switched from wide receiver to cornerback earlier this season, might also figure is some situations.


"You have to be physical with him right before he gets up in the air because he uses his body a lot, so you have to get your body into him before he does," Hilton said. "And if you know you can't get a pick, separate his hands, so he won't catch it."


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