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Wallace Looks to Make More History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCU's Boykin Draws Manziel Comparisons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News on Injury Front

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

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

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

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In the early part of the week, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract. In the late part of the week, the Rebels learned their postseason bowl destination. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Bjork and Freeze broke the news of a new contract via Twitter early Tuesday. The terms of the new contract will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

- For the second straight season, No. 9 Ole Miss will end its season in the same city in which it began it, having defeated Boise State in Atlanta in its season opener and now returning to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 against No. 6 TCU.

"It's an exciting time in college athletics, and we are thrilled to be one of the teams selected in the first 'New Year's Six' bowls," Freeze said. "We are honored to accept this great invitation and take on an outstanding TCU team. Atlanta is a place that is very dear to our program, and it's important to us that we represent our great university."

- When the regular season was said and done, Ole Miss had defeated the only two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the CFB Playoff Rankings (Alabama and Mississippi State) and three 10-win teams (Alabama, Boise State, Mississippi State), all of whom are also playing in "New Year's Six Bowls." Check out this infographic recapping the Rebels' 2014 season.

- TCU was ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, only to fall to No. 6 behind No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor in the final rankings. Despite his team's exclusion from the national semifinals, TCU head coach Gary Patterson doesn't expect a letdown. 

"I don't think it will linger at all," Patterson said. "Ole Miss has been ranked as high as third in the national standings. So, for us, we know we're playing a very good football team. We want to prove that we were a team that should have been in the playoffs, and the Peach Bowl and playing Ole Miss is exactly the game we should be in." 

- Freeze has become the only coach in school history to guide Ole Miss to bowl berths in each of his first three seasons.

- Ole Miss will put its 23-12 bowl record (.657 winning percentage), the second-best in the nation, and a six-game bowl win streak, tied with Florida State for the longest in the nation, on the line against TCU.

- The matchup presents the No. 1 scoring defense (Ole Miss) against the nation's No. 2 scoring offense (TCU), which as both coaches noted on the media teleconference is kind of ironic, given Freeze's background as offensive coach and Patterson's background as a defensive coach.

"He's the defensive guru that I have wanted to learn from," said Freeze of Patterson.

- As Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com noted on Twitter, Bo Wallace has a chance to the be the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games, having earned MVP honors in bowl wins over Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech the last two years.

- The Rebels' return to Atlanta is another homecoming of sorts for nine players from the Atlanta area, headlined by Evan Engram, one of the nation's best tight ends, Mike Hilton, the Rebels' leading tackler and Robert Nkmediche, a Lombardi Award semifinalist.

- Ole Miss has traveled well for bowl games in recent years, and within hours, discounted Ole Miss student tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl sold out. More ticket info here

"We were really excited to find out about the announcement of both TCU and Ole Miss because both teams are renowned for their passionate fan bases, and so we believe we'll be in for our 18th straight sellout with both fan bases flocking to Atlanta to support two of the top-10 teams in the country," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO.

- Be sure to visit and bookmark Ole Miss Bowl Central and Chick-fil-A Bowl Central and stay tuned to @OleMissFB and @CFAPeachBowl for all things Chick-fil-A Bowl related.

- Men's basketball head coach Andy Kennedy notched perhaps the best non-conference win of his nine-year tenure, as Ole Miss defeated Oregon 79-73 in Eugene on Sunday afternoon. Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 22 points, including this first-half buzzer beater.

- Through eight games, Ole Miss has three quality non-conference wins, all away from home (vs. Creighton, vs. Cincinnati, at Oregon), while both of its losses came at home against Charleston Southern and TCU.

- Similar to Kennedy who sent a message to his team a couple of weeks ago, women's basketball head coach Matt Insell said his team has to get their effort back right and their toughness has to get better, having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"We have to go back to the drawing board this week and figure out some things," Insell said. "I'm going to break down film and figure out what we can fix as a basketball team and why we're not playing as well as we played over Thanksgiving break and how we can start getting back to playing better before we head into SEC play."

- It's final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, so check out this creative hype video from Ole Miss Sports Productions.

Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

"We hadn't really found any rhythm through our first four games, either offensively or defensively," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We had been playing hard, but I didn't think we established any rhythm whatsoever. That was surprising to me based on what I had seen this summer and the extra work. I thought we would be further along in developing an identity. We took a huge step toward that this past weekend."

Senior guard Jarvis Summers, a preseason All-SEC first team selection, leads the team in scoring averaging 14.7 points per game. He is joined in double figures by junior guard Stafan Moody (13.0 ppg) and senior guard LaDarius White (12.2 ppg). 

Moody exploded for a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as Ole Miss defeated Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic Championship Saturday. He knocked down as many 3-pointers against the Bearcats (3-of-7) as he had all season (3-of-21).

"He hadn't really made any threes prior to us going to Florida, and he really struggled," Kennedy said. "The first one he made, he banked in against Creighton, which is not what we intended to get him out of his slump. He made a couple early against Cincinnati. They pressed us, which allowed him to get in the open floor, and he made some spectacular finishes."

"It took a while, trying to get used to the offense and things like, but then I finally got it going, got in a good rhythm, got some good looks, and the shots started falling," Moody said.

White, Kennedy said, has probably been their consistent player this season. He is averaging 13.0 ppg during the last five games, all wins for the Rebels, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range.

"He came out of that big class with Johnny O'Bryant, Rodney Hood, Jarvis Summers, and I really felt like Snoop had a chance to be a tremendous player," Kennedy said. "My hope is that this senior year, he will embrace the approach you have to take, and he will be consistent. He has certainly showed moments."

Through six games, Kennedy has used a deep rotation with all 12 healthy scholarship players averaging nine-plus minutes per game, including nine players averaging 14-plus minutes per game. 

"We have done it so many times, I'm used to it," said Moody of the deep rotation. "Any five that's out on the floor, I feel like we can mesh together, regardless of who's coming in and coming out. We have been doing it for so long."

The rotation has not included sophomore forward Terry Brutus, who missed last season with a torn ACL, but he is expected to return to full practice and game action soon. Kennedy noted his ability to help the frontcourt with rebounding and ball-screen defense.

"He's unique in that he gives us a four-man that we haven't had since he got hurt," Kennedy said. "He has some of the same Murphy (Holloway)-like qualities in that he's a bit undersized, but he's so explosive and he's so quick. He's been practicing with us for about 10 days. We have increase his workload in contact, and so forth. He gives us great energy. We'll see if he gets cleared, and we're pretty confident that he will, and we'll see how quickly we can get him into game action because it's been a while since he has played."

Coming off wins over Creighton and Cincinnati, Ole Miss turns its attention to two more marquee non-conference opponents, as the Rebels host unbeaten TCU (7-0), coming off a 61-52 win over Mississippi State, and travel to Oregon (4-2), an NCAA Tournament team last season.

"We have already stubbed our toe," said Kennedy, referring to the season-opening loss to Charleston Southern. "We have talked about wanting to protect your home floor, simply because I know how difficult it is to win on the road. And then we'll have a challenge at Oregon on Sunday. We're playing two opponents from quality leagues, and I understand the importance of those games."

Allen, Orvis Lift Rebels Past TCU

OMAHA, Neb. -- Will Allen and Sikes Orvis, previously hitless in Omaha, led the hit parade with three hits each, as Ole Miss avoided elimination and advanced to play Virginia in a rematch on Friday at 7 p.m.

After going 6-for-57 and scoring just three runs through its first two games at the College World Series, the Ole Miss exploded, relatively speaking for TD Ameritrade Park, for six runs on 11 hits. 

The six runs matched Vanderbilt's six runs from it's 6-4 win over UC Irvine on Monday and the 11 hits matched Vanderbilt's 11 hits, also from it's win over UC Irvine, and Virginia's 11 hits from it's 3-2 win over TCU on Tuesday

"We had some better at-bats today, and it shows you when the wind is not blowing in 20 miles an hour," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It's a little different here. But we were able to barrel some balls up and get some hits."

"We knew coming into this game that we couldn't win a ball game scoring one or two runs," Orvis said. "We knew we had to come out as an offense and swing the bat early and get some pressure off our pitching staff and put some runs on the board. Once we get this offense going, we can be pretty good and pretty scary."

After a couple of one-spots against Virginia and Texas, Ole Miss put together the big inning with three runs in the third, which started with a double from J.B. Woodman and also included an RBI single from Braxton Lee and Allen's two-RBI double.

"To come out and put a crooked spot up, it's crucial no matter what, especially with the offense being kind of stagnant the past couple of games," Orvis said. "It was awesome to get the monkey off the back early and get going." 

Allen gave the Rebels the lead for good, 5-4, with an RBI single to center in the seventh, his third RBI of the game after knocking in a pair of runs with a double to right-center in the third. 

TCU with the game-tying and game-winning runs in scoring position with two outs in the eighth, but Aaron Greenwood got a chopper to shortstop, which Errol Robinson charged and threw to first for the last out of the inning.

"He really attacked and was super aggressive going after it," Bianco said. "As soon as the ball was hit, I looked up at him and he was flying across the infield. It was a great play, and he was dripping with a lot of confidence as he ran off the field."

"I knew he was a burner at the plate, so it was about going and getting it and cutting down the hops," Robinson said. "It was fairly routine. You're a shortstop and you're supposed to make those plays. It was a crucial play late in the game that you need, so it was a big play in the game."

Allen and Orvis combined to add an insurance run in the ninth with a two-out single from Allen, followed by a two-out, RBI double from Orvis to stretch the lead to 6-4. Allen finished the game 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI, while Orvis was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI.

"We had some good barrels tonight," Allen said. "We found some gaps, found some holes, and then just getting people on base. You saw (Auston) Bous(field) running and just putting pressure on the opposing team. It definitely helps. Once we got going, one through nine, there is not an easy out. It's a really tough lineup to face. And luckily we scored some runs tonight." 

With the win, Ole Miss improved to 4-0 in elimination games in the NCAA Tournament and will face at least one more elimination game, needing to defeat top-ranked Virginia twice to advance to the national championship series.

"We play our best baseball with our backs against the wall," Orvis said. "This is a very tough team. It's a very mature team. We know what's on the line. We have nothing to lose; just play. Win or go home."



OMAHA, Neb. -- Through two games at the College World Series, Ole Miss has just six hits in 57 at-bats and scored three runs. 

Part of the offensive outage has been expansive TD Ameritrade Park, part of it has been the howling wind that has been blowing in from center field and part of it has been two terrific pitching performances from Virginia's Nathan Kirby and Texas Tech's Ryan Moseley.

Besides Vanderbilt, which has scored a combined 11 runs in wins over Louisville and UC Irvine, no team has scored more than five runs in Omaha, as all eight teams have combined to average just 2.7 runs through eight games.

"We knew it was big, but we have been having a hurricane coming in straight from center field, so it's been tough," said junior first baseman Sikes Orvis, who is second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally with 14 home runs on the season.

"Personally, it's knocking me off my game a little bit. When I get in hitter's counts, I usually try to pull something or drive something, but if I do that, it's just going to get knocked down, so I have been trying to go the other way and hit line drives. We'll adjust. Everybody has to deal with this; it's not just us. It's made for a lot of low-scoring games, so I'm sure the fans are ready for some offense."

The park and the wind has been good for pitchers, particularly for those who have filled up the strike zone, as junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do in his start Thursday against TCU. As a pitching staff, Ole Miss has allowed just three runs on 15 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts over 17.2 innings in Omaha.

"Use the ballpark to your advantage and fill up the zone," Smith said. "Guys are going to hit balls hard, but somehow they get caught in the wind. We have a really fast outfield, so they get caught a lot of times."

Same Spot, Different Week for Smith

Like sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, who has helped extend the Rebels' season in each of his last two starts, junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do the same for the second straight week in Thursday's elimination game against TCU.

Smith has not pitched past the fifth inning in each of his last two starts, but he has given his team an opportunity, limiting Washington to two runs (both unearned) on six hits through 4.2 innings, and limiting Louisiana-Lafayette to three runs (two unearned) on six hits through 3.2 innings.

It has been a nice bounce-back for Smith after a tough stretch of outings against Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Arkansas again at the SEC Tournament. 

"He's a guy who always gives us an opportunity to win," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It seems like he always goes out there and does a great job for us. Sometimes it's in the middle innings but that's because the game that he pitches is so important. 

"When he pitches on Sunday, that's usually to win the weekend. And depending on how much we have in the bullpen, sometimes we make the move in the fourth, fifth or sixth inning. He's been great for us in this role."

Earlier this season, Smith had another stretch of eight quality starts, but if he's not able to pitch deep, he will have a fresh bullpen behind him, thanks to a light workload through two games and the day off Wednesday.

"We had a healthy bullpen my last few starts, so coach had no hesitation to take me out and get someone else in," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys in the bullpen who are capable. My mindset is to go as far and as hard as I can to give us a shot to win."

More Familiarity than Rivalry

For Ole Miss and TCU, it's their ninth meeting in three years and their fourth meeting in the NCAA Tournament.

The schools played twice in the regular season in 2012, splitting the games in Fort Worth, Texas. 

They met again in the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional, with Ole Miss winning the opening game, and then TCU winning two elimination games to advance to the Super Regional. 

They met once again to open the 2013 season with Ole Miss sweeping the three-game weekend series in Oxford.

"We played them in the regional my freshman year, and then we opened up with them last year, and now we're playing them again, so we can't seem to get away from these guys," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "It's exciting. You see guys who were freshmen when you were a freshman, and you see them grow and get older. It's cool. We have built a little rivalry, so it will be cool to play them on this stage."

There's also familiarity between Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle from when Bianco was an assistant coach at LSU (1993-97) and Schlossnagle was associate head coach at Tulane (1994-2001). 

Their relationship has continued over the years, including the 2013 summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where Bianco was the pitching coach and Schlossnagle was the head coach.

"We have played them through the years," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You play them a lot in postseason because they're very good. It's certainly a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's a team that can really pitch. The difference this year for them is they're more offensive than they have been in the last couple of years."

More on TD Ameritrade Park Debate: Why is it so difficult to score runs at the CWS?, writes Jon Nyatawa from the Omaha World-Herald


 

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