Hugh Freeze wants to end 2016 with Egg Bowl victory, bowl game
OXFORD, Miss. – One game now determines whether or not Ole Miss makes its way to a fifth straight bowl game under head coach Hugh Freeze. And, it’s not just any old game on which so much rides; it’s the annual Egg Bowl matching the Rebels against in-state rival Mississippi State.
On Saturday afternoon in the 113th meeting against the Bulldogs (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference), Ole Miss will have to play with a sense of urgency if it wants to become bowl-eligible and reap the benefit of the ensuing extra practices the post season brings.
Saturday marks the 89th “Battle of the Golden Egg” as the two schools started playing for the trophy in 1927. The Rebels hold a 57-26-5 advantage in the Egg Bowl.
Senior Day marks final appearance at the Vaught for 27 Rebels
Saturday will mark the final home game for 27 seniors: WR Quincy Adeboyejo, DB Tony Bridges, DE Fadol Brown, OL Talbot Buys, DB Tony Conner, OL Robert Conyers, TE Evan Engram, DB Carlos Davis, QB Drew Davis, LB Luke Davis, C Jacob Feeley, LS Will Few, DT Issac Gross, RB Martin Johnson, DT D.J. Jones, DB Derrick Jones, RB Akeem Judd, QB Chad Kelly, OL Jeremy Liggins, LB Rommel Mageo, DB Kailo Moore, K Nathan Noble, LB Temario Strong, TE Hunter Thurley, P Grant Warren, DE John Youngblood and TE Taz Zettergren.
Kelly and Youngblood will not play in this year’s Egg Bowl due to season-ending injuries they suffered against Georgia Southern two weeks ago.
This senior class is a major part of why Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) has become relevant in the SEC Western Division in the past four seasons. With a win on Saturday against State, this year’s seniors will have guided the Rebels to four straight bowl games, including back-to-back New Year’s Six games after the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
And head coach Hugh Freeze wants to make sure senior day is special for the players who have worked so hard to help him build a winning tradition.
“By the people who are very close to the program and those of us who have worked with them, there’s no doubt in our mind that they have rejuvenated and made Ole Miss Football relevant again. The totality of what they have done here, you can’t argue. Two New Year’s Six bowl games, four straight bowl games, hopefully making it five after Saturday, that’s what they should be remembered for.”
Coach Hugh Freeze on Ole Miss seniors
The Rebels are seeking their first three-game winning streak in the series since 2002-04. In order for that to happen, Freeze needs his young players to play with energy and focus. Once the team returned to Oxford after losing to Vanderbilt last weekend, they had a team meeting with Coach Freeze, who emphasized the importance of the Egg Bowl.
“We’re a beat-up football team,” Freeze said. “John Youngblood spoke yesterday (to the team) and did a marvelous job, but unfortunately he can’t participate, as Chad Kelly can’t and others. They (young players) have to understand the magnitude of this game.
“Our young kids, for the value of the seniors and our program getting the extra practices and getting to a bowl game, it’s vital that they understand that. We’ve got to find out who the warriors are for this week, and that’s who you’ve got to play and get ready to go.”
Coach Hugh Freeze on younger players understanding importance of Egg Bowl
At the conclusion of the team meeting, Freeze said he hoped the players grasped the magnitude of what the Egg Bowl means to the university, mentioning he will put only the guys on the field who are mentally and physically ready to play.
“We know this game is going to be a battle. It always is. For us to have to have this to gain bowl eligibility, I’m certain that’s something they want to keep us from, and it’s something we desperately want to achieve. We have to find the kids who understand it and are willing to put the premium on preparation for this game, and those are the ones we’ve got to play.”
Coach Hugh Freeze on motivation in Egg Bowl
Ole Miss is beat up on both sides of the football. Freeze announced on Monday that tight end Evan Engram and defensive tackle Issac Gross are questionable for the Egg Bowl. Sophomore wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge (foot injury) will not play on Saturday as well as freshman running back D’Vaughn Pennamon. On the offensive line, sophomore Sean Rawlings and Robert Conyers will try their best to go.
Freeze mentioned Engram is going to try his best to get prepared to go. The Powder Springs, Georgia native suffered a hamstring injury in the 38-17 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. Freshman wide receiver A.J. Brown was shaken up against the Commodores but Freeze thinks he will be fine. Freeze also said cornerback Tony Bridges is day-to-day but thinks he will play on Saturday.
Junior wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow’s hand was stepped on last week in practice before the team’s game against Vanderbilt. “It was giving him problems,” said Freeze.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State play at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, November 26 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.