Notes from Coach Freeze’s Weekly Press Conference
Coach Freeze met with the media Monday for his weekly press conference. Following the Rebel loss to Arkansas Saturday, the Ole Miss head coach addressed what went wrong in the game, how his players are handling the loss, what the injury situation is, and the importance of the Egg Bowl.
Coach Freeze, like anyone who bleeds Red and Blue, expressed disappointment in the loss and explained how he is working through it. “The only thing I’ve ever known that can take the steam out of disappointment is thankfulness,” he said. “I’ve found that if I can give thanks in everything, regardless of my feelings, I usually can find some joy regardless of my circumstances.”
Freeze acknowledged how difficult the loss is to accept, but said he has challenged his players and staff to find things for which to be thankful.
“The first thing we talked about was being thankful for the opportunity to represent this great university in the Egg Bowl and the importance of it to our fans, our football program and this entire university.”
In spite of Saturday’s loss, Coach Freeze believes his team will respond positively. “They have a clear understanding of how much this game means to so many,” he said. “I expect us to have a great week of preparation in getting ready to play this in the Vaught come Saturday.”
Coach Freeze on the offense in the Arkansas game
Coach Freeze told reporters he thought the Ole Miss defense was playing well enough to keep the Rebels in the game Saturday, but that turnovers and the inability, at times, to move the ball were costly. “I thought if we got a couple of those red zone touchdowns, the game could have been totally different,” he said. “You can’t create turnovers that give them the ball inside the five against anyone and expect to beat anyone, but I thought the defense played well enough to keep us in it.”
Freeze said he did not have a problem with his team’s effort. “I tried to find fault in effort, and I didn’t see it,” he said. “You can’t turn the ball over like that and put your backs against the wall–in this league for sure.”
He also mentioned the two interceptions in the red zone, and “the two fumbles that gave them a one-yard drive and a 23-yard drive” as being clear impediments to winning. “Those are two short fields you give them,” he added. “Those plays were critical and we were never able to gain momentum.”
Fourth-down penalty call
Freeze also said there were several key plays in the game that further hurt the Rebels’ chances of winning. One huge one, he noted, was the fourth down call where Ole Miss stopped the Razorbacks but was called for offsides.
Freeze told reporters he looked at the film but was not able to determine exactly what happened. “From our film I can’t tell,” he said. “Again I have great respect for our officials. To me it’s like holding; you can call it a lot, and you typically call it when it has a direct result on the play. The individual called for offsides had nothing to do with the play. I just can’t tell from the angle on our film, but obviously he wouldn’t throw it unless he saw our guy be offsides.”
Coach Freeze on Dak Prescott
When asked what his impressions are of the State team that comes in with only one loss, Freeze immediately commented on how much quarterback Dak Prescott adds to a team that is already very good. “Dak Prescott makes them better than very good,” he said. You take him away from that team and they’re still really good.”
Freeze also commented on the leadership Prescott brings to his team:
“Everyone, even outside of their family, would say that he’s a great leader. It’s easy to see that the players that play with him believe in him and want to follow him. Then you put his performance with those leadership qualities and it makes him a pretty special player.” — Coach Freeze on Dak Prescott
Update on Rebel Injuries
Reporters were understandably interested in the health status of quarterback Bo Wallace who injured his ankle against the Hogs. Freeze said his senior quarterback should be ready to play. “It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game,” he noted. “He’s hungry and wants to play in this game in a bad way. He’s going to try to go no matter what. He’s gotten better each day. Hopefully he’ll be close to 100 percent.”
In discussing other injuries, Freeze added that all the players who made the trip to Fayetteville should be available to play in the Egg Bowl. “I got a lot of concerns, but all of the kids that made the trip will give it a go in this game,” he said. “That’s probably the best way I can put it. There won’t be a single kid that’s out of the game the other night that won’t give it a great go.”
When asked about the health of Laremy Tunsil, Freeze indicated that the starting left tackle should be able to play Saturday. ““He looked really good for the first half but didn’t play much after the shoulder popped out again. We’ll give him a lot of treatment this week. We’ll get him ready to go Saturday.”
Though the Rebels no longer have a mathematical shot at winning the SEC West division, they do have the ability to send the seniors out with a win at home against their rivals. Coach Freeze spoke about keeping his team’s situation in perspective:
“You know what, there are 128 Division I schools, and I’m sure there are quite a few that are disappointed they’re not in the conference championships any longer. If that’s the reason you play on a given Saturday you’ll probably be disappointed a lot more than three times. There’s disappointment, but I don’t think anyone would have thought we would be competing for the SEC Championship to begin with, so I’m kind of looking at the big picture. The big picture is I still think we’re ahead of schedule. We’re disappointed but ahead of schedule. We have a lot to play for with pride on the line and eight or nine wins in the regular season.” — Coach Freeze
Dealing with Egg Bowl Pressure
With the eyes of Mississippi and the nation turned to the Egg Bowl this Saturday, Freeze was queried about the pressure to get the Egg Bowl Trophy back in Oxford. He explained he tries not to let the pressure get to him and instead concentrates on what needs to be done. “I care so much about the job we’re doing here and this place and the people; I could at times give in to that (pressure), but I try to reign my thoughts back in pretty quickly. I focus on task at hand. I don’t give in too much to pressure. I have too much to be thankful for to let that get to me.”
The Legacy of Bo Wallace
Coach Freeze was questioned about what he thinks Bo Wallace’s legacy will be to the Ole Miss program. He responded by listing some of his quarterback’s outstanding accomplishments while wearing the Rebel uniform and said:
“You hope people focus on all the good. He’s led us to three consecutive bowl games. He’s been very, very relevant in returning relevancy to this program in the conference and nationally. He’s now become the all-time total offense owner of that record, passing the great Eli Manning. Those are some great things. I think in time people will recognize that and he’ll be remembered for those things. Hopefully he can add another two to it–win another bowl and get the Egg home.” — Coach Freeze on Bo Wallace
The depth of the Egg Bowl rivalry
When asked if he thought the Ole Miss/State rivalry is more hate-filled than others, Coach Freeze said he is not sure about those games, but because he is so close to this one does “find it hard to believe there are many with more intensity than this one.” He acknowledged that he wants to beat Mississippi State “as bad as they want to beat us, particularly two days out of the year — this Saturday and then National Signing Day.”
Freeze’s final comments on the Egg Bowl made it clear he knows what is at stake Saturday.
“The bottom line is we lost the most prized possession of this university’s football program, regardless of how it ended,” he said. “That’s the facts of it, and it should be enough motivation.”
The Rebels take on Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl this Saturday, November 29 at 2:30 pm on CBS.