Hugh Freeze looks forward to bye week to make adjustments
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. Following the Rebels’ (7-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) loss to Arkansas Saturday, Freeze said he is looking forward to a bye this week before he and his team will engage in another SEC dogfight inside the Vaught against LSU in two weeks.
Freeze feels getting back on the field is the best way for the team to bounce back and release some of the emotions coming off the heartbreaking 53-52 loss to the Razorbacks.
“I’m excited about this week, anxious to get back onto the field,” Freeze said. “We will build on the positives and hopefully make corrections to the issues that we had.”
Kudos for the Rebels’ offense
Freeze praised the Ole Miss offense led by the league’s leading passer Chad Kelly, who completed 24 of 34 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns, including 110 rushing yards and three TD’s on 11 carries.
Saturday night was Kelly’s seventh 300-yard passing game, which is a single-season school record, and he’s currently third on the career chart behind Bo Wallace (11) and Eli Manning (10).
“I thought Chad (Kelly) played extremely well, as did the offensive line and receivers,” Freeze said about his group that put up 590 yards. “There were a lot of positives in the game. It was possibly one of the most efficient offensive games since I’ve been here.”
Ole Miss defensive woes due to a combination of execution, positioning
While the offense electrified the crowd from beginning to end, the Landshark defense had trouble stopping the Razorbacks’ senior quarterback Brandon Allen and a Hogs’ offense that eclipsed 600 yards. Allen completed 33 of 45 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Alex Collins rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries.
Like his players, Freeze had a sick feeling in his stomach following Arkansas’ 4th-and-25 conversion that led to the game’s final hurrah—and ultimately a win for the Hogs. The defensive play of the Rebels Saturday was not what Freeze expected, especially with his main force of defensive players back from injuries—including outstanding junior defensive back Tony Conner, who was out of action for over a month after having surgery on a torn meniscus he suffered in the 43-37 win over Alabama.
“I thought we controlled the running game against a very good running team, obviously that was the plan to stop the run,” Freeze said. “But unfortunately, we did not have answers in their pass game and that is something we will have to address.”
Throughout the night, the defense was mainly in single coverage and Arkansas was able to exploit that with its tight ends, Drew Morgan and Hunter Henry, and wide receivers, Dominque Reed and Jared Cornelius, on a number of short and deep passes towards the sideline or through the middle.
Morgan had 122 receiving yards and three TD’s on nine receptions and Reed caught two of Allen’s six TD passes for 105 yards on seven receptions.
But Freeze thought it was a mixture of good play calling on the Razorbacks end and poor positioning by Ole Miss that led to some of those big plays:
A combination is always the answer. Sometimes, they had the perfect call, just like we did offensively. Sometimes you lose one-on-ones, which we did a good bit. Was it a good call for our defensive staff to put our players in those situations? That’s what we have to evaluate. I’m certain that there are calls, sometimes, that we would love to have back. So it was a combination of things.
Coach Hugh Freeze
Tony Conner’s knee will require drainage
After the game, Tony Conner’s knee swelled and will require drainage before Tuesday’s practice. Freeze said they expected this could happen and indicated the plan was to drain Conner’s knee if he had any complications with it. Conner played 30 snaps on defense Saturday night.
“I just talked to Pat Jernigan and he will be in this afternoon to drain Tony’s knee,” Freeze said. “That was the plan all along. They will drain it and see how he feels tomorrow. We will judge what we do with him based on that.”
Despite playing such limited time in the game against the Hogs, Conner still was credited with four tackles and assisting on a tackle for loss.
Update on OL Christian Morris’ career-ending injury
Sophomore offensive lineman Christian Morris announced via Twitter over the weekend that his football career is most likely over for good following a neck injury he suffered in the team’s 23-3 win over Texas A&M.
Saying he supports Christian moving forward, Freeze added: “He will be a medical scholarship guy and he will complete his degree.
“Life will go on,” Freeze said somberly.
It is disappointing for him, and I’m sure it is hurtful. We hate it for him. We will support him and love him. He is a mature young man. We had already had a conversation last week knowing that this could be a possibility. While he was hurt about it, he had a good perspective.
Hugh Freeze on Christian Morris’ injury
As for Christian’s future with the team, Freeze made it clear there is a place for the offensive lineman with the Rebels. “We will make Christian a student-assistant and he can help encourage other kids that have the opportunity to continue playing.”
Feature image credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk