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Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-TCU

Three areas to watch as No. 9 Ole Miss plays No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the inaugural "New Year's Six" bowl game.

Containing Boykin, Handling TCU's Tempo

Ole Miss coaches and players have compared TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, two quarterbacks who were each 2-0 against the Rebels in their respective careers.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and fourth-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy, Boykin ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0 ypg) and 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).

"You just have to make sure you prepare on every play because he's always, you know, a broken tackle away or a throw away from a big play so we have to make sure that we're locked in on every snap," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said.

The other key to the nation's statistically most improved offense in both total yards and scoring from last season has been tempo. TCU runs 79.9 plays per game, while Ole Miss opponents have averaged just 69.7 plays per game.

"As far as the layoff, I think our intensity has been good here," Freeze said. "I've been pleased with that. I have a concern about just how the conditioning will be when we hit the field against a tempo team like these guys, particularly it's just hard to simulate that over and over again, and particularly the closer you get and we've had a Christmas break and you get here. You certainly want to have fresh legs when the game starts.

"But the energy and the emotion that will be involved when it kicks off will no question have an impact early on with some fatigue issues probably. So we'll have to be smart, how we rotate our kids and I think everybody will regain that shortly into the game."

Young Receivers Called Upon

Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has drawn the most attention, and deservedly so, as Ole Miss will be without their top two receivers against No. 6 TCU, but a trio of young receivers will also have to step up to replace the production and leadership of sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and senior wide receiver Vince Sanders.

"Stepping up is a big thing for us," sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo said. "We've been instilling that in our heads since Laquon went down. And when Vince went down, we knew we had to compete even more."

An All-America second team and consensus All-SEC first team selection, Engram stepped up with a career-high 176 receiving yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, but against the Horned Frogs, the Rebels will likely also need contributions from some combination of Adeboyejo, junior wide receiver Cody Core, and freshman wide receiver Markell Pack.

"We know we're down some guys, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill that void," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Rebels Ride Walton

Helped by a couple of long runs, Ole Miss had a breakout game on the ground, rushing for 205 yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale. Sophomore Jaylen Walton led the way with a career-high 148 yards on 14 carries, including a highlight-reel 91-yard touchdown run.

"We made just a decision, going into the last game, that he's our best option," said Freeze of Walton. "Let's get the ball to 6 and we wanted to get him a certain number of touches and thought he ran extremely physical, made explosive plays, and we always knew he could and we believe the other can too. But we just made a decision that he's our most mature guy. He's had the most experience in our offense. He's good in the pass game. He's good in understanding protections."

Walton emerged as the leader of a crowded backfield, rushing for a career-high 583 yards and averaging a career-best 5.9 yards per carry this season. He also leads the team with seven total touchdowns. Freeze expects more of the same from Walton in the bowl game against No. 6 TCU.

"He produced really, really well," said Freeze of Walton. "We'll do the same tomorrow. I don't know that it's been so much that he's done anything different. I think he's always been that way. It's probably us just making sure he got the number of touches that he got."

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."

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.

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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