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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.


 

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.

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This is the third installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss Sports. This week was a combined effort with Metz Camfield. Let's get into it:

1. Another week, another unbeaten record in Ole Miss Sports. The football, volleyball and soccer teams went a combined 6-0 on the weekend, highlighted by volleyball improving to 10-0, its best start in school history, and football breaking into the top 10 of the AP poll.

2. It was a good looking crowd Saturday as 60,937 filled Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and were treated to a fantastic, and convincing, opening half. We know Rebel Nation will turn out again in two weeks against Memphis on Sept. 27.

3. On the field, Ole Miss has gone as Bo Wallace has gone, and Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5 percent), including 80.5 percent of his passes since the start of the second half against Boise State.

4. Wallace's complete stat line since the start of the second half against Boise State: 58-of-72, 875 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

"It's what I'm expecting out of myself," Wallace said. "I'm trying to get in a rhythm as soon as I walk out. Get in a rhythm, and I have felt good the past couple of games. I'm playing how I expect myself to play. I have to continue it each week."

5. With the help of long touchdown runs from I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, the Rebels eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the first time this season. Co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner was pleased with the explosive plays in the running game, but he wants more consistent three and four-yard runs. He also noted opposing defense have been selling out to stop the run.

"I keep saying it every week, and it doesn't look like it's great, but we did have a bunch of yards," Werner said. "It opens up the passing game. If they're going to take the run away, we're going to pass it and get some big plays."

6. It's not Shark Week anymore on the Discovery Channel, but it seems like episodes keep airing during Ole Miss football games with that vicious Landshark Defense. The Rebels have allowed just two touchdowns in their first three games and only 189 passing yards in their past two games.

7. The pass defense ranks second in the SEC and 7th nationally, giving up just 4.4 yards per attempt. The biggest area of concern appears to be the run defense, as opponents are averaging 4.4 yards per rush, which is 12th in the SEC and 84th nationally. 

8. Starting cornerback Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson continue to show up and make plays. Hilton picked off his first pass of the season and leads the team with 16 tackles and four pass break-ups, while Golson picked off two passes, including one that he returned 59 yards for a touchdown. 

9. With their three interceptions, Ole Miss leads the nation with eight interceptions and ranks fifth nationally with nine turnovers forced. Individually, Golson is one of five players with three interceptions on the season. 

10. With a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, good for fifth among SEC Western Division teams. The Rebels play each of the other four teams in a five-week stretch starting with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4. 

11. The SEC West is a combined 18-0 against non-SEC West teams, including wins over Boise State, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas Tech. The lone loss among SEC West teams this season was Arkansas' 45-21 loss at fellow SEC West team Auburn.

12. It was in doubt for a couple of sets, but the Ole Miss volleyball team rallied to defeat Jacksonville State 3-1 to capture the Magnolia Invitational and improve to 10-0 on the season. The Rebels have four more nonconference matches, at home in the Rebel Classic, before entering SEC play.

13. Freshman Lexi Thompson helped Ole Miss through the second and third sets, putting down a combined 13 kills in the two sets, to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead in the match against Jacksonville State. She finished with a career-high 18 kills and 17 digs and earned tournament MVP honors.

"I expected a change, but I didn't expect this big of a change," Thompson said. "I knew that we would do better, and I was excited to see what we would do with a new coach, and we're going well beyond any expectations."

14. After battling injuries for much of her Ole Miss career, Georgia Russell scored her first collegiate goal in a 4-0 win over MTSU Sunday. It was a cool moment for the Tupelo, Mississippi, native, one of four native Mississippians on this year's roster. Russell was one of three players to score her first goal of the season, along with Jennifer Miller and Gretchen Harknett.

"It was a struggle," Russell said. "I had to get back in shape and get my touch back on the ball. I hurt my ankle last season. It's been a struggle and I'm getting there. It looks like things are coming together. I'm 100 percent healthy, and I want to keep it that way."

15. A couple of interesting road trips on the horizon for Ole Miss soccer this weekend. On Friday, the Rebels travel to Mississippi State for a match that will be televised on the SEC Network. On Sunday, they play at UCF, the alma mater of Ole Miss head coach Matt Mott.

16. In case you missed it, here's Episode 3 of The Season: Ole Miss Football and photo gallery and infographic from the win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Leading 1-0 after controlling the play for much of the game, Ole Miss opened up a 3-0 lead on Middle Tennessee with a pair of goals in the final minute of the first half on the way to a 4-0 win Sunday.

After scoring the first goal of the match, sophomore Addie Forbus broke free, looking for her second goal. Her initial shot was blocked by the MTSU keeper but sophomore Georgia Russell controlled the rebound and scored inside the far post.

"Addie was 1-v-1 with the goalkeeper, and she really made it happen," Russell said. "I followed through and there was nobody out there besides me and Addie, so I took a shot, and luckily it went in."

"She smacked that ball on a dime," Forbus said. "She put it right in the far post. It was perfect. It was a great goal."

For Russell, it was a long, winding road to her first career goal after suffering an injury in the preseason two years ago and then suffering another season-ending injury last October.

"It was a struggle," Russell said. "I had to get back in shape and get my touch back on the ball. I hurt my ankle last season. It's been a struggle and I'm getting there. It looks like things are coming together. I'm 100 percent healthy, and I want to keep it that way."

Seconds later, after a scramble in the box, sophomore Sara Coleman came up with the loose ball off a deflection and passed it to junior Jennifer Miller, who scored with two seconds left on the clock for her first goal of the season.

"We tell to our team that it's a 90-minutes game, and each half is 45 minutes, so play it to end," head coach Matt Mott said. "I really like our fitness level. We are a fit team, and when you're fit like that, you can handle the end of halves. And I also like our rotation, both up front and in the midfield, getting a lot of guys some minutes, which are getting them ready to play and also helps with the fitness level late in halves."

In the second half, sophomore Gretchen Harknett added to the scoring and joined Russell and Miller in scoring her first goal of the season, as she converted a penalty kick after Coleman was taken down in the box.

"It was really big for Gretchen Harknett," Mott said. "She's played really well all nonconference, and for her to get on the board was big for her because she's had a couple of really good looks. If she starts scoring, we're going to be really dangerous and she's right there."

"A lot of people thought without the big-star names that we weren't able to put any goals in, but we have shown that we still have a great offense and attack, and we're really dangerous when we get the ball in dangerous areas," Forbus said.

With Sunday's win, Ole Miss improves to 5-1-2 on the season, and despite the six goals on the weekend, Mott looks for the team to improves its finishing ahead of a two-match road swing at Mississippi State on Friday and Central Florida in its final nonconference match on Sunday.

"We have to spend some time in practice on finishing for sure," Mott said. "We're doing a good job of creating chance and now we have to find the back of net. It's obviously really hard to do. On Friday night down at Austin Peay, we had a number of chances too that we just weren't clean enough up in front of goal, so it has to be a focus for us this week certainly, and we'll do that. And hopefully clean it up for Friday."

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."

Thompson Lifts Rebels to Historic Start

With a chance to make history, Ole Miss dropped a first set for the first time this season.

The Rebels answered the bell winning the next three sets to defeat Jacksonville State 3-1 and improve to 10-0 on the season, the best start in school history.

"We were all looking at each other wondering who would step up and talk," freshman Lexi Thompson said. "And finally Cara Fisher just said, 'We need to make history. This is it. This is all we have. Go for it. Don't worry about what happened. We're playing best 2-out-of-3.'"

Thompson led the way for Ole Miss, finishing with a career-high 18 kills and 17 digs, her third double-double of the season. She had seven kills in the second set and six kills in the third set to help give the Rebels a 2-1 lead in the match.

"She had a tremendous night," head coach Steven McRoberts said. "She had a really good weekend for us here at home. Her play really helped us build some momentum throughout the night. She had a double-double. She was clearly a go-to hitter for us in crunch situations, and as a freshman, she stepped up and did a good job."

In the fourth set, the Rebels got another lift from sophomore Melanie Crow, who had seven kills of her 16 kills in the frame, including the match-winner.

"I expected a change, but I didn't expect this big of a change," Thompson said. "I knew that we would do better, and I was excited to see what we would do with a new coach, and we're going well beyond any expectations."

"We're not done yet," McRoberts said. "I hope our focus isn't on a streak. I hope it's on our next match and our focus is on getting better every day. We have talked all along that when you stay in the system, you work hard and everyone buys in, things like this just happen."

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."

3 Things About Gameday - Ole Miss vs. ULL

With back-to-back tournament titles to open the season, the Rebels are 7-0 to start the season for the first time since 2007 and are also the only Southeastern Conference team still undefeated.

"We feel like at this point in our season that the team is really buying into our process and really holding true to the values that we've instilled in them," head coach Steven McRoberts said. "It's like we're seeing a rebirth of our volleyball program here. We're working to create a different culture. We've had a few demons that we've had to kill along the way. We were able to do some of that this past weekend."

Among those demons were five five-set losses and six four-set losses, as Ole Miss posted a 14-17 mark last season.

After the Rebels did not drop a set on their way to capturing the Buffalo Classic, they dropped their first set of the season against Memphis at the Memphis Invitational. Ole Miss later saved a match point 14-13 in the fifth and decisive set before scoring the next two points to clinch the match.

"We talked about it during the fifth set," McRoberts said. "We made the changeover and we got on pretty good run, before Memphis called timeout. I told the team, 'This is a point in our season where we can define who we are. If you guys want to change how you think of ourselves, we have to win these types of matches.' 

"I was really proud of them that even with Memphis having a match point, we fought it off and won in a tough environment. I wouldn't say it was a huge step, but It was definitely a step in the right direction for us. The huge step will come when we're doing those types of things against SEC opponents."

McRoberts noted the team's aggressiveness and confidence, making plays and executing the game plan in critical moments against Memphis. The Rebels turned around and defeated Arkansas State and UT-Martin in four sets the next day to capture the Memphis Invitational.

"Our drive to win is so much clearer than it was last year," said junior Nakeyta Clair, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. "We know what we have to do to win. We know we have to win games like that to get to where we want to be at the end."

Ole Miss wraps up nonconference play with their first seven matches at home starting with the Magnolia Invitational this weekend. McRoberts said fans can expect to see a program that's getting better and a program that's going to be competitive all season and in the seasons to come. He's also aware of fans' expectations for the program.

"From our standpoint, we have told the team: Fans want to come see winners," McRoberts said. "If we're trying to convince someone who's watching other events on campus, what would make them come watch you? It's going to be winning more. That's the business end of it. If they're coming to watch, they are coming expecting us to win."

Wallace Leads Rebels in Romp

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a 28-point explosion in the fourth quarter to pull away from Boise State in the season opener, the Ole Miss offense delivered a message loud and clear in a 41-3 demolition of Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Ole Miss rolled up 34 first downs and 547 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play and converting 10 of its 15 third-down attempts. The Rebels scored on seven of their first eight drives, with the one exception being their fifth drive that ended the first half.

"They gave us exactly what we thought," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night. Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."

Wallace led the way with perhaps the most complete game of his Ole Miss career, completing 23-of-30 passes and shredding the Vanderbilt defense for 320 yards and a touchdown. It was his second straight 300-yard passing game, the ninth of his career, which is one shy of tying Eli Manning's school record.

Between the second half of the Boise State game and the first half of the Vanderbilt game, Wallace completed 31-of-39 passes for 488 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The 488 yards would have shattered Archie Manning's school-record 436 yards against Alabama in 1969.

"He didn't make any bad decisions, or anything that was even close," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said.

With a 34-0 lead halfway through the third quarter, Wallace made way for redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who combined to lead the Rebels on a 13-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Kincade, his first career touchdown.

"That was fun for me," said Wallace of watching the game from the sideline. "I was watching Ryan warm up and I was laughing at him because I could tell he was a little nervous. It was good. They did a really good job."

The quarterbacks completed passes to eight different receivers. Five receivers caught at least four passes, led by sophomore tight end Evan Engram with career highs in receptions (7) and yards (112) and junior wide receiver Cody Core who hauled in his third touchdown catch of the season.

The Rebels also got the running game off the ground, rushing for 180 yards on 50 carries, a 3.6 average, after being held to 71 yards in the season opener against Boise State.

"We have to continue it," said Wallace of the start of the season for the offense. "There are some things we have to clean up. The defense is doing a great job in getting us the ball where we can run some plays. There's always something to clean up, so we'll watch the film tomorrow, and I'm sure we won't feel as good about it as we do right now."


VIDEO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt Motivational

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss travels to Nashville for its SEC opener against Vanderbilt from LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Rebels Look to Get Ground Game Rolling

The coaches challenged the players this week after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts (a 2.1 yards per rush average), and had no gains of 20 yards of more. The Rebels also look to clean up their penalties, as they committed seven false starts in the first half alone against Boise State.

For Vanderbilt, it will be its second game after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment under its new coaching staff. In their first game, the Commodores allowed 4.3 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per play on the ground, and held Temple to 2-of-17 on third-down conversions.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," said Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke on Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game, and you want to try to get that corrected going into game two."

Commodores Seek Consistency at Quarterback

After playing three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said he is looking for consistency at the position against Ole Miss.

Sophomore Patton Robinette, graduate student Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, and Mason said he would not announce the starter publicly prior to the game.

Robinette started the game against Temple, completing 4-of-6 passes for 38 yards, while Rivers earned the most playing time, completing 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards and an interception.

"You go through the process of evaluating and you want to see what you see in practice measure up to what you see on game day," said Mason in his weekly press conference Tuesday. "We don't have the consistency at the position that you'd like but I needed to see all three guys in order to see where we are."

Rivalry Feel, NFL Atmosphere in SEC Opener

It's a rivalry born out of competitiveness, but that's what Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have become in recent years. There have been notable exceptions, but it's been a closely contested series, with 10 of the last 15 meetings decided by eight points or less.

Two years ago, Vanderbilt erased a 17-point second-half deficit, and rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford. Last year, in Nashville, Ole Miss snapped the Commodores' three-game winning streak in the series with a 39-35 win behind a late 75-yard touchdown run from Jeff Scott.

Saturday marks the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the game will be played inside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. With a large Ole Miss contingent in the Nashville area, it might resemble a neutral-site to a pro-Ole Miss crowd.

"They tend to get up extremely high for us," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze of Vanderbilt. "It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason."


Freeze, Mason Preview SEC Opener

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. 

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason (starts at 24:58 mark)

Opening statement...

"Our football team is coming off a tough loss versus Temple. We found out a lot about ourselves in terms of who we are offensively, defensively and on special teams. The quarterback situation has been definitely resolving itself. We're working though the process of making sure that our schemes fit what their skill sets are. 

"In terms of our offensive line, we're working toward getting on track and doing what we do. It will be great to get Jerron Seymour back. Ralph Webb ran extremely well. The tight ends were very productive. In terms of the run and pass game, we need to make sure that those guys have opportunities for touches. We had a young receiving core group grow up in front of our eyes. That's where we are offensively.

"Defensively, we're looking at how we played. This group is definitely capable of doing great things. We have to keep being about the work at hand. Our focus is sharp and narrow, just in terms of the opponent in front of us. We're going to face a really good Ole Miss team. Our defensive unit has a tough task ahead. Our front has to continue working toward stopping the run, being able to set edges on the perimeter and playing from the top down in the secondary."

On the team's bounce back since the loss to Temple...

"They have done exactly what they needed to do and that's make the corrections, re-focus, understand who they are and understand more or less what we need to in order to be the team that we want to be. That's a day-to-day focus and day-to-day commitment. We work toward dominating the day. The practices have been physical and fast. That's the way we like it and that's the way we need to be."

On the offensive tempo of Ole Miss...

"Ole Miss is going to be much faster than Temple. They can go at a much faster pace and they have several speeds. They can go from a regular tempo, to a NASCAR tempo, to a warp-speed tempo. The ball is being hiked with anywhere from 20-28 seconds left (on the play clock). You have to know and understand what their mechanics are, and once you know their mechanics, you have to make sure you get lined up, get your calls in, structure your defense and play fast."

On a rivalry feel in games against Ole Miss...

"On Saturday, we looked at a little bit of Ole Miss in terms of preparing these guys, and some of the veterans got up and talked about the rivalry between the two schools, what it is and how tight it's been. That's where your leadership has to come out and give you a chance to understand the scope of the game. Not only is it an SEC opponent, but it's a rivalry game. There's always a little more on these rivalry games, but it also helped us understand where we need to go and what the level of intensity is going to be. With Ole Miss having a decent fan base here in the Nashville area, it's going to be a great crowd. We're excited and looking forward to it."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 58:12 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're excited to come away with a win last week against Boise in the Chick-fil-A (Kickoff) Classic. Let me take a moment to say what a wonderful organization Chick-fil-A is for our sport and the partnership they have with the SEC. Those guys are super people and run a first-class deal, so we were excited to represent our conference there and come away with a win.

"Our defense played extremely well for most of the game, as did our special teams. Offensively, we struggled the entire first half, but we settled (down) in the second half and played much better, so hopefully we can continue improving in all areas this Saturday up in Nashville."

On a rivalry feel in games against Vanderbilt...

"I've only been back here for two years, but we've had two phenomenal games with them. When I was an assistant here, we had some good ones also, so it's been more the competitiveness of the games when we played them. They tend to get up extremely high for us. It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason, and most of the time here (in Oxford) also."

On playing at LP Field and whether it will seem like an Ole Miss home game...

"It will be my first experience playing them there. In our bowl game, we certainly traveled well to (LP Field). Our fans always travel well, so I expect to have a very good representation there. It would be nice if it does, but I'm not sure if it will or not."

On Cody Core separating himself from other receivers and earning a start against Boise State...

"Probably after the second week, he was the most consistent that we had. We were playing him outside for the first two weeks, but he kept showing up. He's an intelligent young man, so we started moving him inside some, hoping to get the return of Collins Moore who could play outside, and we needed more depth inside with a bigger body besides just Quincy (Adeboyejo). We moved him there and he picked it up very quickly and continued to be the most consistent performer throughout camp. 

"I couldn't be more pleased for his success. Everyone knows about the tragedy that he went through in losing his mother who was very young and was a super lady who influenced many people as a schoolteacher. Our team was so ecstatic for him to have success in his first game."

The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 2

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