Rebels’ Evan Engram excited and “at ease” with final matchup against Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. – Evan Engram witnessed first-hand the excitement in Oxford when Ole Miss defeated then-No. 1 Alabama in 2014. He saw the stunned faces of the Crimson Tide faithful when the Rebels celebrated a win inside Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa in 2015. This year, Engram feels differently about the impending matchup than he has the last two years.
He is more at ease about his final chance to play a program that has won four national championships and four Southeastern Conference Championships in the last 10 seasons.
And why is the senior tight end more comfortable, albeit excited, about facing No. 1 Alabama (2-0) for the final time?
It’s because Engram has been around the block more than once. It’s because Engram has witnessed both the ups and downs of the Ole Miss football program in the last four seasons under current head coach Hugh Freeze. It’s because Engram wants the best for not only himself, but for the No. 17 Rebels (1-1), who are looking to become the first school to defeat a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team three straight times.
Evan Engram on playing Alabama
Engram didn’t allow the loss to the Seminoles in the opening week of the season to sour his mood or damper his motivation to bounce back, because he knows the season wasn’t over; it has just started. Engram is one of several faces on the offense who has been around a while and seen his team respond in a positive manner.
In 2014, Engram saw Ole Miss lose a heartbreaker to Auburn at home—the game in which Laquon Treadwell went down with a horrific season-ending injury. Last season, Engram witnessed the Rebels lose to Arkansas in overtime, yet in both seasons Ole Miss reached a New Year’s Day Six Bowl. So in Engram’s mind, there’s no reason to panic since there is plenty of time left to overcome a 45-34 loss to Florida State in Orlando.
Evan Engram on bouncing back
Engram made it clear the Rebels are ready to prove themselves in the game against the Tide.
Earlier this summer during SEC Football Media Days, Engram announced goals for his final season in Oxford: win the SEC Championship in Atlanta—and help his Rebels earn a spot as one of the four teams in the college football playoff. At Monday’s weekly press conference, Engram quickly pointed out that Ole Miss needs to beat the Crimson Tide to make those dreams a reality.
Facing the Tide
The Rebels’ offense will be facing another stout Alabama defense; the Crimson Tide are currently ranked sixth in the country in total defense (216.5 yards allowed per game). Engram has watched game film of Alabama, agreeing with head coach Hugh Freeze on how good they are at every position.
“I think he’s right on that,” Engram said of his coach’s assessment. “They move a lot better, just a little bit more, kind of like a finesse defense. They are still very physical, really strong up front, and really good against the run.”
In spite of how much faster Alabama has gotten on defense, Engram is pumped up about the game and remains confident and focused on preparing his teammates to go toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide’s elite all over the field.
Engram on being ready for the game with Alabama
Paging Katy Perry
Back in 2014, Engram was unaware that singer Katy Perry was on campus in Oxford, saying he was clueless until the game started.
“I figured it out when they showed her on the jumbotron like 20 times,” Engram said, smiling. “After the game, they showed her at Funky’s jumping off the bar. Hopefully, she comes again, and give us some good luck.”
Ole Miss and Alabama will square off at 2:30 p.m. (CT) in Oxford at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday, September 17. The game will be televised by CBS.
(Feature image credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk)