OLE MISS

Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

"We hadn't really found any rhythm through our first four games, either offensively or defensively," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We had been playing hard, but I didn't think we established any rhythm whatsoever. That was surprising to me based on what I had seen this summer and the extra work. I thought we would be further along in developing an identity. We took a huge step toward that this past weekend."

Senior guard Jarvis Summers, a preseason All-SEC first team selection, leads the team in scoring averaging 14.7 points per game. He is joined in double figures by junior guard Stafan Moody (13.0 ppg) and senior guard LaDarius White (12.2 ppg). 

Moody exploded for a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as Ole Miss defeated Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic Championship Saturday. He knocked down as many 3-pointers against the Bearcats (3-of-7) as he had all season (3-of-21).

"He hadn't really made any threes prior to us going to Florida, and he really struggled," Kennedy said. "The first one he made, he banked in against Creighton, which is not what we intended to get him out of his slump. He made a couple early against Cincinnati. They pressed us, which allowed him to get in the open floor, and he made some spectacular finishes."

"It took a while, trying to get used to the offense and things like, but then I finally got it going, got in a good rhythm, got some good looks, and the shots started falling," Moody said.

White, Kennedy said, has probably been their consistent player this season. He is averaging 13.0 ppg during the last five games, all wins for the Rebels, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range.

"He came out of that big class with Johnny O'Bryant, Rodney Hood, Jarvis Summers, and I really felt like Snoop had a chance to be a tremendous player," Kennedy said. "My hope is that this senior year, he will embrace the approach you have to take, and he will be consistent. He has certainly showed moments."

Through six games, Kennedy has used a deep rotation with all 12 healthy scholarship players averaging nine-plus minutes per game, including nine players averaging 14-plus minutes per game. 

"We have done it so many times, I'm used to it," said Moody of the deep rotation. "Any five that's out on the floor, I feel like we can mesh together, regardless of who's coming in and coming out. We have been doing it for so long."

The rotation has not included sophomore forward Terry Brutus, who missed last season with a torn ACL, but he is expected to return to full practice and game action soon. Kennedy noted his ability to help the frontcourt with rebounding and ball-screen defense.

"He's unique in that he gives us a four-man that we haven't had since he got hurt," Kennedy said. "He has some of the same Murphy (Holloway)-like qualities in that he's a bit undersized, but he's so explosive and he's so quick. He's been practicing with us for about 10 days. We have increase his workload in contact, and so forth. He gives us great energy. We'll see if he gets cleared, and we're pretty confident that he will, and we'll see how quickly we can get him into game action because it's been a while since he has played."

Coming off wins over Creighton and Cincinnati, Ole Miss turns its attention to two more marquee non-conference opponents, as the Rebels host unbeaten TCU (7-0), coming off a 61-52 win over Mississippi State, and travel to Oregon (4-2), an NCAA Tournament team last season.

"We have already stubbed our toe," said Kennedy, referring to the season-opening loss to Charleston Southern. "We have talked about wanting to protect your home floor, simply because I know how difficult it is to win on the road. And then we'll have a challenge at Oregon on Sunday. We're playing two opponents from quality leagues, and I understand the importance of those games."

Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract, they both announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning. Terms will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

Freeze has led Ole Miss to a 24-14 record, including an 11-13 mark in the Southeastern Conference, over three seasons. The 13th-ranked Rebels finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, their most regular season wins since 2003, defeating No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 on Saturday in the Egg Bowl.

Ole Miss started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 3 in the polls, its highest ranking since being preseason No. 1 in 1964, and defeated two top-five teams (No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State) for the first time since 1969. Ole Miss also set a new single-season attendance record with 430,829 fans, which surpassed last year's record by more than 15,000.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

Nov. 24-30, 2014

Football

- No. 18 Ole Miss won the annual "Egg Bowl" rivalry 31-17 over No. 4 Mississippi State in front of another sold-out crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.

- The Rebels finish the regular season with nine wins for the first time since 2003.

- This was the third win over a ranked opponent in 2014, the most in the regular season since 1969.

- Already without Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss lost fellow wideout Vince Sanders in the second quarter, and a banged-up Bo Wallace behind a banged-up offensive line posted 532 total yards (2nd-most in SEC play this year) and 205 rushing yards (most in SEC play this year).

- Jaylen Walton rushed for a career-high 148 yards, including a highlight-reel 91-yard touchdown, and Evan Engram helped fill the void in the receiving corps with a career-high 176 receiving yards (fourth-most in a game in Ole Miss history) on five catches.

- The Rebel defense held Mississippi State to a season low-tying 17 points and racked up nine tackles for loss and three sacks, the most the Bulldogs have allowed this season.

- Ole Miss finished the regular season with the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, allowing just 13.8 points per outing.

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss completed a prefect 2-0 week to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic championship Saturday with a 66-64 win over Cincinnati. 

- Junior guard Stefan Moody scored a career-high 26 points,  including 17 in the second half, as Ole Miss handed Cincinnati its first loss of the season. The Rebels held the Bearcats to just 30.4 percent shooting from the floor including an almost 10-minute stretch with a field goal in the second half. 

- Ole Miss advanced to the championship game with a 75-68 win over No. 23 Creighton in the semifinals. It marked the Rebels' first win over a ranked for since taking down No. 18 Wisconsin the in second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Senior Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss with 23 points, while senior LaDarius White added 18, including 16 in the second half. 

- White is averaging 13.0 ppg during the last five games, all wins for the Rebels, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field.

Women's Basketball

- The Ole Miss women's basketball team picked up its first in-season tournament victory since 2011-12 and the first of the Matt Insell era by winning the 2014 Nugget Classic Championship. Ole Miss defeated Utah, 52-38, in opening round action and clinched the championship with a 77-65 win over Nevada. 

- Ole Miss' win over Utah marked the first victory for the women's basketball team over a Power Five non-conference foe since defeating Illinois during the 2009-10 season -- that victory also came at an in-season tournament. 

-Toree Thompson had a career-night against Utah, scoring a career-high 23 points against Utah and following that up with 15 points and going 8-of-8 from the free-throw line against Nevada. Her efforts earned her MVP of the 2014 Nugget Classic. She was joined by teammate Tia Faleru who was named to the All-Tournament team. 

-The wins were Ole Miss' first road/neutral-site wins of the 2014-15 season. Prior to the Nugget Classic, Ole Miss' last non-conference road win was at South Alabama on Dec. 16, 2013. The Rebels did defeat Arkansas in a neutral-site game at the SEC Tournament last season.

Volleyball

- Ole Miss finished the first season under head coach Steven McRoberts with a 22-10 overall record, 8-10 in the SEC

- The Rebels posted the best start in school history (14-0), the most wins since the 2007 season and the most SEC wins since the 2010 season 

- The Rebels finished 12-4 at home to equal the most home wins in school history. In the 3-0 win over Georgia, the Rebels posted a school-record .432 attack percentage and ended the year with a school-record .254 percentage.

- Junior middle blocker Nakeyta Clair was named to the All-SEC Team, becoming the first Rebel to earn the honor since former All-American Regina Thomas in 2011. Clair set the single-season record for kills with 366 and moved into eighth on the career list with 818. She finished the year third in the SEC in hitting percentage at .405, which ranks second all-time in a season at Ole Miss.

-  Sophomore setter Aubrey Edie ended the year third in the SEC in assists with 11.30 per set. She set the single-season record at Ole Miss with 1,322 assists and moved into third all-time with 2,271. Her career-high 62 assists in a win at Mississippi State set the single-match record.

- Sophomore Melanie Crow set the single-season record for aces with 42, including a career-high 5 in wins over Alabama and Georgia. In addition, Crow finished second in a season in kills (352) behind Clair's single-season record of 366.

- Freshman Lexi Thompson shined for the Rebels, posting 323 kills, which ranks as the fourth most in a single season and the most by a freshman in school history.

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Ole Miss collected a lot of hardware over the weekend, as the football team reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy and the men's and women's basketball returned home with regular-season tournament championship. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- In the face of adversity, the Ole Miss football team turned in a complete performance, highlighted by an explosive offense and suffocating defense, in a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State to cap a 9-3 regular season. Check out what everyone was saying about the Rebels' Egg Bowl win.

"I kind of look at the big picture, and I know there are people in this program who probably disagree and that's OK," head coach Freeze said. "They're entitled to that. "To be sitting here 9-3, to have beaten the No. 1 team in the nation and the No. 4 team in the nation. We lost some very difficult games in conference on the road. We have come miles and miles in three short years. Anytime you end the season with nine wins and the Egg Bowl in your possession, that's a dang good year."

-Hugh Freeze called a great game, maybe his best as the head coach at Ole Miss, getting the ball to the team's playmakers with opportunities to make big plays, as the Rebels averaged 8.6 yards per play, including seven plays that gained 30 or more yards, on the way to 532 yards of total offense.

"It was a combination of having the right play called at the right time, so part of it was the scheme," Freeze said. "The plan was good, and then the kids executed it," Freeze said.

- One of those explosive plays was a 91-yard highlight-reel touchdown run by Jaylen Walton that not only proved to be the game-winning score, but also earned the No. 3 spot on SportsCenter's top 10 plays Saturday night.

- Bo Wallace cemented his legacy, throwing for nearly 300 yards and adding a touchdown run, all on a sprained ankle. Already the school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace became the first Ole Miss quarterback to defeat two top-five teams since Archie Manning in 1969 and became the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to nine regular-season wins since Eli Manning in 2003. 

- Defensively, Ole Miss held Mississippi State to a season-low tying 17 points and 445 yards of total offense, nearly 67 yards below its season average. The Rebels racked up nine tackles for loss and three sacks and held Dak Prescott to 48 yards on 24 carries.

"They're pretty good," said Freeze of Mississippi State. "They're going to get some yards. They have all year. At the same time, I'm not surprised. We are the No. 1 team in the country in scoring defense. We've been stingy with giving up points in the red zone. It was great to see, but I'm not really surprised."

- Speaking of, Ole Miss finished the regular season ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (13.8), more than two points fewer than No. 2 Stanford (16.0) and gave up a nation-low 18 touchdowns, three fewer than UCF and Alabama (21).

- The home team continued its dominance in recent years, with the home team winning every meeting since 1999 except for 2003 in Starkville and 2010 in Oxford.

- On a related note, it was not quite the same as King Kobraz's "Feed Moncrief" two years ago, but Rebel Nation, particularly its students, have adopted Lil Jon's "Missisisppi Throw It Up (Remix)" and "Outta Your Mind" as their own this year, and it made for a great home field advantage.

- Ole Miss may not be a contender for the four-team playoff, but they may be a contender for a berth in a "New Year's Six" bowl, which this year includes the Fiesta, Cotton, Peach and Orange Bowls. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm projects Ole Miss to the Gator Bowl and play Iowa.

- The men's basketball team picked up two key wins, knocking off No. 23 Creighton, its first win over a ranked team since the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and Cincinnati to claim the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. The Rebels continued their strong start defensively, holding the Bearcats to a season-low 30.4 percent from the floor in a 66-54 win in the championship.

"We've posted two quality wins against teams (Creighton, Cincinnati) that are going to have good seasons," head coach Andy Kennedy told the AP. "We played just as hard tonight like we did against Creighton, but not as well. Still, this was a good win for our program to beat a team of this caliber."

- Stefan Moody turned in his best game in an Ole Miss uniform, scoring a career-high 26 points against Cincinnati to earn tournament MVP honors. If he keeps it up, he's going to be fun to watch.

"I've been telling people that he has explosive scoring ability," Kennedy said. "He carried the load for us. Good teams have good options. Tonight it was Stefan."

- The women's basketball team improved to 6-1, defeating Utah and Nevada to claim the Nugget Classic. After a road game at Western Kentucky on Thursday night, the Rebels return home for a much-anticipated matchup with No. 13 Baylor on Sunday afternoon. In case you forgot, Ole Miss played then-No. 9 Baylor to an 87-80 loss in Waco last year.

- The volleyball team made a strong final push under first-year head coach Steven McRoberts, defeating Alabama and Georgia to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive entering their regular-season finale against Texas A&M. The Rebels led 2-1 after taking the second and third sets, but the Aggies rallied to win sets four and five to take the match 3-2.

"It's tough to end it with a gut-wrenching loss," McRoberts said. "I'm thankful for this first year, that we've laid a solid foundation moving forward. Hopefully, our team is willing to put in the effort to get over that hump, so that we're celebrating at this point next year instead of being done at Thanksgiving."

- Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief capped the weekend with another big game, hauling in three catches for a career-high 134 yards, including touchdowns of 48 and 79 yards, his second and third career touchdowns. He and teammates T.Y. Hilton also threw up the Landshark, as they planned to do, and received the game ball after the game.

- To close, let me congratulate Metz Camfield, who has also been a part of this weekly feature, whose last day with Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations was Saturday. Starting next week, he will be the editor of CoachCal.com, so follow him over there and @MetzCamfield.

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from CBS Sports

VIDEO: Ole Miss bounces back, wins Egg Bowl from ESPN

VIDEO: Bo Wallace fights through injury for win from ESPN

VIDEO: On-field Celebration from Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze: 'It's a great night for the University of Mississippi' from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Bo Wallace discusses his legacy, Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Jordan Wilkins breaks down trick touchdown pass from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Evan Engram on Ole Miss' Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Senquez Golson on containing De'Runnya Wilson from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi State's fairy tale run ends in thud as rival Ole Miss plays spoiler role, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports

State of Mississippi's spotlight not leaving after Ole Miss Egg Bowl win, writes Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated

Mississippi State Bulldogs' playoff hopes dashed in Oxford, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Freeze's game plan pays off for Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Wallace delivers golden performance in Egg Bowl, writes Rick Cleveland for the Clarion-Ledger

Leaving a Legacy, writes Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Rebs use line play to reclaim Egg, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com

If his legacy remained in doubt, senior quarterback Bo Wallace cemented it Saturday night in his final home game.

Playing with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Arkansas, Wallace helped lead his team to a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, his second win over a top-five opponent this season, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Archie Manning in 1969.

"He couldn't practice any this week," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told everyone you would have to chain him down to not play in this game. You would have to really chain him down. 

"For all the stuff he gets talked about, I hope this would cement his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback who came and helped restore pride and returned us to relevancy. He won two Egg Bowls and at least two bowl wins, taking us to a third. I hope this cements his memory here by everyone in a positive light because he deserves that."

The school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and added a touchdown run, rebounding from a four-turnover game in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last season.

"I have been thinking about this game since last year," Wallace said. "Every single day, I have thought about this game. It pushed me this offseason to work harder than I ever had. The crazy thing is, looking back, I'm kind of thankful for that game because it made me have a better season this season. That game drove me every single day."

Tightly taped up and given pain medicine to deal with the ankle injury, Freeze said Wallace never complained as he prepared this week and then played Saturday night.

"There was a little more motivation there," Freeze said. "He has wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 365 or whatever number of days it's been, and he prepared like it. Even though he was unhealthy, he spent a lot of time in the film room and made sure he felt good about the things we were going to call. He was locked in."

Despite the injury, Wallace was sacked only once, a credit to his much-maligned offensive line that helped pave the way for a 532 yards of total offense. He was also helped by career efforts from sophomore tight end Evan Engram and junior running back Jaylen Walton.

"Hats off to the O-line because I couldn't move back there and they kept guys off of me," Wallace said. "I told them the whole game, 'Keep doing what you're doing. You guys are playing great.' If it weren't for them playing as well as they did, I don't think I would have had a shot."

"It was unbelievable," said Engram of Wallace. "He's definitely one of the toughest players I have played with in my whole career. A lot of guys could have easily just milked the injury and sat on the sideline and not do anything, but that wasn't going to happen with him."

Stepping into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, capped by his second Egg Bowl win and the program's first nine-win regular season since Eli Manning in 2003.

"I had to win this game," Wallace said. "I knew it. I talked to Quon (Laquon Treadwell) about it. I talked to a lot of guys about it. I had to win this game for what I want to be remembered for."

Three areas to watch as No. 18 Ole Miss hosts No. 4 Mississippi State in the regular season finale both teams Saturday.

Stopping State's One-Two Punch

Mississippi State boast the SEC's third-best rushing attack and two of the league's top six rushers in junior running back Josh Robinson (98.6 ypg) and junior quarterback Dak Prescott (81.0 ypg). The duo have also combined for 23 rushing touchdowns.

The SEC's leader in total offense, Prescott leads SEC quarterbacks and ranks fourth nationally among all quarterbacks in rushing yards, averaging 81.0 yards per game, and ranks second nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Nicknamed "Bowling Ball" for his 5-foot-9, 215-pound stature and running style, Robinson ranks second in the SEC, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, including an SEC-best 6.8 yards per carry in league games.

In their lone blemish on the season, a 25-20 loss at No. 1 Alabama, the Bulldogs were held to 138 yards on 40 carries, a season-low 3.45 yards per carry. Forced to throw, Prescott attempted a season-high 48 passes, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Prescott. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part. Every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Red Zone, Turnover Battles

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined for 18 wins, the most at the time of the matchup in series history, and one of the keys for both teams has been red-zone defense.

The Rebels rank third nationally, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 38 percent of the time once they enter the red zone, while the Bulldogs rank lead the nation, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 35 percent of the time.

This area made a clear difference in Mississippi State's wins over Auburn and Arkansas and its loss to Alabama. Mississippi State allowed a combined three touchdowns in 11 red-zone opportunities in the two wins compared to three touchdowns in five opportunities in the loss to Alabama.

Another key has been turnover margin, where Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and Mississippi State ranks ninth, but the difference in the wins and losses is where the stat is key.

Ole Miss has a plus-11 turnover margin in their eight wins compared to a minus-3 turnover margin in their three losses, with a minus-5 turnover margin against Arkansas and the timeliness of the turnovers against LSU and Auburn proving to be a difference.

An opportunistic defense, Mississippi State was unable to force a turnover against Alabama on the way to a minus-3 turnover margin, compared to a plus-3 turnover margin in its 10 wins.

"The one thing that really stands out if you look at the three games is turnovers," said head coach Freeze, referring to the Rebels' losses to LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. "That's probably a direct correlation to us not having success. That'll be a big, big key."

Legacy on the Line for Wallace?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has led Ole Miss to some big wins in his career, defeating Mississippi State in 2012, LSU in 2013 and Alabama earlier this season, and Saturday's rivalry game with No. 4 Mississippi State presents another opportunity to cement his legacy.

The school's all-time leader in career total yards, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, having stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games.

Wallace has had his ups and downs, notably in his two previous Egg Bowls, completing 15-of-22 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-24 win in Oxford two years ago and then completing 26-of-40 passes with three interception and a lost fumble in a 17-10 overtime loss in Starkville last year.

With two games remaining in his career, it's premature to label his legacy, but his performance Saturday will likely play a role in how he will remembered, for better or worse.

"You hope people focus on all the good," said Freeze, when asked about Wallace's legacy. "He's led us to three consecutive bowl games. He's been very, very relevant in returning relevancy to this program in the conference and nationally. He's now become the all-time total offense owner of that record, passing the great Eli Manning. 

"Those are some great things. I think in time people will recognize that and he'll be remembered for those things. Hopefully he can add another two to it, win another bowl to it and get the Egg home."

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