Freeze, Rebels put Bama win behind them and focus on Vandy
Ole Miss’ fans are still excited about the Rebels’ 43-37 win over then-No. 2-ranked Alabama last Saturday in Tuscaloosa, but head football coach Hugh Freeze is on to the next game, which is Vanderbilt.
Freeze did his usual at Monday’s press conference, pointing out the positives and negatives of his team’s play in the win over the Crimson Tide, even throwing some shade on himself for playing Robert Nkemdiche, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, and others for almost the entire game, admitting he could have done a better job substituting players in and out.
But, overall, Freeze was truly happy to see everyone rejoice over the huge road win.
“One of the things I started last Sunday was harping that I want our coaches and players to enjoy the moments we have together,” Freeze said. “These opportunities that you have, they don’t come around, in my lifetime, so often that you look at those moments and sometimes, unfortunately, I look back and say I really missed my time to enjoy the journey because I am so caught up and worried about results. I really like the approach we took with that.”
Focused on the Commodores
Freeze didn’t miss his opportunity to dance and celebrate with the team and coaching staff, but now he wants to focus strictly on the Commodores, who are coming off their first win of the season against Austin Peay (47-7) last Saturday inside Vanderbilt Stadium.
Vandy’s offense improved behind newfound stability at QB: Freeze doesn’t want the Rebels (3-0) to take Vanderbilt for granted as the Commodores have found stability at the quarterback position with sophomore John McCrary, who’s currently third in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards (880), trailing only Arkansas’ Brandon Allen (916) and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly (898).
In Vanderbilt’s win over the Governors, McCrary recorded three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) and completed 28 of 33 passes for 368 yards and rushed for 41 yards on five carries.
Freeze has seen the progress the Commodores’ offense has made from a season ago in which the offense averaged only 288.3 yards per game. In its first three games of the 2015 season, Vanderbilt has averaged 442 yards of total offense.
“It is a bit different,” Freeze said about Vanderbilt’s new intriguing offense. “They have a new coordinator. I think he came from Wisconsin. So you’re seeing a flavor of that. A lot of personnel, they’re number one personnel group you’re going to see, they will get a lot from No. 12 and No. 22, a lot of shifts and motions.”
“You have to adjust and be gap sound against those guys because they are going to try to get you moving,” Freeze continued. “With all the shifts and motions, you can be a bit gap unsound. So they present an issue. It is a little different. Some similarities, but some differences also. Passing game is definitely different.”
The Rebels’ defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the SEC, will test the young McCrary, who said earlier this week that he’s ready for the challenge that awaits him in Oxford. “He is definitely excited to play the game,” center Spencer Pulley said about his starting QB. “He loves this game. He’s not nervous. The venue doesn’t change how he plays or his attitude.”
History of the series
In last season’s meeting between the programs, Ole Miss trotted all over the Commodores 41-3 inside Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Saturday will mark the 90th meeting between Vanderbilt and the Rebels dating back to 1894. Ole Miss leads the series 49-38-2 and has won 15 of the last 22 meetings since 1992. The Rebels lead the series 49-20-2 in SEC games.
The Commodores (1-2) won the first 19 games in the series, with Ole Miss having won 49 of the last 70 meetings.
Derek Mason preparing his team for Ole Miss’ up-tempo offense
“Having played this Ole Miss team last year, they’re a good football team. Wherever they were ranked in the preseason, I don’t know if it really did it justice,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason’s said in a statement on the Rebels’ new ranking as the No. 3 team in the country. “But, in watching the game last week, what you had a chance to see was a football team that was prepared to go into hostile territory and play a great game.”
They didn’t beat themselves. They gave themselves an opportunity to win. That is a well-coached team. That is a talented football team and they’re well deserving of their ranking. Derek Mason on Ole Miss
Saturday will be the first time this season the Commodores face an up-tempo offense like the Rebels, who have scored 58 points in the first quarter and lead the SEC in total offense (567.3 ypg).
But Mason is adamant about how the defense will react to a fast-paced offense.
“You practice. You practice tempo,” Mason said when asked about Ole Miss’ offensive quickness. “You go through mechanics. You understand that getting lined up is the biggest part of what tempo is about. It is to get you rattled in terms of your defensive play call. What we have to do is make sure we get our guys lined up.”
“I look at last year’s game and we never got lined up. When you don’t’ get lined up, you can’t play football,” Mason continued. “The biggest thing we are going to do is make sure our guys get lined up. This is the first time we play tempo. What we need to continue to do is make sure that we talk about communication, getting lined up, tackling. We do those things and you give yourselves a chance to play really good defense.”
Player Updates for Vandy game:
Offensive line injuries
Justin Bell and Robert Conyers were injured in the win over Alabama. Both have been listed as “questionable” for Saturday’s game; however, Freeze noted on Wednesday that Conyers has been practicing and will attempt to play. Rod Taylor and Jordan Sims could play in Bell’s spot, while Ben Still (who played center all last season) is the most-likely replacement if Conyers can’t go.
Tony Conner out with torn meniscus
Safety Tony Conner will be out of action for a month after suffering a meniscus tear in his right knee last Saturday against Alabama. Conner had surgery on his knee Monday and is expected to make a speedy recovery.
“Docs felt really good about it,” Freeze said. “He was in good spirits Tuesday night. Hopefully we can get him back quickly. I said earlier minimum of four weeks. That’s accurate.”
Tunsil will miss another game, for now
Freeze was hoping to have something to tell everyone about offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, who has yet to play a down this season for Ole Miss as the NCAA continues to investigate the future first-round NFL draft pick. As of yet, however, the NCAA has not issued a ruling.