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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 22-28)

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 22-28, 2014

Football
- No. 10 Ole Miss used a dominant defensive effort to put away Memphis 24-3 on Saturday, setting up one of the biggest games in recent history this coming Saturday against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
- The Rebels allowed just 104 total yards the entire evening, including 23 rushing yards on 31 carries. Excluding one 42-yard pass play by Memphis in the first quarter, the Rebel defense allowed just 62 total yards on the other 61 plays from scrimmage.
- The 104 total yards allowed were the fewest since giving up 24 yards to Mississippi State in 2008.
- Sophomore Laquon Treadwell had five catches for a career-high 123 yards and a career high-tying two touchdowns to lead the offense.
- Memphis native Jaylen Walton had a game-high 78 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.
- The defense has allowed only two touchdowns this season, which is the fewest in the nation.
- Ole Miss improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1970.

Soccer
- Ole Miss went 0-1-1 on the weekend, splitting a match with Arkansas on Thursday before falling 2-1 to No. 10 Texas A&M on Sunday.
- Sophomore forward Gretchen Harknett bent in her second goal of the season to help the Rebels play Arkansas to a double overtime draw.
- Junior defender Maddie Friedmann scored her first goal of the season with a header off a double-assisted goal Sunday afternoon to put the Rebels on the board against No. 10 Texas A&M.
- After the weekend, Ole Miss is now 4-1-3 at home this season with the lone loss coming at the hands of the 10th-ranked Aggies.
- Ole Miss will now hit the road in SEC play and not play a home match over the next three weeks before closing things out with two of the last three matches of the season at home.

Volleyball
- The Rebels dropped both their matches on the opening weekend of SEC play to fall to 14-2 overall and 0-2 in conference.
- Friday, the Rebels lost a five-setter at South Carolina after having a 2-0 lead. They had match point in the fourth set, but the Gamecocks won the final three points to force a fifth set. In the fifth set, the Rebels led 12-11 but the Gamecocks won four straight points to take the match 3-2.
- Against South Carolina, junior Nakeyta Clair equaled her career-high with 20 kills and hit .395, and also had four blocks. Clair ranks third in the SEC in hitting percentage at .420.
- Freshman Taylor Alexander got her first start of the year against South Carolina and finished with nine kills, a .375 hitting percentage and four blocks.

Men's Tennis
- Five Rebels competed in the pre-qualifying at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Freshman Gustav Hansson won his first round match, but none of the five advanced to the qualifying. The Rebels will have two players in the qualifying with Stefan Lindmark and William Kallberg in singles, and two doubles teams with Lindmark/Hansson and Kallberg/Ricardo Jorge.

Women's Tennis
- Junior Mai El Kamash won three matches in pre-qualifying at the Riviera ITA All-American Championships to advance to the qualifying tournament, which begins Tuesday in Pacific Palisades, California. She improved to 4-1 on the year.

Observations from the Best Seat in the House

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Observations Logo.pngIt's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. I'll handle the bulk of the notes this week, but we also have some insight from Austin Miller here as well. Let's get started:

1. Did you hear ESPN's College GameDay is coming to town? Unless you legitimately live under a rock - a rock that blocks out all outside sound - you have heard this. It's going to be awesome. What a great day that will be for Ole Miss, this university and this town. Finally, the premier college football pregame show will visit the premier college football tailgating scene. The buzz that will surround Oxford and that football game will be palpable all week. Can't wait.

2. That Ole Miss defense is legit. The Rebels allowed just 104 total yards, and just 23 rushing yards on 31 carries. For those without a calculator, that's 0.74 yards per carry. Here's another stat nugget I enjoyed from that game: Memphis ran 62 plays, and if you take out the Tigers' 42-yard pass play in the first quarter, the Rebel defense allowed just 62 total yards on the other 61 plays from scrimmage. If you still haven't gotten a calculator, that's 1.02 yards per play.

3. Let's not forget this was a Memphis offense that accumulated 469 yards on the road against UCLA earlier this season. In that game, which the Tigers, despite having to travel across the country, only lost by seven points, Memphis had 164 yards rushing and 305 passing yards. Oh, by the way, UCLA is ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press top 25.

4. As the calendar turns to October, fans will be treated to a loaded slate in the Southeastern Conference this upcoming weekend, including three successive top-15 matchups in the SEC West: No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State (11 a.m. CT, ESPN), followed by No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (2:30 p.m., CBS) and No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn (6 p.m., ESPN). We're going to learn a lot about this division next week.

5. Want to know how good the top of the SEC West has been in recent years? With Alabama coming to town ranked No. 1 in the AP poll that makes five straight years Ole Miss has faced the nation's top-ranked team: Auburn in 2010, LSU in 2011 and Alabama in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

6. Ole Miss boasts the nation's third-best scoring defense, allowing just 8.5 points per game. More impressively, Ole Miss has given up just two touchdowns all season, the fewest in the nation. Big reason why; opponents have scored just two touchdowns in 10 trips to the red zone.

7. To that point, Memphis ran just two plays inside the 20-yard line Saturday and came away with three points. Among the four games played, opponents have run 37 plays inside the 20 and come away with 29 points.

8. I thought it was so great with all of the festivities surrounding Chucky Mullins, his memory and legacy, that Deterrian Shackelford, the guy who wears No. 38 in Mullins' honor, led the team in tackles Saturday.

9. The committee of running backs approach produced favorable numbers Saturday. Juniors Jaylen Walton (10 carries for 78 yards) and I'Tavius Mathers (14 carries for 57 yards) combined for 135 yards on 24 carries. Freshman Jordan Wilkins contributed with five carries for 33 yards and sophomore Mark Dodson had five carries for 16 yards.

10. After catching seven passes for 105 yards and one touchdown against Boise State in week one, sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had been held to a combined eight catches for 79 yards and no scores against Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette. The preseason All-SEC selection broke out a bit Saturday though, catching five passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers.

11. If you enjoyed the powder blue helmets Saturday against Memphis, check out this story by Austin Miller documenting the decision making that led to the Rebels wearing this helmet, as well as how it was kept on the hush throughout the week: http://www.olemisssports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/092814aab.html.

12. Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? If you answer that question with a 'No,' well I just don't know what to say. He's the best in the game. Check it out here: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=167161. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.

13. It was a tough weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team. The Rebels closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a perfect 14-0 mark, the best in program history, but opened SEC play Friday with a tough five-set loss at South Carolina, followed by a three-set loss at No. 10 Florida, which is always a very difficult place to play for any team. This Rebel team is playing good volleyball and is a lot of fun to watch. Be sure to show this team your support and head out to the Gillom Center on Wednesday for a huge SEC match against Missouri at 6 p.m. CT.

14. The Ole Miss soccer team went 0-1-1 on the week in a pair of SEC home matches against Arkansas and No. 10 Texas A&M. After a 1-1 tie Friday against the Razorbacks in a really physical contest, Ole Miss lost 2-1 Sunday against the highly ranked Aggies. Ole Miss scored the first goal against Texas A&M in the 62nd minute, but Texas A&M responded with goals in the 72nd and 79th minute. The Rebels will head out on a four-match SEC road swing now with two matches next weekend in the Yellowhammer State against Alabama and Auburn, respectively.

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Memphis Motivational

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."

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' matchup with Memphis on Saturday (6:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Net).

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:21:20 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

"We're excited to be back in a game week after an off week last week. We had really good attention and focus yesterday (Tuesday) in practice. This will be our most difficult game of the season thus far. Justin (Fuente) has done a nice job there. 

"His kids play extremely hard, tackle extremely well, they have one of the best third-down defenses in the country and they are getting really good quarterback play right now. We have to raise our game. After our last two games, the sample size we have to judge our team right now is still a bit too small. We're excited to get back out and see how we match up."

On improvement he has seen from Memphis...

"My last experience with them was when I was at Arkansas State, and I was hoping that they would be similar to (the team) then, but it's so much different. Justin has done wonderful job. They have just upgraded the talent level and he has them playing well. 

"The thing that really stands out to me is the way they tackle. I can probably can count on my 10 fingers how many missed tackles I have seen in their games and the passion with which they play. Their third-down efficiency on defense is really remarkable. Teams are only converting around 28 to 29 percent of third downs, so they're getting off the field.

"Offensively, their quarterback play has been very steady. When that happens, you have enough skill people around you at this level to make plays. That's what they have done. They're a really nice team." 

How have the changes on offense over the last 10 years changed recruiting players on defense....

"We want to get longer and faster. We're not so much concerned with our defensive linemen or linebackers being a certain weight. We think we can add weight when they get there, but you have to recruit speed. If you can't run on the defensive side, it makes for some long afternoons because people are so good now at exploiting matchups and putting their guys in space with these offenses. 

"From five years ago, if you look at what teams are averaging now offensively in yards per game and points per game, the game has certainly changed. Defensively, you have very little chance to slow people down if you are not dominant up front and have some back-end guys who can really run."

On concern about Memphis being a trap game ahead of a matchup with No. 3 Alabama...

"I'm concerned all the time about our focus and our attention to what's going on today. 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. 

 "That's all said here within these walls, but I would be foolish to think that they're not hearing all the other. We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. it doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Memphis Not Fazed by Big Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opportunistic Rebel Defense


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace, Rebels Look to Avoid Negative Plays


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

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

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

The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 4

Freeze Talks Open Date, SEC West

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

"We're coming off of a solid win last week against ULL, and any time you're going into an open week, you hope it come at a good time to work on some things that you're struggling with and also maybe to get your team fully healthy. In all candor, I wish the open week was a bit later and that we were continuing to play. 

"We try to control the things we can control, so we're using this week on ourselves and to do some self scouting and to obviously prepare for our next game and do some recruiting. I like the chemistry and demeanor of our team right now, and hopefully we can maintain our focus on the process and not get caught up in being result-oriented all the time. I'm excited about where are at this point, but we have some very difficult games coming very soon."

On watching other games...

"I will watch every game I can physically do. We'll let our kids and coaches off Saturday. I'll do some family stuff that morning, I'm sure, and go a volleyball or something to watch my kids. The TiVo and DVRs will be running and I will try to catch every SEC game."

On the SEC Western Division...

"It's scary. I said in my press conference this week that I really believe that all seven teams could be considered Top 25 teams. I think they're all that talented. Whether or not the high rankings for all of us are really justified to this point, I don't know, it's still really early. 

"The fact remains we may all be Top 10, Top 15, Top 20 teams, but we're going to beat each other up at some point. It doesn't mean you're not a quality team for sure, but it's inevitable that's going to happen. I've seen film on every one of these (SEC West) teams and I think all of them are tremendously gifted and well-coached. It's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out."

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NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team. 

Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an Ole Miss football jersey. Stenhouse Jr. also caught passes from Bo Wallace and threw passes into the target net at football practice.


 

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 8-14)

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 8-14, 2014

Volleyball
- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.
- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1 after dropping the first set for the first time all year.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson was named the tournament MVP, while Ty Laporte and Aubrey Edie joined her on the all-tournament team.
- Thompson averaged 2.80 kills, 3.00 digs and 0.50 blocks and aces per set to lead the Rebels to the title. She tallied a career-high 18 kills, and a career-best 17 digs in the 3-1 win against Jacksonville State. With the Rebels dropping the first set for the first time all year, Thompson tallied 7 of her 18 kills in the second set, as the Rebels evened the match.
- Laporte finished the tournament with 28 kills and 9 blocks and hit .375. Edie posted 122 assists (12.2 per set), to earn her third straight all-tournament team honor.

Football
- Ole Miss used a high-octane offense and suffocating defense to claim a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.
- The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) moved up from No. 14 to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, their first top-10 ranking since week four of the 2009 season.
- The Rebel offense produced its second-highest scoring output of the Hugh Freeze era and accumulated 554 total yards in the rout.
- Bo Wallace completed 23 of 28 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns, notching his third straight 300-yard performance and the 10th of his career, which ties him with Eli Manning for the school record.
- Vince Sanders set career highs of eight catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
- The Rebels have surrendered only two touchdowns to their opponents this year and rank fourth nationally with just 10.3 points allowed per game.
- The Rebel defense snagged three more interceptions against the Ragin' Cajuns and now leads the nation with eight this season.

Soccer
- The Ole Miss soccer team went 2-0 on the week with a pair of shutout victories over Austin Peay (2-0) and Middle Tennessee (4-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
- Junior forward Olivia Harrison led the Rebels against the Lady Governors on Friday with a pair of goals in a three-minute span. Ole Miss out-shot Austin Peay 18-7 on the road in Clarksville, Tennessee.
- Unlike Ole Miss' win over Austin Peay, the Rebels spread out the scoring against Middle Tennessee with four different goal scorers, including sophomore Georgia Russell's first career goal, and one goal each from Addie Forbus, Gretchen Harknett and Jennifer Miller.
- The two shutouts by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick were her first two of the season and give her 19 for her career.

Women's Tennis
- Freshman Arianne Hartono won the Country Club of Little Rock Invitational on Sunday for her first title with the Rebels. In the final, she defeated Houston's top player, Desponita Vogasari, who is ranked No. 68 in the preseason ITA Singles Rankings.
- Before winning the singles title, Hartono teamed with junior Mai El Kamash to capture the doubles title in their first tournament together. The duo defeated 59th-ranked and the top-seeded duo of Arkansas, Yang Pang and Sasha Shkorupeieva, 8-6 in the final. On Saturday, Hartono and El Kamash took out the No. 2 seed from the University of Houston.

Women's Golf
- The Rebels opened the 2014-15 season with the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate (Sept. 8-9). Ole Miss took third-place with a score of 886 and Abby Newton claimed medalist honors. The third-place finish was Ole Miss' highest finish since taking runner-up honors at the UNC Tar Heel Classic in 2012-13.
- Newton's win at the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate was the first individual title for the Rebels since Natalie Gleadall won the Cougar Classic in 2010.
- Several Rebels set new career marks at the tournament. Newton's second-round score of 68 was an 18-hole career-low, while her three-day tournament score of 210 was also a new 54-hole career low. Ole Miss' 886 is the sixth lowest total for the Rebels.

Men's Golf
- The Ole Miss men's golf team claimed fourth-place at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
- Junior Connor Davis finished the tournament with a career-low, three-round score of 208. He tied for fifth-place, which is a career-best for the two-year letterwinner. 
- Senior Joe Lewis and sophomore Ben Wolcott fired career-low tournament scores of 212 and 213, respectively.

Men's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed a third-place finish in the Commodore Classic, besting both SEC rivals Mississippi State and Vanderbilt at the event.
- Just as in the first meet of the season, freshman Mark Robertson posted the best time for the Rebels. His time of 25:00.31 in the 8K was good for 10th overall in the field of 242 runners.
- The Rebels have a first-place and third-place finish on the season, while sending only a portion of the team to the meets.

Women's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss women's cross country team placed sixth in a field of 17 teams at the Commodore Classic.
- For the second time in as many events, Mary Alex England finished with the best run for Ole Miss. Her time of 17.23.33 in the 5K placed eighth overall of 260 runners.

Historic Start to the Football Season

After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday. 

Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division teams with Alabama (No. 3), Alabama (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 6) and LSU (No. 8) ahead of them in the polls. Ole Miss plays each of the other four teams in five-week stretch starting with a home game against Alabama on Oct. 4.

This is the first time Ole Miss has been ranked in the top 10 since 2009, when the Rebels were ranked in the top 10 in the each of the first four polls before falling out after a loss to South Carolina. 

Before 2009, the last time Ole Miss was ranked in the top 10 was 1970, Archie Manning's senior season, when the Rebels finished 7-4 and earned a berth in the Gator Bowl.

With Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss is 3-0 for the second straight year, the first time the Rebels have started 3-0 in consecutive season since 1971-72. When Ole Miss hosts Memphis in two weeks, it will seek its first 4-0 start since that 1970 season.

VIDEO: Ole Miss-ULL Motivational

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-ULL

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.

Wearing the Bull's-Eye

After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since 2009. 

Many are already pointing to the matchup with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4 in Oxford, but two home games stand in the way, starting with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

"There's no question in my mind the bull's-eye that will be on our chest for this week with the group from Lafayette will be huge," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We expect to get their best shot and we have to be prepared for it."

There's also a mutual familiarity from when Freeze was the head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, which was also Mark Hudspeth's first season at Louisiana-Lafayette. 

"They didn't play their best the other night," said Freeze, referring to Louisiana-Lafayette's 48-20 loss to Louisiana Tech. "They turned it over and put them in bad spots, but I know we'll get their best, and just a couple years ago they either beat Florida or had them right to the wire.

"From being in that conference, I know how it is for those kids to get a chance to play in these arenas and these games. I know Mark will have them ready and it'll be a good game." 

Developing Offensive Line Depth

From week one to week two, the false start penalties decreased from eight to two, while the yards per rush average increased from 2.1 to 3.6, but the coaches continue to want to see improvement from the offensive line as the season progresses.

Freeze said Ole Miss will continue its offensive line rotation against Louisiana-Lafayette, with sophomore tackle/center Robert Conyers and freshman guard Rod Taylor seeing extended action in reserve roles. 

Freeze also mentioned Craig Frigo as a candidate for additional reps, but it remains to be seen if redshirt freshman offensive tackle Christian Morris has progressed enough to be game ready.

"He's got a ways to go," Freeze said. "The last couple of weeks, he's been with the scout team and hasn't been working the scheme that we're running. His technique is a ways away too because he hasn't played in a while. I'm glad we have him. We're going to bring him along because we could certainly use him before the year is over for sure, but he still has a ways to go." 

Freeze Eyes Two Areas for Improvement

In addition to continuing to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense, Freeze mentioned two areas where he wants to see improvement going forward.

Offensively, Freeze wants to see improvements in red-zone scoring, where the Rebels have scored six touchdowns and kicked two fields goals in 10 trips to the red zone through two games.

"In the red zone, sometimes you have to be hard-nosed to run it in, and if they load the box, we feel pretty good about throwing it up to Laquon (Treadwell)," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "It's going to be one of those things, where we're either going to pound it in there, or if they want to put a bunch of people in the box, we feel like we have receivers who can make some plays."

Defensively, Freeze wants the defense to continue to limit explosive plays. He has said on more than one occasion, he's confident in the defense if the opponent has to drive the length of the field consistently. 

Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just eight plays of 20 yards or more, which has helped lead to allowing just 8.0 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NCAA and second in the SEC.

"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," Freeze said after a 41-3 win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."

VIDEO: Return of The Grove

Rebel Nation Remembers Stan Sandroni

Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.

Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday. In his 26th season with the Ole Miss Radio Network, he handled the football sideline reports and Locker Room Show until his passing. He touched the lives of so many people.

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:04:35 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

I was really excited to see some improvement from week one to week two in a lot of areas. We certainly have a long way to go, but I did think we got some really good play out of some key positions like quarterback and our wide receivers, and our offensive line certainly took a step forward. We still have a ways to go, like I said, and defensively we continue to play really well, holding an opponent in this conference under 200 yards. It was a solid, solid day, and our special teams were solid. We played a pretty complete game. I'm excited about that, and hopefully we can get back up and do the same thing this Saturday against a very talented Lafayette team.

On Bo Wallace's performance since the first half against Boise State...

"If you take the first half out, I think everybody would say he's been phenomenal. The second half of the game and the two-and-a-half quarters he played at Vandy were as solid as I have seen him play. He was pressing quite a bit in the first half (against Boise State) and tried to force some throws down the field. We really haven't changed anything about the way we prepare him. He's settled in and hopefully will continue to understand that we have a quality defense and that he doesn't have to force things offensively, take what we have, try to keep us on schedule and that it's OK to punt. Hopefully he keeps that mindset moving forward. He certainly has played really well the last game and in the second half of the Boise game.

On Bo Wallace's maturity...

"There's no question he's much more mature. He never got rattled or showed any signs of being down. He just wanted to get the next possession going. He handled it well, and our team handled it well. We were all encouraging him. He's very resilient. To be a quarterback in this league and have some of the tough losses that you have some times and to get some of the criticism, you have to be resilient, and he's very much that."

On the 2014 schedule...

"I don't have enough power to control any of the scheduling. I wish I did. I assure you, if I had a say in it, absolutely it would be broken up some because that's going to be a murderous stretch to go through with those quality teams. I wish we could break it up, but unfortunately I have no control over that. We have to control what we can and that's preparing to play the best we can. It would be nice if it was broken up some."

On the team and where he wants the team to improve...

"Our team has great chemistry and is very hungry. Those are the two things. I love our staff. There are no egos. We all want to do the best we can here in mentoring young men, first in life, and then hopefully win some football games with them. I like our team as far as that goes.

"We have to continue to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense. We have to improve our red-zone scoring of touchdowns, and defensively we have to continue to make sure we don't give up the big plays. I think our defense is talented enough that if people have to drive the length of the field consistently on us we're going to win some of those battles. In the past, we have given up some big plays. We haven't yet this year, and hopefully that will continue."

Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins.

Hill will be signing copies of his book on Friday starting at 5 p.m at Off Square Books in Oxford. Billy Brewer, who was Hill and Mullins' head coach at Ole Miss, will also be in attendance at the event that will kick off the release of the book.

For more information, visit Hill's website here.

What members of the Ole Miss family are saying about "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect":

Billy Brewer

"My former player Jody Hill has written a firsthand account of the life and legacy of our beloved Chucky Mullins. This is not hearsay, but the direct feelings offered by family, friends and teammates. Every Rebel needs to read this, He got it right!"

Cooper Manning, former Ole Miss football player

"My Ole Miss teammate Jody Hill has written a heartfelt tribute to his teammate Chucky Mullins. Although Chucky and I never played together, Jody has helped me to better understand and appreciate Chucky's impact upon so many. I recommend this read to everyone who has a love for Ole Miss or Chucky Mullins. I think you will find it to be an inspiration"

Carver and Karen Phillips, Mullins' guardians

"We were fortunate enough to be blessed by sharing our lives with Chucky. We believe this book will be a blessing to many others as they learn more about this very special person. Chucky has encouraged many through his motto: 'Never Quit.' We pray that each one who reads this book will also be inspired by Chucky's story."

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