After taking responsibility for Rebels’ loss to Vandy, Hugh Freeze turns focus to winning Egg Bowl
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Hugh Freeze spoke to the media Saturday night following Ole Miss’ 38-17 loss to Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference), the Ole Miss coach understandably appeared a bit haggard from the Rebels’ up-and-down season. “It is a brutal rollercoaster on you and your family and the young men that you work with,” Freeze said of being a head coach.
This season has indeed been a tough ride for the Rebels. They’ve lost some games they didn’t expect to lose–and they have watched helplessly as several of their best have faced season-ending injuries.
“This is a great example of the last two weeks with the emotional highs of winning on the road, then the disappointment of being out-coached tonight, outplayed,” Freeze said after the loss Saturday.
“They wanted it more in every facet of the game. Coach (Derek) Mason, who I have great respect for, had his kids ready to go tonight and we didn’t, and it’s frustrating.”
Freeze said when his Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) players made their way to the locker room, he looked in their eyes and told them he felt it was his fault the team lost to Vanderbilt, a loss that ended the Rebels’ three-game winning streak over the Commodores.
“I didn’t get them ready to play. The only thing that matters now is getting back and getting some guys healthy. We lost some more tonight. We need to get as many healthy as we can to try and gain bowl eligibility with the Egg Bowl next week.”
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
The Rebels have had some issues this stopping the run and communicating with one another on defense. Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries against an Ole Miss defense that had to play most of the second half without its top linebacker, DeMarquis Gates, after he was ejected for targeting. Due to the targeting rule, Gates will not be able to play in the first half of next week’s Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.
While the Rebels were slim at the linebacker position without Gates, and struggling in the secondary, Commodores’ quarterback Kyle Shumur was able to find his receivers down field. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. One of Shurmur’s biggest throws came in the first quarter when wide receiver Trent Sherfield shimmied past two Ole Miss’ defenders for a 67-yard reception to set up Webb’s four-yard TD run.
“A couple of times I think we are there,” Freeze said about the defense’s coverage. “Our young kids aren’t playing the ball. They are just there and the double move was just bad eyes, just winning in one-on-ones.”
In addition to the team’s defensive struggles, the Ole Miss offense couldn’t seem to recapture the magic it had last weekend in College Station, Texas. On almost every snap, true freshman quarterback Shea Patterson had to scramble outside the pocket to find an open receiver. To make matters worse, the Rebels’ normally sure-handed receivers dropped many passes.
Patterson completed 20 of 42 passes for 222 yards and two scores, and Freeze explained he will work with the former five-star recruit over Thanksgiving break to prepare him for the Bulldogs.
“They gave him a lot of different looks and he’s trying to set the protections and this is new to him,” Freeze said about Patterson.
“He hasn’t had a lot of reps at doing that. Then they had a game plan of a couple of different things that we not had seen that gave him some problems. He was a little antsy but that is to be expected in the second game. We’ve got a lot of time to spend with him to help him prepare for next week’s game.”
The Rebels suffered several injuries Saturday night against Vanderbilt. Senior tight end Evan Engram suffered a hamstring injury. DaMarkus Lodge and Damore’ea Stringfellow did not play in the second half.
Ole Miss is now 2-19 when opponents score 30 or more points.
Vanderbilt’s win was the third at home for the Commodores this season, eclipsing their win total from last season.