There has only been one win garnered for the Rebels all time in the house that Bear Bryant built, but there have been a lot worse showings for the Rebels than Saturday night’s 33-14 loss to the No. 1 Crimson Tide as well.
Last week, after the Rebels defeated Tulane 39-0, the big question asked of the players was were they ready for Southeastern Conference play?
Motivated to show the nation that the effort against the Texas Longhorns wasn’t indicative of the way they could play, the Rebels bowed their neck and gave the Crimson Tide everything they wanted up front.
Ole Miss didn’t completely stop Alabama’s defense and didn’t make enough stops on third down that both head coach Hugh Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack wanted to see, but the squad avoided the kind of explosive plays the Longhorns got. They also tackled much better and played with a furious passion Freeze can build on.
“I’m pleased with the attitude and effort of our kids and how hungry they are to succeed. I’m disappointed because I feel like we should have been in it in the fourth quarter. And for whatever reason, we can’t go through all of them, we didn’t get there,” Freeze said. “So the next step in this journey is to get there; get in that fourth quarter. I don’t know if we’ll win it or not, but it sure would feel good to play as a hard they’re playing and get in one. When we cut it to two scores, the emotions on our sidelines; you just want it so bad for those kids and those fans and we couldn’t get off the field on third down to give us another shot at it.”
Freeze is right; the next step is playing into the fourth quarter and then ultimately winning an SEC game. Freeze inherited an SEC losing streak that has now reached 15 straight. This week’s opponent, Texas A&M, is far from a pushover but it’s hard to believe that an effort like the Rebels had against Alabama won’t give them a chance at home. Ole Miss’ losing streak in the SEC is going to come to an end this year. There has been too much improvement made for that not to happen.
The question is against who?
Auburn and Arkansas both look vulnerable. Add Vanderbilt to the list as well. Freeze knows that after five games, and an entire offseason of talking about the past, the current and future revolves around wins. In essence, the honeymoon is getting closer to ending than it is beginning and improved effort that has been celebrated by fans, will eventually run dry. More steps are needed.
“Enough has been talked about the past, whatever it was, and it’s time for us to start expecting more. In this conference, you can’t feel sorry for yourself; you’ve got to put it behind you and move forward for the next one because we’ve got a very difficult one next week,” Freeze said. “But I think our kids are in a positive frame of mind to know that if we could stop doing some of the things we do to ourselves, we would have a chance. I don’t know if we’ll win the games or not. I haven’t promised that in Year 1. I’ve promised you’re going to get great effort. But I know that if we play like that and don’t hurt ourselves, we should have some chances later in the game to win it.”
One play, one moment
Free safety Cody Prewitt talked about one play, one defining moment that he believes will take the team to that next level they want to get to so badly.
“All it takes is one play, one quarter and we have to play a full 60 minutes and we have yet to do that,” Prewitt said. “I’m proud of us because we really only played three quarters tonight and we held the No. 1 team to just 33 points. I’m proud of that but I’m not proud of our mistakes.”
Ole Miss has gotten closer to breaking through to that level. It’s clear the Rebels are not the worst team in the SEC anymore. Now, it’s time for the young players, who have taken some lumps the first month, to ramp it up a notch and for some more veterans to step up as well. Mistakes are really handicapping this team right now. The lack of talent is what it is and only signing players can help that issue. But the mistakes can be avoided, and when that happens, the Rebels will finally be able to be celebrate an SEC victory rather than just the great effort they gave. (October 1, 2012, Page 1B)