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Wommack, Rebels Prep for Prescott

Battling injury, junior quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench and helped rally Mississippi State to a come-from-behind 17-10 win in last year's Egg Bowl. He led a drive that ended with the game-tying field goal at 10-10 and then he ran for what proved to the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

This season, he has helped Mississippi State to a 10-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the latest College Football Playoff poll. He leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in points responsible for, accounting for 36 total touchdowns and 216 points.

"They're a very good football team," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Dak Prescott makes them better than very good."

The SEC's leader in total offense averaging 327.7 yards per game, Prescott ranks third in passing (246.7 ypg) and sixth in rushing (81.0 ypg). His 23 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing touchdowns also lead the league.

With more experience and better health, Prescott has improved as a passer, upping his completion percentage (58.4 to 61.4) and his yards per attempt (7.3 to 8.8) from last year.

"I think the injury (last season) and the experience," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "That's the two biggest things. He got beat up in that Texas A&M game last year. You can tell he's an extremely tough kid. He fought through an ankle injury in that Arkansas game. He just keeps pushing through it. And he's throwing the ball much better. He knows where he's going with it."

"He is a major part of their program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It starts with him. It starts with the way he gets his guys to play. He can throw well, and he can also run the ball. That's always a big thing when you're faced with a quarterback that has a run threat also."

Prescott also combines with junior running back Josh Robinson for a powerful one-two bunch in the Mississippi State backfield. Robinson ranks third in the SEC in rushing yards (98.6 ypgs) in rushing touchdowns (11).

"I watched our game last year and some games from last year when he was playing," said Wommack of Robinson. "He has a low center of gravity. I thought we tackled him last year, but you better gang tackle him. There is one play that comes to mind against Kentucky where he broke eight tackles, spun this way and that way. It's a mindset with him. You can tell that he's determined to make positive yardage every time he touches the ball."

Alabama has had the most success defending Prescott this season, holding him to 56.3 percent passing for 290 yards with two touchdowns and a season-worst three interceptions in a 25-20 win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama also contained him on the ground, limited him to just 82 yards on 22 carries, a 3.73 yards per carry average.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," Wommack said. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part - every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Wallace 'Ready to Go'

As head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace is expected to play Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

 "He's been limited some, but you would have to chain him down to keep him from going in this game," said Freeze on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Wednesday. "He's getting better every do, so I anticipate him being ready to go."

Head coach Hugh Freeze called the Egg Bowl the most prized possession of this university's football program, and getting the Egg Bowl back should be enough motivation for his team entering Saturday's game against Mississippi State. 

An Independence, Mississippi, native, Freeze said he and his team have a clear understanding of how much this rivalry means to so many.

"I know this one is pretty intense and sometimes in my opinion it crosses the line to what is good and all of that," Freeze said. "I want to beat them as bad as they want to beat us, particularly two days out of the year -- this Saturday and then National Signing Day. Those are the two days I feel that way."

The rivalry means a lot of graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford, the most senior member of the team, who will be a part of his sixth Egg Bowl, playing in his third after missing the others due to injuries.

"Although it's a rivalry, you don't want to make it such a big deal that the players can't play," Shackelford said. "You want everybody even-keeled and ready to prepare throughout the week. Saturday is just a result of what you've done throughout the week."

It also means a lot to senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, not only because it's Senior Day for him and his fellow seniors, but also because he's one of 53 Mississippi natives on the team.

"It's the most important game of the year, especially with them being 10-1," Sanders said. "They're going to come in, after seeing our performance last week, and feel like it's going to be an easy win. All of our guys know the importance of this game. All the hard work we put in during the spring and summer, we work toward this game."

The Rebels met as a team on Sunday, the day after the 30-0 loss to Arkansas, and they about the game in Fayetteville and then put in the trash and moved on Mississippi State. 

The team watched a video with some clips from last year's game, a 17-10 overtime loss, and several players spoke up about the upcoming game, including junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and injured sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"We've had time to meet and talk and discuss," Shackelford said. "I like the way this team is feeling going into this game. Of course, this is a game that doesn't take a lot of motivation to get up for."

Finishing Strong in Year Three

After starting the season 7-0 and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, losers of three straight Southeastern Conference games and relegated to a spoiler role against rival Mississippi State, which remains in SEC West and College Football Playoff contention.

"We worked hard all year to be in the playoff, so it's disappointing to us that we're not there," Sanders said. "Teams in front of us had the same opportunities we had and they made the best of them. We came up short a couple of games. You have to take your hats off to them because they did what they had to do. Overall, we're disappointed, but we're not going to let not being in the playoff affect how we're going to perform on Saturday."

Speaking to the media after the loss to Arkansas, Freeze said he told his team that he didn't like the way they finished year two -- losing its last two regular season games to Missouri and Mississippi State -- and he didn't like the way they played Saturday. 

On Monday, Freeze said they have to evaluate why the disappointments down the stretch have happened, whether it's depth or the energy you have to expend to compete in the SEC, but he's confident not only in the big picture, but also in getting his team ready to play Saturday.

"The big picture is I still think we're ahead of schedule," Freeze said. "We're disappointed but ahead of schedule. We have a lot to play for with pride on the line and eight or nine wins in the regular season." 

Wallace, Tunsil Expected to Play

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas, which caused him to miss two series, but he came back to play through the third quarter but sat for much of the fourth quarter.

Wallace has missed not a start during his three-year career, and he is not expected to miss his final regular season game, Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

"It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game," Freeze said. "He's hungry and wants to play in this game in a bad way. He's going to try to go no matter what. He's gotten better each day. Hopefully he'll be close to 100 percent."

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, are getting more reps in practice in case they have to play. 

Speaking generally about injuries, Freeze said all of the players who made the trip to Fayetteville are expected give it a go against Mississippi State, including sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked really good for the first half but didn't play much after the shoulder popped out again," Freeze said. "He looked really solid in the first half. We'll give him a lot of treatment this week. We'll get him ready to go Saturday." 

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year, will represent Ole Miss as one of 10 finalists for the C Spire Conerly Trophy, which honors the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi. 

For more on the finalists and the Conerly Trophy, click here.

"It's well documented with his turnaround and buy-in percentage and doing the little things right," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's really pleasing when you see a kid do that and have success on the field. He's getting a lot of notoriety nationally with different types of awards that he might be up for. We're excited for him."

The Pascagoula, Mississippi, native leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions, one shy of tying the school single-season record. His 15 career interceptions is the most among active Division I FBS players and is tied for the fourth-most in school history.

Golson has helped Ole Miss lead the nation in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and the fewest touchdowns allowed (16). Led by Golson, Ole Miss leads the SEC with 19 interceptions and 28 turnover forced.

His interception in the end zone with 37 seconds left sealed the win over No. 1 Alabama, and he returned one of his two interceptions against Louisiana-Lafayette for a 59-yard touchdown.

"We're ranked high in defensive categories and he's been one of the keys," Freeze said. "We've been able to feel like he could play on an island at times. He's made great plays for us, in particular the turnovers he's created. Obviously there are people up front that help us with that in the pass rush and things. He's made a lot of key plays for us through the course of our senior year."

The trophy will be awarded Dec. 2 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. As was the case last year, fans can vote. Fan voting by C Spire will account for a weighted 10 percent of the voting with a statewide panel of media accounting for the other 90 percent.

Just as the media voters do, fans will vote for a first place, second place and third place winner. For more information, entry rules and qualification on fan voting, go to www.cspire.com/conerly beginning Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Named after former Ole Miss great Charlie Conerly, the trophy has been given every season since 1996. Past Ole Miss winners include quarterback Stewart Patridge (1997), running back Deuce McAllister (1999), quarterback Eli Manning (2001, 2003), linebacker Patrick Willis (2006) and quarterback Bo Wallace (2012).

Here are a couple of stories from earlier this season on Golson:

Buy-In paying off for Golson, writes Austin Miller of OleMissSports.com (Oct. 8)

Golson makes most of potential in final season, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com (Nov. 7)

Rebels' cornerback Golson blossom as senior after difficult journey, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal (Nov. 16)

Here an infographic from last week highlighting some of Golson's accomplishments:

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Rebels Unable to Overcome Slow Start

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas jumped out to a 17-0 in the first quarter and took advantage of six Ole Miss turnovers on the way to a 30-0 shutout win Saturday in Fayetteville.

"I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that we weren't totally locked in," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That showed at the beginning of the game. That's my fault. I have to make sure our kids are ready. It was a weird week for whatever reason. It's disappointing that we didn't start better."

Two of the Ole Miss turnovers came inside Arkansas' 20-yard line, as the Rebels were looking to get back in the game. Down 17-0 late in the first half, quarterback Bo Wallace had Ole Miss driving to the Arkansas 13-yard line before being intercepted in the end zone. 

Arkansas dealt a final decisive blow to the Rebels, as safety Rohan Gaines intercepted Wallace in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, extending the Razorbacks' lead to 27-0 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

"You can't turn it over the number of times we did and expect to win for sure," Freeze said. "I kept hoping we could get something good to happen and cut it to a score or two. Our defense would have played well enough to give us a chance, but we never did."

Playing with an ankle injury for much of the game, Wallace was 16-of-31 for 235 yards, accounting for 218 of the team's 316 total yards and breaking Eli Manning's school record for career total yards, but he turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two lost fumbles. 

"He was hurting, but he was adamant he wanted to play," Freeze said. "He's had such a good career for us, and I felt like he was our best chance to get back in the game. He took us down the field a couple of times, and then we had the turnovers, which resulted in zero points, so we couldn't make a game of it."

The Rebels entered Saturday in contention for the SEC Western Division title, needing to win out and an Auburn win over Alabama, which made the loss, their third straight in league play, all the more disappointing.

"Our kids played hard until the end," Freeze said. "We didn't come out sharp for sure. We did some things that you can't do being an elite team. We have been a good team this year, but we haven't been elite at times. That's where we want to get to."

"It's tough, knowing what was in our grasp," tight end Evan Engram said. "That's what we thought about all week. That was our fuel. That was what we were working toward. For this to happen, it's tough. We had everything in our grasp. We were going to try to win out, play our best football, and see where it put us in the West and the Playoff. That's all pretty much out of the window."

After a 7-0 start and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, looking to finish the regular season on a high note, improving its bowl standing and playing spoiler to rival Mississippi State in the process.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

Rebels Ahead of Schedule in Year Three

It's sometimes easy to forget where the Ole Miss football program was just three short years ago, when Hugh Freeze was interviewing for the head coaching position.

The Rebels had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. 

Three years later, No. 8 Ole Miss is 8-2 (4-2 SEC) and remains alive in the SEC Western Division race and the College Football Playoff discussion, but that was not the original plan, and Freeze is glad the Rebels have gone off-script.

"My original plan that I had, that I actually presented in my interview, was that we would be going to a bowl game this year," Freeze said. "The goal was to be very competitive and find a way to get enough wins to go to a bowl game. That was the original plan, but we're excited it didn't work out. I'm glad I was wrong."

Many of the seniors endured that 2-10 season in 2011, and their buy-in, doing the little things and holding the team accountable, Freeze said, has been a reason the turnaround has happened as fast as it has.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Freeze said they have talked about the possibilities at their fingertips and what they can go earn by finishing strong.

"It's kind of bittersweet that it's coming to an end," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "But we have a chance to finish as one of the best team in Ole Miss history. I'm ready to see what happens. I came in at 2-10, and for me to maybe leave 10-2, that would say a lot about where we came from over these few years and where the program is headed."

"Let's get No. 9," Freeze said. "Senquez is a little bit ahead of his coach there. I'm thrilled in year three for us to be were we are. It's way ahead of schedule. Of course, we want to finish strong. Anything above this now certainly expedites our journey a little faster, but you have to go earn it. The only thing I can think about is playing at Arkansas on Saturday and hopefully competing at a level that gives us a chance to win it in the fourth quarter."

Starting Five Back Together

Ole Miss had its starting offensive line back for practice this week, a group that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Aaron Morris, center Ben Still, right guard Justin Bell and right tackle Fahn Cooper.

Still missed the LSU game and played through injury against Auburn, while Tunsil missed the Auburn and Presbyterian games and Morris missed the Presbyterian game.

"It will be interesting to see him go back out and play after three weeks off," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Tunsil. "He's anxious to get back out there, but he's practiced and tested out well. He's done everything. I look for him to be 100 percent, or close to it."

"He can't play receiver," said Bell, when asked if Tunsil had any limitations in practice. "If anything, that's probably his only limitation."

Behind the starting five, Robert Conyers gives Ole Miss options at center and tackle, having started the last three games at both spots, while Rod Taylor has gained valuable experience and earned his first career start against Presbyterian.

Luke said Morris and Bell will start, as they did through the first seven games, but he looks for Taylor to play as many snaps as both of them, giving Ole Miss a three-man rotation at the two guard positions.

"He's really come on, said Luke of Taylor. "Getting in there and playing, sometimes a light bulb goes off. The more you play, the better off you are. He's played really well the last two weeks against Auburn and Presbyterian. He graded out the highest of all the linemen, so I'm really proud of him and the development he has showed."

Landsharks Brace for Hogs Ground Attack

Arkansas is one of just two teams in the nation with two running backs to rush for 800-plus yards, boasting two of the Southeastern Conference's top five rushers. Junior Jonathan Williams ranks fourth averaging 93.2 yards per game, while sophomore Alex Collins ranks fifth averaging 88.6 yards per game.

Williams and Collins have benefited from running behind a massive offensive line averaging 328.4 pounds per player, larger than any NFL starting offensive line.

"We don't really look at size," sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown said. "I mean, you can look at guys like Issac Gross, who's been holding his own since his freshman year, and C.J. Johnson. I guess athleticism and movement makes up for some of the size."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 232.9 yards per game and ranks third averaging 5.45 yards per carry, but they have had significantly more success in non-conference play than conference play. 

The Razorbacks average 151.8 yards per game and 4.00 yards per carry through five conference games compared to 354.5 yards per game and 7.13 yards per carry in non-conference game.

"It's the best run game we've seen all year long," Brown said. "Every game, they come with it. They just try to power you off the hole, pound you constantly and run the same plays over and over to try to get you out of the gap."

In its eight wins, Ole Miss allowed just 96.1 rushing yards per game and a 2.82 yards per carry average. In its two losses to LSU and Auburn, Ole Miss allowed 256.0 rushing yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry average.

Arkansas, like LSU and Auburn, emphasizes the run, so Brown and the Ole Miss defense expects their success to go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

"This game is going to be on us and nobody else, just like the LSU game was on us," Brown said. "We have to be physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage. If we don't do that, then we don't have a chance."

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The Ole Miss football team was off, but it was a busy week in Ole Miss athletics nevertheless, as the men's and women's basketball teams opened their respective seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss football team did not play Saturday, but the Rebels got the help they needed to remain in the Southeastern Conference Western Division race, as Alabama defeated Mississippi State and then Georgia defeated Auburn. To win the SEC West, Ole Miss still has to win on the road at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State, and then Auburn must defeat Alabama on Nov. 29.

- On the other side, in the SEC Eastern Division, Missouri controls its own destiny at 8-2 overall and 5-1 in SEC play, with games remaining on the road at Tennessee and at home against Arkansas. If Missouri falters, Georgia would win the SEC East title at 6-2 in the SEC.

- Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks were going to beat somebody, and they finally did it by shutting out LSU 17-0 to snap their 17-game losing streak. Stat of the game: Arkansas held LSU to just 123 yards of total offense.

- Bruce Feldman wrote about Body Blow theory last year, as it related to Stanford football. The same theory can perhaps be applied to this week's Ole Miss-Arkansas matchup. SEC teams are just 1-4 in games the week after playing LSU with the lone exception being Alabama's 25-20 win over Mississippi State.

- If Ole Miss defeats Arkansas and Mississippi State defeats Vanderbilt, Nov. 29 sets up for another memorable day in the SEC Western Division. Ole Miss and Mississippi State would both remain in the SEC Western Division race, while Alabama would control its own destiny and Auburn would look to play spoiler.

- Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 8 in the Associated Press and coaches polls by virtue of losses by Arizona State and Auburn. The Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country

- The men's basketball team dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Charleston Southern in its season opener. Ole Miss went 19-of-63 from the field and 6-of-30 from 3-point range, but it was unable to overcome a 54-50 rebounding deficiency, as the Buccaneers won the game 65-64 on a tip-in dunk with 0.1 seconds left in overtime.

"I have been doing this for 10 years, and I have never had one like this," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "You have to do your best to learn from it. It's easier said than done. It's going to hurt. You want it to hurt. They were stunned in there. They should be."

- One of the bright spots was the play of junior guard Martavious Newby, who led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds. He's a stabilizing force and calming influence, providing a toughness that Kennedy said he hopes can become more contagious and spread throughout the team.

- The women's basketball team is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Grambling State and Mississippi Valley State. Ole Miss suffocated MVSU, as they held the Lady Devilettes to just 38 points and forced 46 turnovers, turning them into 51 points off turnovers.

"I have coached teams that have forced that number of turnovers," head coach Matt Insell said. "That's a number we look at. We can gauge our hustle on how many turnovers we force and how many deflections we get. Sometimes you may not turn a team over a lot, but you get a lot of deflections. That's just as good as a turnover. We really gauge a lot of what we're doing on turnovers, deflections and steals. If those numbers are high, we played pretty darned good defensively."

- Newcomers make up six of the top seven scorers, with five of them already finishing in double figures this season. Leading the way, however, is senior forward Tia Faleru averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds through two games. She also became the 26th 1,000-point scorer in program history.

Wilkins, Dodson Shine in Blowout Win

Ole Miss racked up the second-most yards in school history, totaling 640 yards, including 402 yards on the ground, in a 48-0 rout of Presbyterian.

The Rebels were able to limit the reps for several players in the contest, with younger players and backups picking up the slack. Among them, two players stood out for head coach Hugh Freeze, as the Rebels more than doubled their highest rushing total of the season.

"The two that jumped out to everyone were Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson," Freeze said. "Their physical, downhill running they did was very impressive today. How does that equate to some of the defenses we'll play in weeks to come? I'm not sure. I'm impressed with what we saw, for sure."

Wilkins and Dodson notched their first career 100-yard rushing games, and it was the first time Ole Miss had a pair of 100-yard rushers since the Louisiana-Lafayette game in 2010. The Rebels' 402 rushing yards were their most since totaling 443 yards against Vanderbilt in 1979.

Wilkins led the way on the ground with 10 carries for 171 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown run, while Dodson rushed three times for 128 yards, including touchdown runs of 62 and 65 yards.

"They were making big runs," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "On a couple of his runs, Mark made a nice cut that set up the run. It looked like there was a huge hole, but on one of them there was a guy in the hole. He made a nice cut that messed him up and took it to the house. Jordan was getting hit 20 yards down the field and carrying guys for 10-15 yards, which is what we want. He's that type of back."

Wilkins, Dodson and the rest of the ball-carriers ran behind an offensive line that was without sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and junior offensive guard Aaron Morris. In their place, freshman Rod Taylor made his first career start at right guard, while junior Craig Frigo played significant snaps at the other guard position.

Some of it was their FCS opponent, some of it was their own execution, Werner said, but the 400-plus-yard rushing game was a significant improvement over its 149.1 yards per game average entering the game, which ranked 12th among Southeastern Conference teams.

"The young guys, when they came in, we were moving the ball," Werner said. "Those backs weren't running with no holes, so they obviously did a good job. That was not an SEC defense over there, but we have really told ourselves we have to get better in the run game, and we did today."


 

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-PC

Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss hosts FCS opponent Presbyterian in its final non-conference matchup of the regular season.

Execute, Stay Heathy

Saturday's game with Presbyterian is more about Ole Miss than its opponent, as the team's two primary focuses are executing and staying healthy.

To expect his team to be all hyped up and excited coming off the last two weeks, head coach Hugh Freeze said, is probably not a reasonable expectation, but they have to execute and find a way to win. 

The Rebels are also battling a number of injuries, so they look to hold out or limit some players, while keeping others healthy ahead of a bye week and their final two games at Arkansas on Nov. 22 and at home against No. 1 Mississippi State on Nov. 29.

"It's important to our program that we bounce back and we play well with the ones who are healthy," Freeze said. "I've been in these games before where if you don't play well you don't feel great. We need to feel great going into our open week. We need to feel great about the way we're progressing. We have to work hard this week to get our kids ready for that. Hopefully our fans understand the importance of being here to support these guys." 

Another Look at the Backup Quarterback Battle

Depending on the flow of the game, Saturday should present an opportunity for Freeze and his staff to get a longer look at backup quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

Listed as co-backups on the Ole Miss depth chart, neither Buchanan nor Kincade have attempted a pass since the Louisiana-Lafayette game Sept. 13.

Buchanan is 5-of-9 for 42 yards with two carries for 18 yards, while Kincade is 7-of-8 for 33 yards with 12 carries for 44 yards, and they both look to position themselves as the backup quarterback going forward this season and the starting quarterback in spring drills.

"I would hope we can work Ryan and DeVante some Saturday," Freeze said. "I would be disappointed if we don't get them some look They deserve it, and we need it."

Young Players on Display

Two freshmen, defensive end Marquis Haynes and cornerback Kendarius Webster, have already made their first career starts for Ole Miss this season.

Webster is expected to make his second career start against Presbyterian, while offensive guard Rod Taylor is expected to join the list and make his first career start at right guard.

With players being held out and limited on both sides of the ball, Saturday presents an opportunity for Haynes, Webster and Taylor, among others to make an impression on the coaching staff going forward this season and in the future.

"Hopefully the case will be a lot of kids will get some reps," Freeze said. "That will be determined Saturday by the way we perform."

With injuries mounting on both sides of the ball, Saturday's game against Presbyterian presents an opportunity for young players and backups to gain experience and make an impression on the coaching staff.

Among those injured players, head coach Hugh Freeze said, are sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who will both be held out Saturday. 

Junior running back I'Tavius Mathers and junior safety Trae Elston, Freeze said, have not been cleared for practice and are doubtful to play, while they will try to limit the reps for senior safety Cody Prewitt and junior center Ben Still, among other players.

As part of the shuffle, freshman Rod Taylor is expected to make his first career start at right guard, while freshman Kendarius Webster is expected to make his second career start at cornerback opposite senior Senquez Golson.

"I hope to execute whatever we do and get everyone some time," Freeze said. "I'm concerned about winning the game and executing. I'm not concerned about how much you win a game by. At this point in the season, getting a win and getting your team ready for whatever lies next is very important. That's what my focus will be."

Moving on without Treadwell

Sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said, is back around the team and ready to help coach the other receivers up after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Auburn.

With his absence, junior Cody Core moves to outside receiver opposite senior Vince Sanders, with sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and freshman Markell Pack working at slot receiver. Sophomore Derrick Jones also moved back to wide receiver from cornerback , giving the Rebels another option at outside receiver.

"We had to move some people around, but it's not as drastic as people think," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said. "Putting Cody outside, he was there for the first two years of his career. They're all interchangeable, so it's not a big deal for us. Next man up. We have to keep rolling."

"Laquon is going to rooting for us as much as he can," Adeboyejo said. "He's been shooting me texts. With him out, it makes you want to go out there and do it for him, do it for this team, and do anything we can to help this thing keep going."

The Rebels' second-leading receiver in receptions (33), receiving yards (536) and receiving touchdowns (4), Sanders is being asked to step up in terms of production and leadership as the team's No. 1 receiver.

"My guys, they respect him and look up to him," Heard said. "He's been through more wars than anybody in that room. He's the grandfather in my room. He's going to do a good job and make sure those guys are ready to go Saturday."

"I'm excited for this opportunity to be in this position," Sanders said. "I hate I got it the way I got it. Now that I got it, I have to take it in stride and make the best of it. That's what I plan on doing."

Shuffling the Deck at Other Spots

Along the offensive line, without Tunsil and Morris, junior Justin Bell will move to left guard from right guard, while junior Fahn Cooper and sophomore Robert Conyers will start at left tackle and right tackle, respectively, for the second straight week.

Senior Chase Hughes and Craig Frigo will be the backup centers behind Still, with Frigo also playing some backup guard. A trio of redshirt freshmen in Christian Morris, Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin will also figure in the mix Saturday.

"We're going to rotate them in and out and hopefully can find a way to score a few points with them," Freeze said.

In the secondary, junior Mike Hilton will move from cornerback to Rover safety, where he started in the Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech last season and played some against Auburn last week. 

Junior Chief Brown, who made his season debut against Auburn, will provide depth at safety, and senior Cliff Coleman and sophomore Kailo Moore will be the primary backups at cornerback.

"Kendarius had a great camp and he's played in every game," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "He's done well. He started the first half of the Texas A&M game. He's been tested, and I think he'll do well."

Rebels Fall to No. 11 in CFB Playoff Poll

After debuting at No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff poll, Ole Miss fell seven spots to No. 11 in the latest top 25, revealed Tuesday by the CFB Playoff selection committee.

At No. 11, the Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team and are ranked ahead of four one-loss teams from power-five conferences in Baylor (No. 12), Nebraska (No. 13), Ohio State (No. 14) and Duke (No. 22).

"We don't feel like we're out of it," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "Obviously we don't control our destiny anymore, but crazy things can happen in the SEC. A lot of people still have to play each other, so we're hopeful good things can happen for us, but we can win all our games down the stretch. We have to come in and prepare and come out and have good showings in every game."

This weekend features six matchups of ranked teams, including five involving teams ranked ahead of Ole Miss.

No. 4 Oregon travels to No. 17 Utah, No. 5 Alabama travels to No. 16 LSU, No. 6 TCU hosts No. 7 Kansas State, No. 8 Michigan State hosts No. 14 Ohio State, and No. 9 Arizona State hosts No. 10 Notre Dame.

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In this week's edition of Observations from the Best Seat in the House, Metz Camfield and I teamed up to give you our thoughts and opinions of the week that was in Ole Miss athletics. There's a lot on our minds, so let's get into it:

Metz Camfield - First of all, everyone in Rebel Nation and beyond is thinking about Laquon Treadwell and hoping for a speedy and full recovery. He's a remarkable talent, but the way he carries himself both in games and out of games is also something to admire and makes him an easy guy to root for. The injury occurred because Treadwell was working so hard, dragging a defender and doing everything he could to get into the end zone, all qualities that Ole Miss fans admire about him, and opposing fans respect about him.

Austin Miller - We all wish Laquon Traadwell a speedy and full recovery. The talented sophomore underwent surgery late Saturday night to repair a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle. He posted this message on his Instagram account Sunday morning:

"Not everything in life is set out to be easy, & not every plan we have for ourselves work out in our favor. Even the greatest & most powerful people we praise or look up to have huge downfalls, but it takes a strong person & an even stronger mindset to prepare for that major come back. It didn't kill me, so watch as I become stronger. Thanks for the prayers everyone, God bless."

Bo Wallace also posted a message on his Instagram account Sunday afternoon in support of his injured teammate:

"Played my last down with one of the best to ever put on an Ole Miss uniform and one of the best leaders I have been around. It was a great ride @successfulquon the best is yet to come for you!"

MC - While you can never "replace" a talent like Treadwell, the Rebels have a very talented receiving corps, including senior Vince Sanders and sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who each topped the 100-yard mark against Auburn. Sanders, Engram, Quincy Adeboyejo, et al will have to step up for the final three games of the regular season in order to fill the void caused by Treadwell's absence. They are capable of doing that.

AM - A lot has been said and written about Treadwell's injury and the impact going forward. Here's an all-encompassing look from the Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger.

MC - Bo Wallace once again showed his resolve Saturday night by bouncing back from the LSU game in a big way. Wallace threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, completed 70 percent of his passes (that percentage could have been higher if not for some desperation throws on the final drive), and also ran for a team-high 61 yards and one touchdown.

AM - Bo Wallace might not have had his winning moment Saturday, but he bounced back from one of the worst games of his career with one of the best games of his career to give his team a chance, as he has done time and time again during his Ole Miss career.

"He played well," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "Guys made plays for him. I haven't seen the stats but I feel like he threw the ball pretty well. He played well enough to win, but he just didn't get the breaks."

AM - It may have gone largely unnoticed, but Ben Still deserves a lot of credit for playing through a sprained MCL in his knee. When starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil was unable to go due to a bicep and shoulder injury, Fahn Cooper moved from right tackle to left tackle, Robert Conyers moved from center to right tackle, and Still stepped into the center spot.

"Man, he just gutted it out," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be so sore. He'll be hurting the rest of the week for sure, and I'm just proud of him. I told him that at halftime. I'm just crazy proud of him."

MC - There's no use in getting upset about the injuries Ole Miss has endured in the past two weeks. Being upset about the injuries won't cause the student-athletes to get healthy faster, they'll simply cloud your ability to fully enjoy the ones who are healthy and the season that remains. Injuries are a part of sports, especially one as physical as football. 

Engram, who suffered a season-ending injury last year as a freshman, said it well after the game yesterday: "It's part of the game, and it stinks to see how much work we put in. Especially guys like Laquon (Treadwell) and Denzel (Nkemdiche), but we love each other and will fight for each other the rest of the season. In one play it could be gone. Last year I experienced that and now guys will have to step up."

AM - With the loss to Auburn, Ole Miss lost control of its destiny to the SEC Western Division title and the College Football Playoff. It's a long shot at this point, but there's a path. It starts with winning out against Presbyterian, Arkansas and Mississippi State and then getting a lot of help.

At No. 12 in the latest AP poll and No. 13 in the latest coaches poll, Ole Miss is the highest-ranked two-loss team. The Rebels debuted at No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, and it will be interesting to see how far they drop in the second edition of the rankings Tuesday.

"When you watch the game, if they're really watching games, we can't drop far," Wallace said. "We lost a game by that much. I just watched the replay of Laquon (Treadwell). We lost it by that much. I don't see how far they can drop us. Our season is still alive, we feel like. We'll find out Tuesday how far we fall, but we're going to keep fighting, and crazy things can happen."

AM - To that point, CBS Sports bracketology/bowls expert Jerry Palm projects Ole Miss to play in the Peach Bowl, one of the new selection committee bowl games, against Marshall. There's still a lot to play for, as the Rebels close out the regular season.

AM - The ending to the game likely evoked two painful memories for Ole Miss fans: Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween night punt return and Eli Manning tripping over his lineman's foot on a fourth down against LSU in 2003. 

The Rebels went on to win a share of the national title in 1959, 1960 and 1962, while 2003 seemed to mark the end of an era. Parity reigns today, and runs like those of John Vaught's don't happen in modern college football, but like those teams, Ole Miss is back on the national football map, and there's hope and optimism surrounding a new normal for the football program.

AM - The football team was not alone in heartbreak this weekend. Needing only a draw against Tennessee to secure its place in the SEC Tournament, the Ole Miss soccer team conceded a golden goal with less than three minutes left in the second overtime and was eliminated from contention as the Lady Vols advanced in the final spot.

AM - The Ole Miss volleyball team avenged an earlier 3-2 loss to South Carolina, as the Rebels shut out the Gamecocks 3-0. With the win, Ole Miss improved to 19-5 overall and moved into sole possession of sixth place in the SEC standings.

AM - This time, a week from now, we'll have observations on the men's and women's basketball teams from a preseason press conference Tuesday and an exhibition doubleheader Friday. So stayed tuned for those.

Dragging an Auburn defender on what initially looked to be a go-ahead touchdown, Laquon Treadwell fought his way toward the end zone, but had his ankle rolled over and fumbled into the end zone.

In the moments that followed, the initial touchdown call was overturned in favor of Auburn, and Treadwell was carted off the field with an air cast and tears in his eyes.

"It's definitely a fracture," said head coach Hugh Freeze of the injury. "It was obvious, even to me. If I can see it, I know they can see it. I don't know anything other than that. I can't tell you all the details of it. It's definitely a fracture."

"He was phenomenal," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace, tearing up talking about the injury. "He was really upset. It was tough to see."

Before the injury, Treadwell was having perhaps the best game of his Ole Miss career. He had a career-high 10 catches, tied for the fourth-most in school history, for 103 yards and a touchdown. Treadwell also made two key downfield blocks to spring Wallace for a 59-yard run, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown the next play.

"He sort of took the game over," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "That's why we were calling those types of plays knowing that he is hard to tackle. That one he could have been tackled about three times and just got rolled up on. Those things happen in football. It's a shame, but they happen."

Ole Miss matched Auburn score for score, as the offense rolled up 492 yards of total offense, but down four late in the fourth quarter, the Rebels fumbled at the Auburn 1-yard line on back-to-back drives, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a 35-31 loss to the Tigers.

"When you watch the game, if they're really watching games, we can't drop far," said Wallace, who was 28-of-40 for 341 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We lost a game by that much. I just watched the replay of Laquon (Treadwell). 

"We lost it by that much. I don't see how far they can drop us. Our season is still alive, we feel like. We'll find out Tuesday (with the College Football Playoff rankings) how far we fall, but we're going to keep fighting, and crazy things can happen."

Visiting with Treadwell after the game, Werner said Treadwell is emotionally down obviously, but he told him he's a warrior and he played probably his best game yet.

"These things happen, and he'll bounce back," Werner said. "That's what we do here. It's going to be tough, but somebody else has to step up and that's what Coach Freeze talks about all the time. We lost guys before, and it seems like somebody will step up and the team responds."

In Treadwell's absence, a quartet of receivers in senior Vince Sanders, junior Cody Core, sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and freshman Markell Pack will be asked to step up in terms of production and leadership. 

More will also be asked of sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who came in with Treadwell and was behind him on the play where he suffered his injury and fumbled into the end zone.

"It's really tough to be just a foot away from national championship implications," said Engram, who caught eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. "That's tough to grasp, but we still have three games left. We can't just turn the switch off. We have to come back in tomorrow and prepare for Presbyterian. 

"This one stings really bad. We're going to learn from it and we're going to get better from it. We're going to bounce back and be stronger from it."

UPDATE, 12:41 A.M. CT:

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Auburn

Three areas to watch as No. 4 Ole Miss hosts No. 3 Auburn in a Southeastern Conference Western Division showdown featuring half of the top four teams in the initial College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

Bounce-Back Bo

Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace has had his two statistically-worst games the last two weeks, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards against Tennessee and 13-of-33 passes for 176 yards against LSU. 

Wallace had attempted 140 passes and carried the ball 61 times before turning the ball over on a game-ending interception against LSU. The Rebels were also held to season lows in points (7) and total yards (313) in the 10-7 loss to the Tigers last week.

"A lot of times when we're throwing right now it's third down," Wallace said. "We're staying in third and long so much. People get in their defenses and it's hard in this league to convert third downs as well as people play third-down defense. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season."

"I would say this for our entire team, not just Bo, our demeanor was a bit different in that environment," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We let things get to us that have not bothered us earlier in the season. It seemed to rattle us a little bit. He missed some open guys. He also made some really good throws. It just seemed that our demeanor was a little bit different as a team. I haven't noticed any mechanical things that are any different."

Freeze has been pleased with Wallace's demeanor in practice, describing it as typical for him.

"He bounces back," he said. "He's resilient and he's hungry to get back out and play again."

Finding Traction on the Ground

The strength of the Auburn defense has been against the run, while the weakness of the Ole Miss offense has been its rushing attack.

Auburn has allowed just 3.37 yards per carry, tied for fifth-best in the SEC, and has allowed an opponent to average 4.0 yards or more per carry just twice this season, giving up 153 yards on 29 carries against Arkansas and 223 yards on 44 carries against Mississippi State.

Ole Miss ranks fourth in the SEC in passing offense (268.8 ypg) but just 12th in the SEC in rushing offense (149.5 ypg). The Rebels also rank 12th in the SEC in yards per carry (3.87), and have been held under 4.0 yards per carry four times this season.

Ole Miss eclipsed 4.0 yards per carry against LSU, averaging 4.03 yards per carry, but the offense struggled to find consistency, particularly in the second half. The Rebels ran the ball on first down nine times in the second half, and none of those rushes went for more than two yards.

The key in the run game, as it has been all season, more than any statistic, is keeping the offense on schedule and out of obvious passion situations.

"It's difficult to run in this league," Freeze said. "We have some challenges that we have to continue to work on and try to find what the best way is to attack defenses to  stay somewhat balanced so we're not having to throw it every down and they know we're going to throw it. That's a bad feeling and a difficult way to go about being successful."

Gleeson, Bray Headline Special Teams Battle

Field position can be gained and games can be won by special teams, and Saturday's showdown features two of the nation's best in the Ole Miss punt unit and the Auburn punt return unit.

Ole Miss redshirt-freshman punter Will Gleeson was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after his game against LSU, having landed four of his six punts inside the 10-yard line. 

For the season, he has landed 20 of his 38 punts inside the 20, as he has helped the Rebels rank second in the SEC and fourth nationally in net punting with a 42.8 average. 

Auburn senior wide receiver Quan Bray earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors earlier this season, returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech, one of three total touchdowns for him in the game.

Bray leads the nation in punt return average (25.2 ypg) and has two punt return touchdowns this season, as he has helped the Tigers lead the nation in punt returning with a 23.45 average.

Not only will Saturday's matchup between No. 4 Auburn and No. 7 Ole Miss feature the first-ever meeting of top-10 team in Oxford, but it will feature half of the top four of the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4.

Auburn and Ole Miss are the top two one-loss teams in the rankings, followed by Oregon at No. 5 and Alabama at No. 6, giving the Southeastern Conference Western Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining among the four teams, starting with Saturday's matchup.

"My first reaction was that we will always be the answer to one of those AFLAC trivia questions," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll be answer for one of them when the duck comes across the TV screen. That was really what I thought.

"I have great respect for the selection committee, and we are honored to be in the discussions at this point, but it's way too early. It's good for our fans. It gave them a little boost and hopefully will get them to bring some more energy into the stadium Saturday. There's a lot of ball left and the only one (ranking) that really matters is on Dec. 7 when that final one comes out."

Rebels Ready for Balanced Auburn Attack

Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.5 ppg allowed) and has given up a nation-low eight touchdowns. Ole Miss also leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally, giving up just 4.35 yards per play. 

Auburn ranks third in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring offense (39.3 ppg) and ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally, averaging 6.91 yards per play.

Something has to give.

For Auburn, it starts with the league's top rushing attack 281.0 ypg), led by league's second-leading rusher in running back Cameron Artis Payne (118.7 ypg) and seventh-leading rusher in quarterback Nick Marshall (83.0 ypg).

Marshall's improvement as a passer and a talented group of receivers, led by JUCO transfer D'haquille Williams (34 catches, 527 yards, five TDs), have made the Tigers more balanced this season.

"The minute you commit too many to controlling him, they have guys who make you pay and pay with explosive plays," said Freeze of Marshall. "Gus (Malzahn) has always done a great job of disguising his looks, motions and shifts. 

"He does a great job with a lot of eye candy and things that can get your eyes in bad positions and cause you to make mistakes that give them explosive plays. Our goal will remain to be steady and discipline and hopefully not give up too many explosive plays."

Optimism on Injury Front

The injury situation continues to improve, as it appears offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, safety Cody Prewitt and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will all return to action against Auburn, having practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Every one them is going to give it a go," Freeze said. "With the stretch of games we have gone through without a break, it takes a toll on you both physically and mentally, some more than others. They did get some dings the other night (against LSU) that will probably keep them for being 100 percent, but they are going to give it a go for sure."

Center Ben Still was also listed day-to-day by Freeze on Monday, and his status remains uncertain, having worked individually Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan, Freeze said, is for him to practice with the team Thursday and see how he handles it.

"One day will tell us if he's ready to handle what we're going to face Saturday," Freeze said. "It will be nice to have him for sure because we had three possession the other night where it really hurt us in that game because of the injuries. It would be nice to have him thrown in there and let Robert move around and help us. We'll see how he does tomorrow."

Safety Chief Brown, who was thought to be out for the year, dressed out but did not play against LSU. With Prewitt dinged up, Brown has received significant practice reps at free safety.

"I expect to see him play some Saturday," Freeze said. "We'll see how he responds. It's a long season, but my guess would be we're going to need him before it's over."

AUDIO: Week 10 SEC football coaches teleconference (Freeze starts at 1:03:00 mark, Malzahn starts at 1:47:25 mark)

How the playoff committee to its first ranking decision, writes George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports

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In this week's edition of Observations from the Best Seat in the House, Metz Camfield and I teamed up to give you our thoughts and opinions of the week that was in Ole Miss athletics. I was able to travel with the football team to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Saturday's SEC West showdown between Ole Miss and LSU. Here's what we have looking back on the previous week:

Austin Miller - Give a lot of credit to the Ole Miss "Landshark" defense that gave the team a chance Saturday, forcing four turnovers and limiting LSU to 10 points in four red-zone trips, but the offense couldn't take advantage of their opportunities, particularly late in the game.

"Our kids fought," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Our defense gave us a chance to win the game, to be in the game, but we could not manage any points."

AM - Offensively, LSU bludgeoned the Ole Miss defense, executing 55 run plays compared to 16 pass plays, as the Tigers rushed for 264 yards. The two scoring drives for LSU: 17 plays, 90 yards, 9:07 and 13 plays, 95 yards, 5:59, featured a combined 25 run plays.

"They just wore us down and kept the ball from us," Freeze said. "We didn't have but maybe two possessions in the second quarter. They just ate the clock, and they're really good up front. That offensive line is really solid, and their backs are really good. That's the first time we've faced an offense quite like that."

AM - Defensively, LSU held Ole Miss to 107 yards of total offense in the second half, forcing five straight punts to start the half, including four three-and-outs. The Rebels finally put together some first downs on their last two drives, which ended in a turnover on downs and an interception with two seconds left.

"They were pretty good, number one," Freeze said. "They were able to stay in two-high on first and second down and stop our run game. We struggled there with (left tackle) Laremy (Tunsil) out for most of the second half, and we had to move some people around. That caused us some issues with playing younger kids, and they struggled a little bit in this environment against a really good defense."

AM - The Ole Miss defense extended two impressive streaks, having forced at least one turnover in 31 straight games and having allowed 20 or fewer points in 10 straight games. Both are the longest active streaks in the FBS.

AM - Another bright spot, in addition to the stingy, opportunistic Ole Miss defense, was the punting brilliance of Will Gleeson who landed four of his six punts inside the 10-yard line. For the season, he has landed 20 of his 38 punts inside the 20-yard line.

AM - Ole Miss played in front of a stadium-record crowd for the second straight road game (102,321), the second-largest crowd Ole Miss has ever played in front of, and it had an impact on the game. Maybe it did not a significant impact, but it had an impact nonetheless. Personally, Saturday night was as loud a stadium as I have ever heard covering Ole Miss.

AM - The history backs it up, as LSU improved to 46-3 during Saturday night home games under head coach Les Miles with the three losses coming against teams that were either ranked No. 1 at the time of the game or reached No. 1 at some point during that season.

Metz Camfield - I thought it was interesting that after the win the LSU fans rushed the field. For Ole Miss, this should come as a sign of respect and another sign of the "new normal." The football program has now gotten to a point where a win by an opposing team is so significant that its fans rush the field.

AM - Two more impressive stats that speak to LSU under Miles: The Tigers are now 21-16 when trailing at halftime, and it was their 24th fourth-quarter comeback.

AM - As Freeze noted in his postgame press conference and CBS Sports bracketology/bowls expert Jerry Palm notes here, Ole Miss remains in control of its destiny in the SEC Western Division and likely the College Football Playoff.

MC - The Rebels' dream season is still very much in tact, as Ole Miss has just one loss and a number of highly-ranked opponents still on the schedule. If Ole Miss wins out, it will represent the Western Division in the SEC Championship game and will almost be guaranteed a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoffs thanks to a number of impressive wins.

AM - Looking ahead, Ole Miss hosts Auburn in a de facto playoff game featuring one-loss teams. Two things to watch this week: An injury update from Freeze on Monday, including the status of Denzel Nkemdiche, Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Cody Prewitt and Ben Still, and the release of the first playoff committee rankings on Tuesday.

AM - The Ole Miss soccer team picked up three big points, rallying past Vanderbilt 2-1 on the road, ahead of their final regular-season match against Tennessee at 7 p.m. Thursday. Both teams will be looking to secure a spot in the 10-team SEC Tournament. It's also Senior Night for goalkeeper Kelly McCormick, the all-time wins leader for a goalkeeper at Ole Miss.

AM - Congrats to former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief, now of the Indianapolis Colts, who hauled in seven catches for 113 yards and his first career touchdown.

AM - In case you missed it, here's a unique video from Ole Miss Sports Productions: Landshark Symphony set to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

Rebels Fall Short in Death Valley

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ole Miss had its chances. 

The Ole Miss defense made seven points stand up for the better part of four quarters, forcing four turnovers and limiting LSU to just three points on its first three trips to the red zone. 

But LSU finally broke through, going ahead 10-7 on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 5:07 left in the game. It capped a 13-play, 95-yard drive that included 12 runs before the scoring play.

"Our kids fought," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Our defense gave us a chance to win the game, to be in the game, but we could not manage any points."

On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss moved into LSU territory before the Rebels were stopped short on  3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-1, giving the ball back to the Tigers.

With LSU likely needing just one first down to run out the clock, the Ole Miss defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense one last chance, as the offense took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:09 left on the clock.

Ole Miss had its second chance, driving to the LSU 30-yard line with nine seconds left on the clock, converting a key fourth down and drawing a defensive pass interference penalty, before quarterback Bo Wallace was intercepted at the 1-yard line, his first interception in SEC play.

"There were nine seconds on the clock and thought we could sprint out," Freeze said. "(Bo) needed to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds. Worst case, we were at the same spot. We were trying to get it to the left hash or left middle, and we didn't get it done there."

"Bo would tell you, we were pretty clear that we were going to take the flat throw or throw it bounds, and then try a field goal. He must have felt like he had a touchdown play there with the clear-out. I wish we could have done that over for sure."

Ole Miss was outgained 406-313, converting just 15 first downs and going 5-of-17 on third down. The Rebels were limited to 137 yards on 34 carries, while Wallace finished the game 14-of-33 for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Between the scoring drive late in the first quarter and the last two drives of the game, the Rebels punted on seven straight possessions, including five three-and-outs. 

On of the key plays of this stretch included a 34-yard touchdown run for running back I'Tavius Mathers called back on a holding penalty.

"They're pretty good, number one," said Freeze of LSU's defense. "They were able to stay in 2-high on first and second down and stop our running game for the most post. We struggled there. Laremy (Tunsil) was out for most of the second half. We had to move some people around and that caused us some issues where we played some younger kids.

"We had a couple of chances. We just didn't seem to win many of the one-on-ones. They tackled extremely well and put us in a lot of third down, and we converted hardly any."

With the loss, Ole Miss moves to 7-1 overall, 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play, but by virtue of its win over Alabama and remaining games against Auburn (Nov. 1) and Mississippi State (Nov. 29), both at home, the Rebels remain in control of their destiny in the SEC Western Division and likely the College Football Playoff.

"They're hurt," said Freeze of the team's demeanor after the game. "They have to figure out how they want to handle it. We're not the only team in America that's going to go through this. If you had told me this team was going to be where we are right now, all of us would have been pleased. We're obviously not pleased leaving here after the season we have had. 

"This stretch is tough. I knew going through this stretch was going to wear on you physically and mentally. The thing is, we still can control everything we want with the schedule that lies ahead. They're down, they're disappointed, and hopefully we'll respond the correct way."

The Rebels' next game with No. 5 Auburn serves as a defacto playoff game, as both teams enter with one loss on the season.

"We're ready for the next one," Wallace said. "We're thinking everyone is going to have one loss now. We have Auburn coming to our place next week. That's what we have our mind on."

Three and Out: Ole Miss-LSU

Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss travels to No. 23 LSU for an SEC West Showdown on Saturday.

Stopping The Run

Not just this year, but throughout head coach Les Miles' tenure, LSU's running game has been a key to success.

LSU, which ranks sixth in the SEC in rushing offense (220.9 ypg), was held to a season-low 89 rushing yards in a 34-29 loss to Mississippi State and 138 rushing yards in a 41-7 loss to Auburn.

The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in yards per play allowed, giving up just 4.15 yards per play, and they have been equally dominant against the run and pass.

Stopping the run, as Ole Miss did last week against Tennessee, limiting the Volunteers to zero rushing yards on 28 attempts, would also force the game into the hands of quarterback Anthony Jennings.

The sophomore will make his seventh start of the season, the eight of his career, and has completed 64-of-128 passes for 1,048 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions this season.

"It's run, run, run, and you want to stick your nose up in there," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of preparation for LSU's offense. "We have to do a good job of that in practice, shocking them every once in a while with a pass."

Managing The Game

In addition to the dominant defense, quarterback Bo Wallace and punter Will Gleeson have been two keys actors in the different management of games this season.

Wallace attempted just 19 passes and 28 passes against Texas A&M and Tennessee, two of his three lowest totals this season, leaning on a rushing attack that eclipsed 150 yards in both games.

Asked to manage the game more this season, particularly in recent games, Wallace has not turned the ball over in SEC play, attempting 108 passes and carrying the ball 49 times over four games.

"The big thing for me is I'm not trying to mess it up," Wallace said. "I'm going in and trying to not have any turnovers. The defense is playing well. If we punt it past the 50-yard line, they're probably not going to get points. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable." 

Gleeson has been named National Punter of the Week twice this season, as he ranks third in the SEC and 11th nationally with a punting average of 45.5 yards, landing 16 of his 32 punts inside the 20. 

Behind the left leg of Gleeson, Ole Miss also ranks second in the SEC and third nationally with a net punting average of 43.3 yards.

"He's been a huge factor," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We have won field position with his punting. With the way our defense has played, the way our coverage units have played and the way he's placing his punts, it has allowed us to be very patient at times offensively."

'Saturday Night in Death Valley'

It has been said that Death Valley is where opponents' dreams come to die.

Through seven games, Ole Miss has ignored such history, instead making its own. The Rebels are 7-0 for the first time since 1962, when they went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. 

A win over LSU would give Ole Miss its second 8-0 start in program history, but to leave Tiger Stadium with a win, they must continue to ignore history and make their own.

LSU is 45-4 in night games in Tiger Stadium under head coach Les Miles, including 45-3 in Saturday night home games. 

All three losses came to teams that were either No. 1 at the time (Florida in 2008 and Alabama in 2012) or reached No. 1 at some point during the year (Mississippi State in 2014).

"We have to play a very difficult team in a difficult environment in a difficult rivalry series," Freeze said. "Who knows what the outcome will be, but I do think they will have to beat us. I don't think it would be because our kids aren't ready."

Ahead of a rivalry renewed on a national stage, complete with a visit of ESPN's "College GameDay" and the mystique of a Saturday night game in Death Valley, here's link roundup of videos and stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 23 LSU:

VIDEO: Ole Miss Film Room, breaking down the Rebels' defense, from ESPN.com

VIDEO: Can LSU establish the run against Ole Miss? from ESPN.com

VIDEO: LSU's chances of scoring on Ole Miss from ESPN.com

Freeze at home with Ole Miss, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

'Grandpa' D.T. Shackelford plays key role on Ole Miss defense, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Wallace's experience an asset for Ole Miss, writes Jungkyu Lee of ESPN.com

Ole Miss-LSU: Why Rebels can run table and win national title, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports

Weekend Watch List: Ole Miss-LSU a precursor to brutal SEC West stretch, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

SEC teams not done knocking each other off, writes John Zenor of the Associated Press

No. 3 Ole Miss relies on tough defense for wins, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

Ole Miss much different since last visit to LSU, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Australian punters are on both sides of LSU-Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss carries defensive streak into LSU game, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Five things to know about the LSU vs. Ole Miss game, writes Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com

The LSU-Ole Miss rivalry is back with a vengeance, writes Ron Higgins of NOLA.com

Numbers that Matter: Ole Miss vs. LSU, writes Bill Bender of Sporting News

Here's two videos from Ole Miss and one video from LSU to get you ready for Saturday:

 

 


LesMiles.Net - OleMiss Trailer from LSU Football on Vimeo.


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