Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Alex Thiel0
Rebels Trending Upward Heading Into Teeth of SEC Schedule
Following his team’s emphatic 23-3 win over Texas A&M at home last week, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze credited a renewed sense of energy around the team for its return to form – particularly for the Landshark Defense.
After saying that his staff put an emphasis on physicality in practice, Freeze noted that “we ran to the football like we’ve been known to do,” and that “there were a lot of times that [Freeze] didn’t think there was anywhere [for Texas A&M] to throw the football.”
“We ran basically four things instead of fourteen, and just made sure that our kids were going to play hard and be in the right spot. Sometimes it just clicks in the game plan.”
As for his offense’s success rushing the ball, he credited the return of Laremy Tunsil with galvanizing his offensive line and instilling those starters with confidence and comfort at their original positions. But one unsung advantage that his offense had was support from their defense and special teams.
“Really, this is the first game we’ve gotten off the field on 3rd down [on defense],” Freeze explained. “We didn’t really even go tempo, and we got 93 plays. When you get 93 plays, you’re getting more opportunities on offense. You’re going to get more carries and more guys [involved].”
He also had high praise for his special teams game plan and execution, saying that the Rebels chose to “move the kickoffs around” and “use two different punters, depending on what hash and area of the field we were on.” Ole Miss downed two punts inside Texas A&M’s 10 yard line, and another inside the 20.
He hopes that the team will play with the same fire and execution in their tilt at Auburn this weekend, another in a crucial string of conference battles to end the season.
“We haven’t been ourselves on the road, and so that’s another challenge we’re anticipating answering, and hopefully playing our best road game of the year,” Freeze said.
“We were good our first road game. I thought our energy was good. I don’t know if it’s being on the road, so much as it is the fact that we’ve lost some confidence somewhere.”
In injury news, Christian Morris suffered a neck contusion that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. Although the defense should be bolstered by the return of Tony Conner (who is running on grass again this week), Robert Nkemdiche is still undergoing concussion protocol, which Freeze described as “something you can’t fool around with.”
“We’ve had our share of injuries and issues,” said Freeze. “I’ve kind of got in a mindset of ‘next man up.’ Let’s get [Robert Nkemdiche] well.”
Also of note Monday morning was Freeze’s take on the University’s decision to remove the Mississippi state flag from campus. The highly-publicized decision has been a national talking point, but Freeze stated his belief that “it’s the right thing for this university, and hopefully [the state of Mississippi] also will follow suit.”
“I think it demonstrates adequately our core values of, really, who we want to be,” Freeze noted. “I talked to [interim chancellor] Morris Stocks this morning, and just hearing how the process went, that was very positive the way everyone handled it here at our university.”
“I just think it’s time we all move forward together.”
Ole Miss will take on Auburn at 11 AM on Halloween, October 31, at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN.