BLOG — Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze met with the media for his weekly press conference Monday morning and offered his thoughts on the Rebels’ performance in Thursday’s 35-13 season-opening win over Boise State and looked ahead to this week’s Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss broke out for four touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Broncos, but three interceptions by Bo Wallace, a barrage of false-start penalties and a running game that produced just 71 yards had the offense sputtering for most of the night. Freeze credited some of the ground woes to an aggressive scheme from Boise State but was quick to point out the Rebels’ lack of physicality along the offensive line, something he wants remedied against the Commodores.
“We played very tentative and not very physical,” Freeze said. “We did a poor job preparing our kids for that, and we’ve got to get that fixed.”
Ole Miss will be challenged by a “very fast and very physical” defensive front from Vanderbilt, Freeze said. The Commodores started their season with a 37-7 home loss to Temple, a margin of defeat that had more to do with their offensive ineptitude. Three different quarterbacks — Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary — combined for three interceptions.
Temple finished with 351 yards, but Vanderbilt gave the Owls several short fields with seven turnovers in all.
“I don’t expect us to go in there and get seven turnovers from them,” Freeze said. “I’m sure they’re making corrections, and I expect it be another SEC fight like all are.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for our offense to find a way to successfully sustain drives against them, and I’m certain that they will get ready to fight us hard in Nashville on Saturday.”
Watch Freeze review his team’s performance from the opener, including the play of eight freshmen who made their collegiate debuts, and hit on the Commodores in the video below.
— Freeze said the Rebels got out of the opener relatively healthy, citing WR Collins Moore (knee injury) as the only player who won’t go through practice today. That means DT Issac Gross, who’s nursed a strained neck during camp and didn’t dress against Boise, will also practice.
— While other factors contributed the struggles of the running game, Wallace had the most attempts of anybody with nine. Sophomore Mark Dodson had the most yards of the running backs with 28, 19 of which came on a touchdown run in the final minutes. Juniors I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton broke camp at the top of the depth chart, but Freeze said specific packages will start being installed for each back.
— Derrick Jones started four games at cornerback last year as a freshman but wasn’t one of the first options off the bench when starters Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson needed a blow. Cliff Coleman and freshman Kendarius Webster, who’s moved up to be Golson’s backup at the field corner, got most of those reps with Jones playing sparingly. Jones is listed behind Hilton and Coleman at boundary corner.
“The other guys are playing really well,” Freeze said. “Not that (Jones) didn’t play good. We’ll need him before the year’s up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to make sure we’re playing the best kids out there.”
— LB Denzel Nkemdiche will make his season debut against the Commodores after serving a one-game suspension for an offseason arrest. Freeze said Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant will split reps at outside linebacker, and there could be third-down packages where both are on the field at the same time.
“We’re glad to have him back, and hopefully he’s learned valuable lessons from the experience he’s been through,” Freeze said.
Bryant was ejected in the first quarter against Boise for targeting, but since the penalty came in the first half and not the second, the junior won’t miss any time against Vanderbilt.
See Tuesday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage of Monday’s press conference. (September 1, 2014)