Ole Miss Track & Field had an outstanding season in 2012-13, highlighted by the men's No. 8 national outdoor finish (best in school history), the men's No. 23 national indoor finish and the women's No. 4 SEC cross country finish (best in school history).
The team held its annual banquet last week to honor the accolades of last year's team and kick off the new 2013-14 season.
In addition to All-America honors, NCAA Championship participants and SEC Championship awards, here are some of the team awards that were presented by head coach Brian O'Neal at the banquet:
Men's Student-Athlete of the Year: Jonathan Redding
Women's Student-Athlete of the Year: Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen
Men's Outdoor Athlete of the Year: Sam Kendricks
Women's Outdoor Athlete of the Year: Mary Ashton Nall
Men's Indoor Athlete of the Year: Ricky Robertson
Women's Indoor Athlete of the Year: Asia Cooper
Ole Miss is 5-3 for the second straight year, as it enters its second bye week of the year before a final four-game stretch starting with Arkansas on Nov. 9 from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The previous stretch of games included three straight losses, then back-to-back wins over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho.
"We could easily have a couple more wins, and we could easily have a couple more losses," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You're mind usually concentrates on the ones you let get away, but you have to move on from those. Winning the last two games has helped tremendously with that. I believe we have gotten better at mostly every spot."
"(5-3 this year) feels a lot different because we have been through the meat of our schedule," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said "But at the same time, every SEC team is great, and we know we can't take a week off, or somebody will come up and beat you."
Entering the bye week, Freeze said he does think they can get quite a few of players back who didn't suffer season-ending injuries.
"I'm confident that Mike Hilton will be back, as well as Isaac Gross being healthy," Freeze said. "Charles Sawyer, we'll hold out this week and Denzel Nkemdiche, we held out the other night, and I see no reason for him to not be ready. Robert Nkemdiche and Jeff Scott, I'll need to wait until next Monday to better answer that, but we're hopeful on them. Carlos Thompson, I am doubtful on, we're getting concerned on his nerve not firing in his arm, so hopefully we can catch on soon and he'll be back in a couple of weeks."
Preparation for Arkansas will start on Thursday, Freeze said, and they will get in an extra practice on Sunday night.
"This week will certainly help that because we'll need those guys for this stretch run that we have coming up with the three SEC games and the one out of conference game," Freeze said. "It gives us coaches a lot of time to start self-scouting us, and give us a jump start against Arkansas and scouting other opponents, as well as plan what we would like to add, take out or just plan a little differently. We'll also get a chance to look at some young guys in practice too, and get us some depth."
A win over Arkansas would make the Rebels bowl eligible for the second straight year under Freeze. In this week's bowl projections, Greg Ostendorf from ESPN has Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl, while Jerry Palm from CBS Sports has them in the Gator Bowl.
"We all want to win these games, and let all that care of itself," Wallace said. "We know if we win these games, we'll be in a big-time bowl. And that's our goal. Our goal is not just getting to a bowl game this year; it's going to a big bowl game. It's taking that next step for our program."
"A few guys talk about it but not too often," junior defensive tackle Bryon Bennett said. "We try to keep a narrow focus and not look at the big picture. We know a lot of our remaining games are home, which is always an advantage for us with the energy and excitement."
Wallace, Brunetti Improve Decision-Making
Last year, Wallace threw 22 touchdown passes compared to 17 interceptions. Through eight games year, he has thrown 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. His interception ratio (interceptions per pass attempt) improvement from last year to this year ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally.
Wallace also ranks fifth in the SEC and 31st nationally in total offense (266.2 ypg) and 5th in the SEC and 36th nationally in passing (247.0). His backup, senior Barry Brunetti, has completed 12-of-15 passes for 129 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games.
"It's been an on-going endeavor since last spring," Freeze said. "I think Dan Werner has done a really nice job of decreasing the package so there is no question of what to do and a clear understanding of what your read should be. As the year has gone on we continue to cut back to make sure we put ourselves in position to take care of the ball and there should be no reason for us to not have great understanding of exactly what you're supposed to do and when.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Dan Werner, as well as those two kids (Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti). We must always take care of the football, and we've done a good job putting an emphasis on that also. We've also been able to run the ball, which is a huge thing for anyone that understands what our offense is like. When you're able to run the ball it gives you a little more time to throw, and the decisions become better."
Wallace's improved decision-making has even been apparent to him mid-play during games this year.
"It's just better decisions," Wallace said. "There have been a couple times rolling out, especially against LSU, I was thinking middle of the play, 'Last year, I probably try to fit the ball in there,' but then continuing to run and try to do as much as I can without trying to do too much. That has really helped me out."
Bennett Settling In At Defensive End
After playing the first five games, including two starts at defensive tackle, junior Bryon Bennett has started each of the past three game at defensive end, due in part to a season-ending injury to junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, as well as injuries to freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson.
"He likes defensive end," Freeze said. "He's played two really solid games there. He's a physical guy. His motor turns up out there, it seems like. Moving forward, it will be interesting for us to look at what the best combination is and how to go about getting our best players on the field. I have been as pleased as I have been in my year and a half with him."
In the last two games, Bennett has three tackles including a solo tackle and a tackle for loss. With Bennett at defensive end, the defense has recorded five sacks in those games, including a season-high three sacks against LSU.
"It's exciting," said Bennett, of defensive end. "There's more room to roam around. I have to back further off the ball to make sure I'm not offside. Other than that, it's a lot of fun."
Bennett said took about two or three practice to adjust to playing defensive end. He gave credit to senior offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, as well as freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, whom he faced in practice. The two biggest adjustments, he said, were his positioning and how he rushed the passer.
"I have to make sure I maintain my outside presence," Bennett said. "To pass rush, I have to run a lot more. Inside, it's a few steps and then you make a move. On the end, you have to run the edge and make sure the quarterback can't bounce outside the pocket."
No. 23 Ole Miss equals last year's win total, as it improves to 13-4-2 overall and 6-3-1 in Southeastern Conference play with a 2-1 win over Alabama on Sunday, courtesy two goals by senior Rafelle Souza, including the golden goal in the first overtime period.
"I'm really happy with our team defending well and tough," head coach Matt Mott said. "We got a good goal from Rafa early and a good goal from Rafa late. Mandy McCalla was a machine. I'm certainly happy coming out with three points."
The Rebels controlled play for much of the match, outshooting Alabama 26-4, but the teams went into overtime tied at 1-1.
Then 6:40 into the first overtime period, on the Rebels' 12th corner kick of the match, Souza headed home the service of fellow senior Erin Emerson for the game-winner.
"One, you get scared because you don't want them to counter," Mott said. "But two, you feel like if you keep putting the ball in good spots, one of them is going to find the back of the net. I'm happy with the way we're playing. We have to find that net earlier and be more quality in front of goal.
It was Souza's second goal of the game, her team-leading 16th of the season. With two goals and four points on Sunday, she moved into second-place all-time in program with 38 career goals and stands alone in second place with 96 career points.
"She's a special player," Mott said. "We're so excited to have her, and she's having a really good senior year. She's been dominant in every game we have played, so I'm really happy for her. She means so much to our team. Our team together is so together, and that's really important."
"Ole Miss is a great program," Souza said. "I'm real proud of my team and my teammates because it's not just my effort."
The Rebels wrap up the regular season at home against Mississippi State next Thursday night, and then it's the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., the following week, where the top six teams get byes into the second round.
Ole Miss clinched a bye and at least a fifth-place finish with 19 points, three points ahead of LSU, with whom the Rebels own the tiebreaker. Ole Miss is also three points behind South Carolina for third place and two points behind Kentucky for fourth place.
"We have one more win we got to get to really lock ourselves into the NCAA Tournament," Mott said. "SEC-wise, we're in the top-six group, and that's where we want to be to get the bye in the first round. I'm certainly happy with the girls."
Ole Miss Soccer held a "Dad and Daughter Day" this past Sunday, and it was another special day for superfan Sam Provenza and his daughter Mille Smith.
Provenza, a World War II veteran who will turn 91 in January, and his daughter have formed a special bond with junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick from both attending mass at the St. John's Catholic Church.
"I met them through church," McCormick said. "I didn't have anyone to go with at 8:30 in the morning, and so they introduced themselves and adopted me as if I was their child. He has really supported me in my sports and academics. He is an amazing man and he has an amazing story in what he has been through in his life, so I am really happy to be a part of their family."
"I'm living with my daughter, and Kelly is good friends with her from church, so I got interested in her, and I started coming to games this year," Provenza said. "I talk to her about the game and everything. She's a fine young lady and has devoted most of her time to charity and trying to get into veterinary school."
Provenza has attended every Ole Miss home soccer match this season as he recovers from cancer surgery. It was during that time after surgery that his bond with McCormick grew stronger.
"He just had cancer surgery on Feb. 1 for the left parotid gland," Smith said. "We know Kelly from church, and she would always sit with us, and she came on some really dark days for my dad to cheer him on in his cancer recovery, and he is here to cheer her on for soccer and the rest of the girls."
Provenza and Smith arrived early before kickoff, and then stayed after the match, a 1-1 draw with No. 7 South Carolina. Following her post-match responsibilities, McCormick returned to the bleachers at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium, and visited with them, as she does after every home match.
"That means a lot to me," Provenza said. "She feels like she's one of my daughters. I have three daughters, so she's my fourth daughter."
"It touches me dearly that he would take his time to come watch a game," McCormick said. "He could be doing other things. He has a special place in my heart, so I really enjoy that he's here with me."
The Ole Miss offense racked up 572 yards of total offense, including 292 on the ground, as the Rebels rolled to a 59-14 win over Idaho on Saturday. It was the most total yards and points by an Ole Miss team in the Hugh Freeze era.
With senior Jeff Scott out with a thigh bruise, the sophomore tandem of I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton carried the load at running back for the second-straight game.
Freshmen Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore also saw action, as Dodson set career highs with seven carries for 57 rushing yards and recorded his first career touchdown with a 30-yard reception from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti.
"They're all competing, and we'll sort it out," Freeze said. "We'll try to have some packages and keep them fresh for all of the guys that are healthy. Those two guys, along with Dodson and Kailo, they all did some good things tonight. I'Tavius and Jaylen certainly looked solid."
Mathers, who carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards in last week's win over No. 6 LSU, notched his first career 100-yard rushing game with 138 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 64-yard run for a touchdown.
Against LSU, Walton led the way for the Rebels, as he set career highs with 106 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. On Saturday, he rushed 11 times for 86 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was his second straight game with two rushing touchdowns, and he now leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this year.
When Scott returns from the injury Ole Miss will have three running with more than 300 yards rushing this season. Scott leads the team with 434 yards on 53 carries and two touchdowns, followed by the sophomore tandem.
Mathers is second on the team with 326 yards on 48 carries and two touchdowns, and Walton, who now leads the team with five touchdowns, has 321 yards on 64 carries.
"We're going to sit down and talk about it because those guys have done a really good job," said offensive coordinator Dan Werner of Mathers and Walton. "I was really pleased, and I know Coach Freeze is too. We have to see. They will play and definitely get some snaps."
Among the players who don't normally see significant playing time, Dodson and Moore stood out for Freeze.
"The first guy that jumps out at me would be Dodson," Freeze said. "He showed some explosion and physical runs. He has to take care of the ball better. Kailo showed some good burst on swing route. We think both of them are really good players. We have some good players at that spot."
The second annual Square Jam will be held on the Oxford Square Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m., as part of this weekend's Homecoming festivities. The men's and women's basketball teams will participate in variety of drills and skills competitions to unofficially kick off the start of the season.
The event started when Ole Miss decided to do something with Midnight Madness, where they wanted to take basketball where their fans were going to be, so they did that by taking a basketball court to the Square in the parking lot in front of City Hall.
"We were in this external team for men's basketball, and I showed a picture of an outdoor basketball tournament," Hudspeth said. "And we started throwing around the concept of putting a basketball court on the Square. Initially, it was just a thought. The more we talked about it, Brian Russell, one of our event managers, said 'Why not, let's look into it.'"
"And so I threw a couple of lines in the water to see what kind of response we would get, and the responses started becoming more positive, so we pursued it. We found out how much a floor would cost, and if the city would allow us to do it. When the city said they would allow us to do it, that's when it took off full speed. Within a couple of weeks, we had basically planned the entire event and had the floor ordered, and it was ready to roll."
The original plan was for the inaugural event to be held this year, but head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, Hudspeth said, really pushed and wanted to do it last year, and so they were able to put it all together in a short amount of time.
"Coach Kennedy, for a long time, really wanted to figure out a way to do some type of opening to basketball season," Hudspeth said. "And he felt like this was the perfect transition with us wrapping it into the Homecoming parade and a home football weekend, so people could start getting a basketball mentality into their brains."
During last year's event, Derrick Millinghaus won the knockout contest while the team of Nick Williams and Gracie Frizzell won the three-point content, and Aaron Jones won the dunk contest. Both teams will participate in all three events again this year, with a game of H-O-R-S-E as a possible addition.
Micah GInn, Director of Creative Services, will serve as the emcee, and Athletics Director Ross Bjork, women's basketball coach Matt Insell and Rebel Rewards member Colleen Haadsma (@chaadsma) will serve as the judges for the dunk contest.
This year's event will also feature a few more additions to enrich the fan experience, some more noticeable than others.
"This year, we're going to have the Ole Miss logo in the center of the court," Hudspeth said. "That will be a neat addition. This year, we're adding a video board, which we have never done. It will be right next to the court and will face back toward the fans. It is an 11 x 17 foot video board, which is a pretty big size. We're going to have a camera crew out there and be able to show videos and starting lineups."
Among the other improvements are more bleachers on the three sides surrounding the court, better lighting, and added restrooms behind City Hall are among the other improvements for this year's event. Also, particularly in the event of colder weather, both players' benches will be completely heated.
The event itself lasts an hour, and within two hours last year, Hudspeth said, the Square was back open and running. However, it's a full day for him and his staff, which will then turn around to staff Saturday's Homecoming game against Idaho, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
"We have been working on the planning process for months," he said. "On Friday, we will start probably around 11 a.m., myself and our marketing will go to the Square and set up a command center-type area where we have all the materials that we need for Square Jam, and we hang out all day."
"It will take us about three to four hours to set everything up and have it ready to roll. The Homecoming parade starts at 5:30, and it's usually over by 6:30. We'll start our event at 6:30, and it should be over by 7:30. At about 7:45, we start taking everything down, and we're usually done by 9. Last year, I remember getting in my car to go home at 9:20. It's a full day."
Through the first seven games of the season, Ole Miss has played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Sagarin's ratings. The Rebels (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) continue to their six-game home stand over seven weeks, as they welcome FBS Independent Idaho (1-6) for Homecoming this Saturday, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on CSS.
"We got to put it away and move forward," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "The gauntlet that we have gone through, it's taken a toll on us some physically and mentally. We certainly need to continue moving in the right direction in all areas. We got a team coming in this week that I'm sure will nothing to lose playing in an SEC home and have a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend. We don't want to be on the other end of that, so we have got to regain our kids' focus and elevate our concentration to do the little things right."
"It's going to make us a better team at the end of the year, just going through that stretch and playing such good competition," senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray said. "But we have to go out there and play every Saturday either way, no matter who we're playing, but it's good to get it out of the way. That was a tough, tough stretch."
Idaho is coached by Paul Petrino, who is in his first year as a collegiate head coach, having previously served as offensive coordinator at Louisville, Arkansas and Illinois. The Vandals' lone win was a 26-24 victory over winless Temple on Sept. 28, but did have close 45-35 loss to current No. 22-ranked Northern Illinois on Sept. 24.
"On game day, the team felt a little bit sleepy," said McCray, of Ole Miss' 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri. "We came out slow. We learned the lesson from that game and Auburn that we have to start fast, and we have to be passionate, no matter who we're playing. We have to be high energy because that's our identity. We play with passion, and we let that carry over on the field."
"As big as (the LSU win) was for us and the fan base, if we could go out there and don't show up against Idaho, that win doesn't really mean a lot," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We know who we're playing this week, and we'll prepare just like they're any other team."
Wallace Has 'Best Game' Of Ole Miss Career
Junior quarterback Bo Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, his third-straight 300-yard passing game, as the Ole Miss offense racked up 525 yards of total offense in the 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU.
"Bo played his best game he's played since he's been here," Freeze said. "I can only find two things to complain about, and hopefully we can get those cleaned up, and him play an even more complete game. Dan (Werner) did a great job with him all week making sure he understood our plan exactly."
"We needed a game like that," Wallace said. "We put up a lot of points against A&M. We knew that we were going to have to put up a lot of points with the defense and the injuries that they had. Everybody prepared, we got the game plan down early in the week, and then everybody executed.
The Rebels converted 11-of-18 third downs on Saturday, including two third downs on the game-winning drive, capped by senior kicker Andrew Ritter's 41-yard field goal. Facing 3rd-and-6, Wallace ran for six yards, then facing 3rd-and-9, Wallace connected with senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan for a 13-yard completion.
"We had to do something," said Wallace, of the final drive. "We couldn't leave it in the defense's hands again. We couldn't leave it anybody else's hands. We had to go down and score, and that's exactly what we did."
Wallace passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time (4,784), 187 passing yards behind Mark Young for sixth place. He also ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (278.9 ypg) and fifth in passing (255.7 ypg).
Along the way, Wallace has also picked up the nickname Dr. Bo, which he said he knew about on Monday.
"Yeah, I am aware of it," Wallace said. "It came for a video game or something like that, so yeah I am aware of it... It's cool, I guess."
Engram Out For Season, Parker's Role To Increase
Freshman tight end Evan Engram underwent season-ending surgery on Monday, Freeze said, to repair his high ankle sprain. The Powder Springs, Ga., native ranked fourth on the team in receptions (20), third in receiving yards (265) and second in touchdowns (3). His 20 catches rank seventh-place all-time by a freshman in Ole Miss history.
"We lost Evan Engram for the year, which is a tough loss for us. He was on track to be a freshman All-American. He's a tremendous kid and was very important to our scheme. We don't have another one like him who can win some one-on-ones in space and do the blocking that we were asking him to do. Everyone knows the situation we are in at that position, so that's a difficult loss. And it's even worse because you know what these kids put in. He's such a great kid and going to be a tremendous leader for this program for years to come."
"It's going to change a little bit because he was that guy that we could go 11 personnel and do a lot of different things with, flex him out and things like that," said Wallace, of the loss of Engram. "Of course, it's going to change. It hurts me a little bit, not having him to stretch the field, but Nick Parker caught a touchdown, so he has to get prepared to play this week and be ready to go."
Senior Nicholas Parker, who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass against LSU, his first career reception and touchdown, is now listed as the starter at tight end. Seniors Jack Nuismer, Parker's backup on this week's depth chart, and Justin Bigham have also seen action in six games this year.
"Nick is a joy around this program," Freeze said. "He is loved by his teammates. He makes people laugh and goes to work every day. He's a local kid. So when he caught that touchdown, there was a lot of excitement and joy for him. His role will increase some, but we're different with him. He doesn't do some of the things that Evan could do, but he can do some things, so we'll certainly start using him more. And probably Justin Bigham and maybe (Jack Nuismer), those will be the three guys you will see right now."
Senior kicker Andrew Ritter hit a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left to give Ole Miss the 27-24 victory over No. 6 LSU, its first win over a top-10 ranked opponent since 2009.
Moments later, amid the postgame celebration, the ESPN cameras found senior offensive linemen Jared Duke and Patrick Junen carrying a Gatorade cooler and looking for head coach Hugh Freeze.
"With two seconds left for the kickoff, we were just a little bit concerned," Duke said. "Obviously, everyone was. They had the big lateral play and stuff. We weren't going to do it then. We were going to wait until the game was secure. We got the Gatorade container and couldn't find Coach Freeze at all.
"There were students on the field and everything. It was just madness after the game for sure. Eventually, we did find him. Watching ESPN and everything, they singled us out while we were just kind of standing there. We were actually waiting on Coach to get done with an interview. It's funny. It's laughable. I have received a lot of tweets, which have been real funny."
For offensive linemen such as Duke and Junen, it was a rare moment in the limelight, as they helped Ole Miss rack up 525 yards of total offense in the win. In their respective four-year careers, Duke has played in 41 career games with 11 starts, including six starts at right guard this year, while Junen has played in 40 career games with 11 starts.
"They found us," said Duke of the ESPN cameras. "It wasn't exactly what we had in mind when we were planning on giving him the Gatorade bath. We wanted Gatorade because you had to see the green. Absolutely. You can't just pour water on him. It was completely spur of the moment."
Like Duke said, they found Freeze. It just took a little while.
Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian
"We found him right away," Duke continued. "We figured he was at the 50-yard line, but we didn't want to interrupt any big moments or the coaches' meeting, so we waited, then he went to straight to an interview, so we had to wait a little bit longer, but it was funny. Everyone was laughing about it."
Undoubtedly both Ritter's kick, as well as the few seconds of Duke and Junen carrying the Gatorade cooler, will go down in the rich history of the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry.
"I hope it's Ritter's kick," said Duke, of what people will remember 10 years from now. "I don't want to take anything from that.
"And I was telling Coach (Matt) Luke afterwards, 'Man, I hope this doesn't find its way 30 years down the line when I'm at a job, and it shows up every now and then in the workplace. I'm a little worried about that. It will probably happen, and it will be funny then, too."
After 1-0 win over Vanderbilt the previous week, Ole Miss re-entered the polls at No. 24 and then finished the weekend with four points -- a 1-0 win on the road at No. 25 LSU and a 1-1 tie at home against No. 7 South Carolina.
The Rebels improved to 12-3-2 overall and 5-2-1 in Southeastern Conference play and moved into a three-way tie for fourth place with LSU and South Carolina.
"It's a fantastic weekend for us, and four huge points for the SEC (Tournamnet), and we have to keep rolling," head coach Matt Mott said. "This team believes. That's four games in a row we're unbeaten. We got a big game next Friday. I'm happy with them and the way we're playing and competing and looking forward to the last three."
Against South Carolina on Sunday, Ole Miss fell behind 1-0 after a goal in the sixth minute, but junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick kept it a one-goal game, as she made four save in the first half to get to halftime.
"Without her, we lose that game, 2-0, 3-0, in the first half," Mott said. "They just pounded us. We were able to get into halftime and adjust and come back out with better energy and effort. Kelly was huge."
"I was in the right position in the right time," McCormick said of her six saves in the match. "Coach Rob (Thompson) has really been helping me in practice and we have been simulating some scenarios that would happen in the game, and some of them happened, so I was able to be in the right spot at the right time and make those saves.
A pair of great individual efforts netted the equalizer in the 76th minutes for the Rebels, as sophomore midfielder Jennifer Miller connected with sophomore midfielder Olivia Harrison, who slid the ball past the goalkeeper for her fifth goal of the season.
Already without sophomore defender Samantha Sanders, who suffered a knee injury earlier in the season, Ole Miss also suffered injuries to redshirt freshman Georgia Russell and freshman Melissa Capocaccia, who also play on the back line for the Rebels.
"A couple of ankle injuries," Mott said. "Georgia's is more severe than Melissa's, so we hope they're going to be OK. Georgia is probably going to be out for a while, but I think Melissa will be back, hopefully quickly."
Senior Maddie Cunningham stepped up and logged 46 minutes off the bench in their place and then nearly gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead late in the second half, but her shot from way, way out hit off the top of the goal.
"They're playing so hard and battling," said Mott of the back line. "I'm proud of every one of them. And Kelly is doing fantastic for us. That's keeping us in games that we would have lost in the past. It's keeping us winning and tying and keeping us going toward our goals."
"I was really disappointed we kept injured in the back, but Maddie Cunningham stepped it up and made some really good tackles and plays, so we're really happy with her performance," McCormick said.
The Rebels carry their fourth-match unbeaten streak into another split home-away weekend, on the road at SEC-leading Texas A&M on Friday, then back at home against Alabama on Sunday.
"I think we're right there," said Mott of NCAA Tournament consideration, "Our RPI is good. We have good games left. If we can take care of business, I think we have a good chance of getting an (NCAA Tournament) bid."
In head coach Hugh Freeze's first season at Ole Miss, the Rebels gained bowl eligibility with a 41-24 win over in-state rival Mississippi State, then rolled to a 38-17 win in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh.
A year later, after a consensus top-10 recruiting class, Freeze and the Rebels won a pair of road games at Vanderbilt and Texas, but Saturday's 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU marked a signature victory of a different kind. It was Ole Miss' first win over a top-10 foe since defeating then-No. 8 LSU in 2009.
But Ole Miss had been close under Freeze.
In last year's meeting in Baton Rouge, La., the Rebels lost a 41-35 shootout to then-No. 8 LSU, and just last week, the Rebels lost a 41-38 heartbreaker to then-No. 9 Texas A&M in Oxford, but Saturday proved to be a breakthrough for the program.
"I couldn't be more proud of that and those kids to go through what they've been though, with the injuries and the outside world having their opinion of things," Freeze said. "In the back of your mind, you always wonder as a coach if you can get a team ready to do things like this when you're shorthanded and coming off an extremely disappointing loss."
"I was really emotional," said junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who passed for over 300 yards for the third straight game. "I almost lost it. I almost cried. It felt like everything was lifted off of us. It was just an emotional time. I'm so excited for our guys and our defense, for them to play the way they did with the starters they had out."
With 3:15 left in a tied 24-24 game, Ole Miss had the ball on its own 15-yard line. As part of a 14-play, 61-yard drive that included two third-down conversions of 3rd-and-6 and a 3rd-and-9, the Rebels had driven the ball to the LSU 24.
It was a shot at redemption for senior kicker Andrew Ritter, whose 29-yard field goal was blocked earlier in the quarter with a chance to make it a two-possession lead for Ole Miss, and he drilled the 41-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 27-24 lead with two seconds left on the clock.
"I'm happy for Andrew Ritter," Freeze said. "He asked to be redshirted his senior year last year to come back. That kick will make memories for a lifetime for him, to beat one of your biggest rivals, to recapture the Magnolia Bowl for Ole Miss. I'm glad it worked out for him."
"It felt really good," said Ritter of the kick off his foot. "You know when you hit a good ball, and you know when you hit a bad ball, and when I hit that ball, I knew I hit it good."
With injuries all over the place, the Ole Miss defense held LSU well under its 41.4 points per game average and pitched a first-half shutout, the first time the Tigers had been shutout in the first half since a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship.
"Dave (Wommack) and his staff did a great job with preparing those kids, being so shorthanded and having to shorten practices because of that," Freeze said. "I sat in on their meetings this week more than I ever had before, and the plan he had I thought was really good."
That first half also saw three interceptions, including two in the end zone, of LSU senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who led the SEC and ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency and had thrown 15 touchdowns compared to two interceptions entering the game.
"They were huge," said Freeze of the interceptions. "It kept our crowd alive and in the game. It kept the lead and momentum with us, and it gave our kids on defense more confidence."
"They came at critical points in the game," said junior safety Cody Prewitt, who intercepted his team-high fourth interception Saturday. "Those were huge, huge plays. It turned the game for us. They were big plays for us instead of big plays for them. That's what you have to do. You have to make those kind of plays in critical moments in the game, and we really did that."
On the other side of the ball, led by Wallace, the Ole Miss offense eclipsed 500 yards of total offense for just the second time this season. Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, and passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time.
And in the place of injured senior Jeff Scott, sophomore Jaylen Walton rushed 18 times for a career-high 105 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.
"We lined up and we ran the football against a really good defense," Freeze said. "... I have great confidence in Jaylen and (I'Tavius Mathers). I see them every day and think they're very talented. Jaylen does some things in the zone game that are pretty special. He has a little hesitation move and quick acceleration. He did really well tonight and protected the football."
In the win-loss column, Ole Miss improves to 4-3 and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games with a home game against Idaho next week, a bye week, then a final four-game stretch of the regular season, but Freeze also looked at the bigger picture.
"There are some really good recruits in that locker room and we had some really good ones here last weekend that see we're really close, and we could use a little help because we're not where we need to be depth-wise at certain spots," Freeze said. "My mind always goes to that.
"We didn't make plays the other night to win it at the end. And tonight, we did. We made the catch on third down. We made the kick. We made the pass breakup or interception. No question, it helps us in recruiting, which will help us ultimately get where we all want to go."
2013 World Championships,
2016 Summer Olympics,
Alabama Crimson Tide,
Armintie Price Herrington,
BBVA Compass Bowl,
Be The Fan,
Cal Ripken Senior League,
California Collegiate League,
Cape Cod League,
Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge,
Colorado Springs Sky Sox,
Dr. Jamil Northcutt;,
Engineers Without Border,
ESPN College Gameday,
Evan St. Laurent,
Florida State Seminoles,
Florida State Soccer,
From The Vault,
Hard Core Fighter,
Jackson Touchdown Club,
Jeff Scott Hugh Freeze,
Los Angeles Sparks,
Mary Ashton Nall,
mary ashton nall,
Meet The Rebels Day,
NCAA Baseball Tournament,
NCAA Doubles Final Four,
NCAA Tennis Final Four,
NFL Pro Bowl,
North Carolina State,
Ole Miss Athletics,
Ole Miss Athletics Foundation,
Ole Miss Baseball,
Ole Miss Basketball,
Ole Miss Engineering,
Ole Miss Football,
Ole Miss Foundation,
Ole Miss Men's Basketball,
Ole Miss Men's Golf,
Ole Miss Men's Tennis,
Ole Miss Rebels,
Ole Miss Soccer,
Ole Miss Softball,
Ole Miss Tennis,
Ole Miss Track,
Ole Miss Track and Field,
Ole Miss Volleyball,
Ole Miss Women's Basketball,
Ole Miss Women's Golf,
Ole Miss Women's Tennis,
Rebel Media Day,
Rebel Road Trip,
Road To Omaha,
School of Education,
SEC Baseball Tournament,
SEC Media Days,
Spain National Team,
State of Ole Miss Athletics,
Under-19 World Championship,
Under-20 European Championships,
University of Mississippi,
USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships,
USA Track & Field,
Walk Out Songs,
William & Mary,
William Winter Institute,
Women's Basketball; Yolanda Moore,
Coach Freeze is a genuine coach and our players and fans adore him!! in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year
Gary Vaughn said:
It's great to be a Rebel fan. Coach Freeze in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year
Has brought back the excitement
Competitiveness we all so desire. The
fan base and even our doubters are
Paying attention. Even the whole country
Sport tLk shows ect. Are taking notice.
After we upset Alabama this weekend
38-27 we will bolt to a top 12 or better
Ranking. Go Rebels
I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing. in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year
Cory Wilson said:
How can I get my hands on one of these? in post 2013 Fall Sports Player Posters
Dave Darnell said:
Gray pants with red and blue stripes on the legs have served Ole Miss football my entire life time. The blue on blue, red on red and white on white are hideous and UGLY! Leave the pants alone.
Dave Darnell in post New Football Uniforms Unveiled
Ole Miss '68
Tiger fan here (LSU) b we now have 3 in the SEC. You guys looked great last year. You looked coached, and the players were up for every game. Good to see you back in the hunt. in post Looking Ahead to 2013 On Gridiron
Brenda Maxie said:
Go Nephew congraulation on your trip to the olympics. Have a good time. in post UPDATE: Rebel. Champion. Olympian. Young's Blog
Go Isiah! Your Rebel family is pulling for you and can't wait to see you on the podium with your medal! in post UPDATE: Rebel. Champion. Olympian. Young's Blog
who will win the most gold medals?
http://www.formvote.com/discuss.php?postid=281510897524932 in post UPDATE: Rebel. Champion. Olympian. Young's Blog
BILL LOTT said:
GREAT JOB THIS YEAR GUYS - WISHING THE REBELS THE VERY BEST IN THE COMPASS BOWL - LETS PICK A FIGHT WITH PITT AND SHOW THEM WHAT OUR REBELS ARE ALL ABOUT. HOTTY-TODDY - GO REBELS. BE BLESSED AND GOOD LUCK! in post Some Notes On Bowl Trip