OWN OLE MISS-AUBURN HERE
By: Scott Crumbly
SEC Digital Network
First year head coach Hugh Freeze was not presented an easy task when he took the reins at Ole Miss in December of 2011. The Rebels had a very good year in 2009 – finishing 9-4 with a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State – but their fortune took a turn for the worse in the two seasons that followed.
In 2010 and 2011, Ole Miss went a combined 6-18 overall with a 1-15 record in Southeastern Conference play. After dropping all eight of their conference games in ’11, the Rebels were in need of new leadership, and they found that in Freeze, who has turned things around just seven games into his tenure.
As of Saturday, the Rebs (4-3, 1-2 SEC) have already doubled their win total from a season ago, and their 41-20 defeat of Auburn was their first SEC win since October of 2010. The Rebels have looked much improved in their brief time under Freeze, specifically on offense, where they are averaging 32.7 points per game this season.
Looking back to last season, the Rebels scored 13 points or less in eight of their 12 contests, and they failed to score more than seven points in five of those outings. Their lowest output this season came in their Sept. 29 loss at No. 1 Alabama when they only managed 14 points. Considering that Nick Saban has built Bama’s D into the best in all of college football over the past two seasons, that total doesn’t seem too shabby.
Freeze’s offense has been led by a dynamic sophomore quarterback in Bo Wallace. Wallace can do through the air (1,371 yards and nine TDs) and on the ground (225 yards and five TDs), and he added a third dimension to his game with a 25-yard scoring reception off a halfback pass. The young QB is showing improvement as a passer and has been very effective using the zone read, and the Ole Miss offense is benefitting.
Wallace’s teammate Jeff Scott is another reason for the improvement, and his 562 rushing yards lead the team. He’s found the end zone five times on the ground, and like his quarterback, added another element to his game against the Tigers with a 55-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal for the Rebels.
It is still very early in the Freeze era, but the visible improvements that are being showcased each Saturday provide encouragement.
Ole Miss still has high hurdles to leap down the road, with dates against Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State still remaining on the conference slate. The Rebels competed with the No. 1 team in the nation and were a heroic Johnny Manziel performance away from a big win over now-No. 22 Texas A&M.
Hugh Freeze has not had much time yet in Oxford, but he has wasted no time putting his fingerprints on the program. That is a welcome sight for the Rebel fan base, which has packed Vaught-Hemingway with 50,000-plus for each of their five home games this year. It will take time to find out whether Freeze can achieve sustained success for the Rebels, but the early signs are positive.