Through five games, sophomore Robert Nkemdiche has put up modest statistics, totaling 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hurry, but his impact has gone beyond the numbers.
Nkemdiche has been an integral part of an Ole Miss defense that ranks second nationally in scoring (10.2 ppg allowed) and leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed (three). The Rebels have also allowed just 4.1 yards per play, best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.
"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him.
"He has a desire to get better. He just absolutely loves defensive tackle now where before, he didn't know if he wanted to play that. He's playing very well for us. You don't really notice it until all of a sudden you realize you're in the top five in total defense. Something is happening up front where he is."
Watching the film Wednesday, Kiffin also noted the improvement freshman Marquis Haynes has made through five games this season. Haynes started the season opener against Boise State and recorded his first career sack against Memphis.
"I was telling my guys how good Marquis Haynes is becoming for being a true freshman and really playing with zero game experience," Kiffin said. "He's constantly getting better, and the sky is the limit for him. He's so athletic. I see him getting better and better every week."
Wunderlich Wins Placekicking Job
After some shakiness in the kicking game in the win over Alabama, head coach Hugh Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, and freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt Andy Pappanastos.
"Gary is going to get the start," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll go from there, but it's his to win or lose."
Wunderlich, an Under Armour All-American and rated the No. 1 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com, has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.
"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."
Prepping for Garrett
Texas A&M boasts one of the nation's best pass rushes, recording 19.0 sacks, which leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally. And it started with freshman Myles Garrett, who was rated the top defensive end prospect in the nation.
Garrett has started only two games, but he already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.
"He is a phenomenal talent," Freeze said. "He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."
Similar to piping in noise to prepare for what is expected to be 106,000-plus fans at Kyle Field, which would be a state of Texas football attendance record, Ole Miss is trying to simulate Garrett in scout team work this week.
"Victor Evans is the best we have," said Freeze of simulating Garrett. "He's a special athlete for sure. It's hard to prepare for him."
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in College Station.
For the full SEC teleconference, go here.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:23:16 mark)
"We're looking forward to going to College Station. It's one of the great venues in college football. It's certainly going to be a great challenge because of the atmosphere and the wonderful team that Kevin (Sumlin) has put together.
"It's going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys and playing in that environment. It's going to be very tough, and we're looking forward to it, and I'm sure they are too. They're hungry to get back out and play after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game."
On refocusing his team after a big weekend and a big win...
"Every week, either you're going to be on the bitterness of a difficult loss or you're on the the high of an emotional win. Either one, we try to treat the same, and that is we have our normal Sunday meeting where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash and then get back out and get going for the next one.
"It's worked for us on the bitter end. We have had some difficult losses in our two-plus years here and we have bounced back the next week from those and played really well. I don't know if we've had a lot of experience yet on this side of it. We had just the one last year when we beat LSU, which was ranked sixth at the time. I do like what I see right now in our preparation, and they follow the coaches' lead and move on very quickly."
On the difference with this year's Texas A&M team compared to the two previous years...
"They are more athletic on defense. Offensively, they don't have the threat of a guy extending plays quite like (Johnny) Manziel, but they are deeper at receiver and they really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well. Their offensive line is one of the better ones I've seen in a long, long time. They're really good and athletic, and they do a good job.
"The only real difference you see is they may be a bit more athletic at every spot, but they don't extend plays quite like we have experienced the past couple of years."
On earlier players laying the ground work for the current success...
"I think of Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I'm sure I will forget somebody that is very key to us. Evan Swindall, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray are others. They were solid kids that were 100 percent bought-in to our core values and doing things the right way. Mike Marry is another.
"Those kids that I knew were bought-in really helped us overcome the negativity that may have existed when we got here within the team. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning."
On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett...
"He is a phenomenal talent. He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."
On Kevin Sumlin and the progressions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the last three years...
"We're old friends and we go way back and we did come in to the league at the same time. We've kind of made sure we knew what was going on in all those meetings and didn't embarrass ourselves too much. He's helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities in our progressions.
"We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well right now that I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it."
"There are a lot of similarities as far as how we're going about building it and recruiting. He's recruiting really well, and we have done OK in recruiting. Our philosophies are very similar. He's a player's coach, I know that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me."
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin (starts at 1:31:35 mark)
We're coming off of a disappointing loss last weekend at Mississippi State. We look forward to this week. We have another huge challenge. Ole Miss is a team playing really well. They're one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the country.
"This will be our first SEC game at home. That will important for us to get back to Kyle Field and play at home. Our guys have approached the week in a good way and ready to get back on the field again."
On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace...
"He is one of the few veteran quarterbacks in this league. This our third time playing against him. Bo has had his ups and downs over his career, but this year, he has really played like a true veteran. He made plays to win the game last week in a critical moment in a big game. There is no substitute for experience.
"There's no doubt you see his leadership and his ability to be in the system for the amount of time he's been in the system. You see his confidence level and the confidence the coaching staff has in him with the situations they put him in. He's improved. He understands what they're trying to do, he's operating at a high level right now, and he's a big reason for their success offensively."
On defensive end Myles Garrett...
"He's a very talented young man. He was the number one defensive end in the country as a prospect. He's extremely explosive and naturally gifted. He's working on his technique, which is something all young guys are going to do. He's starting to see different blocking schemes, which is the greatest compliment. He was frustrated, and we explained to him that was the best compliment to pay him.
"He's gone through that phase of it. Right now, it's a hard time for all talented freshmen that are playing or have been starting midway through the season, particularly in this league. He's still very young, he's raw, and he's getting better. Over the course of time, he's going to pick up weight and get stronger. He will be the first to tell you there's still a lot of room for him to improve."
On what a win over Alabama can do for your program...
"Alabama is such the standard program for college program, particularly when you're in this league because of their success over the course of the last decade of so, particularly when you're in the West. It becomes not only a big deal for your team, but also for your fan base and your university to say you can compete with the top of the league. It helps in recruiting, too.
"You don't me to tell you what it can do for you. All you have to do is look at the postgame at Ole Miss, and that will tell you enough and how big it was for them."
The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation has recently launched a special campaign page on its website RebelGiving.com as a way for fans to donate and celebrate the Rebels' comeback win over Alabama.
The goal of the campaign is $75,000 -- $11,000 for each goalpost, $50,000 for the fine for rushing the field and $3,000 for miscellaneous stadium repairs. The campaign is more than 50 percent to its goal, having already raised nearly $40,000, covering the costs of both goalposts, with the generosity of 351 donors.
As part of the campaign, fans can donate $5 for a thank you letter from Ross Bjork, $25 for an exclusive desktop background, $250 for a commemorative print, $500 for a 3-inch goalpost piece and $1,000 for a 6-inch goalpost piece.
Twenty-seven of the 50, 3-inch goalpost pieces have been claimed, and four of the 20, 6-inch goalpost pieces have been claimed.
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2014
- Ole Miss outscored then-No. 1 Alabama 20-3 in the second half Saturday en route to a thrilling 23-17 victory over the Crimson Tide. It was the Rebels' first win over a top-ranked opponent in program history.
- Senior quarterback Bo Wallace went 18-31 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Wallace finished the game by completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns. The win was the Rebels' first over Alabama since 2003 when Eli Manning was the Ole Miss quarterback.
- Despite Alabama entering the game averaging 42.0 points, the Ole Miss defense held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. The Rebels also held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry, which is nearly two yards fewer than its season average.
- Senior cornerback Senquez Golson sealed the game with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the back of the Ole Miss end zone. Ole Miss has forced a turnover in 28 straight games, which ranks among the top five streaks nationally.
- The Rebels are 5-0 for the first time since 1962. Ole Miss is also 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
- The Rebels posted a fourth undefeated weekend after playing Auburn to a 2-2 draw and posting the shutout victory over Alabama this past weekend.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied for first on the all-time shutout list at Ole Miss with a 1-0 victory at Alabama on Sunday. McCormick has 21 shutout wins for her career.
- Ole Miss will now have a bye week after moving the match with Georgia to the season-opener for the SEC Network, and return to action in two weeks with road matches at Kentucky and South Carolina.
- Jennifer Miller scored her second goal of the season, hitting the game-winner in the 1-0 victory at Alabama to extend the Rebels' win streak over the Crimson Tide to four matches.
- Ole Miss downed defending SEC Champion Missouri 3-0 in its only match of the week, snapping the Tigers' 20-match SEC win streak dating back to Nov. 23, 2012. The Rebels improved to 3-0 against Missouri in Oxford.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair posted a team-high 14 kills and hit .500 to lead the offensive attack, also adding three blocks defensively. Clair ranks second in the SEC in hitting percentage at .425.
- Freshman Taylor Alexander, in just her third start, posted a career-high eight blocks to lead the defensive effort. She had four blocks in the second set to help the Rebels erase a 22-16 deficit and win the set 25-23. For her efforts, Alexander was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.
- With the win, the Rebels improved to 8-0 at home this season.
- Head coach Steven McRoberts earned his 490th career win in the victory over Missouri.
- The Rebels rank second in the SEC in hitting percentage (.271), second in opponent hitting percentage (.167), third in assists per set (12.61), fourth in kills per set (13.54) and fourth in blocks per set (2.47).
- Ole Miss hosted its second annual "Shoot Pink" match Saturday as part of the Ole Miss Invitational. The Rebels posted a 4603 aggregate score with a 2336 in air rifle to finish sixth overall.
- The Rebels were paced by two freshmen. Jessica Haig fired a 588, while Nadia Hata posted a 586 in air rifle. Sophomore Alison Weisz shot a 583 in air rifle.
- In smallbore, the Rebels were led by freshman Shelby Sandstrom, who turned in a 569.
- The Ole Miss men's golf team placed three players in the top 20 of a tournament for the first time since 2012.
- Seniors Joe Lewis and Blake Morris, and sophomore Noah West help propel the Rebels to a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Shoal Creek Invitational.
- With first-year head coach Chris Malloy at the helm, Ole Miss has finished in the top five in two of its three tournaments this season.
Cross Country - Men's Team
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team, ranked fourth in the USTFCCCA South Region, finished second in the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday. The finish was above 12 other regionally ranked teams and all four other SEC teams competing.
- Junior Wes Gallagher led Ole Miss in his first event as a Rebel. The Northeastern transfer clocked a time of 24:00.74 in the 8K, good for seventh overall. The Rebels placed six runners in the top 33.
- Gallagher, Robert Domanic, Sean Tobin, Daniel Bulmer, Taylor Caldwell and Mark Shaw all made their first appearance of the season in the strong performance for the Rebels.
Cross Country - Women's Team
- The Ole Miss women placed 17th overall in the 5K race. Freshman Shelby Brown turned in a time of 18:10.51 to pace the Rebels. Brown has improved on her 5K time in each race this season. She's shaved 38.82 seconds from her opening meet time.
- Ole Miss raced a young squad at the meet. The nine Rebels competing included six freshmen and two sophomores.
- The women's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice on Sunday, Oct. 5 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels will open the regular season campaign Nov. 14 when they host Grambling for the 12th annual School Kids game at 11 a.m.
- The men's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice Friday, Oct. 3 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels open their season Nov. 14 with a home game against Charleston Southern at 6:00 p.m.
It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:
1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.
"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously.
"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."
2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display.
And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.
3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show.
She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.
4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace.
The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.
He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.
"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."
5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?
The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.
6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play).
7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.
From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.
"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."
8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.
"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."
9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.
10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.
11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.
12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.
13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here.
And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove.
14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet.
15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.
"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."
16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.
17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.
"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group.
"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."
18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.
19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.
AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Final Call from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG
VIDEO: Ole Miss vs Alabama Highlights from Ole Miss Sports
No. 11 Mississippi stuns No. 3 Alabama, 23-17, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
No. 11 Ole Miss knocks No. 1 Alabama from unbeaten ranks, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today
Rowdy Ole Miss fans party with the goalpost after beating Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today
3 things we learned from Ole Miss' exciting upset of Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today
Ole Miss upsets Alabama: How far can Rebels go in CFB Playoff race?, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports
Ole Miss back on the map, shakes up SEC West by beating Bama, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports
Finally, these Rebels have reason to yell, writes Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com
Ole Miss rallies past Alabama in upset Rebels waited years to capture, writes Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated
Ole Miss beats Alabama 23-17 after thrilling fourth-quarter comeback, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated
Ole Miss enjoys beats Bama, but wants more, writes Matt Hayes of Sporting News
Ole Miss caps off historic day, incites bedlam with thrilling upset of Alabama, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo!
Madness in Mississippi as Rebels and Bulldogs Knock Off Top-10 Team, writes Rusty Hampton of the New York Times
Ole Miss has 'a tremendous day,' writes Neal McCready of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com
The New Normal, writes Ben Garett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Game-Saver, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Greater Opportunities, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Freeze has Rebels among nation's elite, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Clutch Bo: Wallace's huge fourth quarter leads upset, writes Riley Blevins of the Clarion-Ledger
In a big moment, Senquez Golson came through, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Bo-dacious: Wallace sharp as Rebels rally past Crimson Tide, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Rebels talented, mature enough to survive mistakes, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Senquez Golson, Bo Wallace provide heroics in Rebels' upset, writes Jack Schultz of the Sun Herald
In the aftermath of Saturday's historic win, the Rebels' first win over win over a top-ranked opponent and the first win over Alabama since 2003, senior quarterback Bo Wallace was at the center of it.
After throwing three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-tying and game-winning scores, the fans stormed the field and mobbed Wallace and his Ole Miss teammates. They would later raise him up and carry him for a distance, and they would go on to tear down the goal posts.
With the game on the line, he completed each of his final three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns, as he finished the game 18-of-31 for 251 and three touchdowns.
"It was special because I know a lot of those guys that rushed the field are doubters, and for them to lift me up, it was special," Wallace said. "And it's huge for the seniors. Those guys have been through some rough times here. And to get a win against the No. 1 team in the country, it's definitely special."
"He just played so solid," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us. Who knows what the next week holds, but tonight, Bo led his team to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. He deserves credit for being a big part of that."
Down 14-3 at the half, Ole Miss held Alabama scoreless on its opening drive and then put together a four-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Wallace's first touchdown pass, a 14-yard one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to help set the stage for late-game dramatics.
"Our team has never quit, not one single time, not even when we got beat that first year bad by Texas here," Freeze said said. "They fought to the end. We're not going to quit. We're going to fight to the end. That was never really a question in my mind.
"Whether or not we were going to stop Alabama and score points, I didn't know, but I knew our kids were going to fight. Playing for 60 minutes is a trademark of our program."
For the seniors such as Senquez Golson, it was one big step forward to the top after starting their Ole Miss careers at the bottom, playing through a forgettable 2-10 season. His transformation and emergence as a leader continued, as he sealed the win with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the game.
"I knew we were going to get a stop," Golson said. "We're that good of a defense. I knew we were going to come up and make a big play. I didn't know who it was going to be, but I knew we were going to get a stop."
The interception by Golson provided the exclamation point to a dominant defensive effort, as the Rebels held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. Alabama entered the day averaging 42.0 points per game on offense.
"They play for each and care for each other," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They want to do good. They came from the bottom and are trying to head back to the top.
"We have some good leadership and we have a nice mixture of seniors who have been here in the past and juniors and sophomores who are really talented play. The experience and maturity has helped them get to where they are now."
On one of the biggest weekends in school history, complete with the first-ever visit of College GameDay, it marked another moment of arrival for the program.
"It's a great feeling," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "I have seen this team put in the work all through the week. We have worked toward this since spring practice. We have a new spirit. We believed we could do this, and that's where it started. We believed we could beat these guys, and we did."
With the schedule ahead, there are possibilities of many more moments of arrival, as well as Wallace's goal of becoming the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game.
"Right now, we have to focus on winning the West," Wallace said. "If you win the West, with the opponents you're going to play, you're going to be in the conversation, and that's all you can ask for."
After Senquez Golson's interception to seal the win over Alabama, here's what the last 32 seconds looked like from the field, including the fans storming the field and then lifting up and carrying Bo Wallace.
Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
Wallace Gets Another Shot at Alabama
Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has said he wants to be the first quarterback to get Ole Miss to Atlanta, and becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning (2003) to defeat Alabama would be a big step forward in achieving that goal.
Wallace keeping his composure, ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff said, is one of the keys to victory for Ole Miss.
The Southeastern Conference's active leader in most passing categories, Wallace ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally passing (317.8), but he's been up and down some this season, and he's coming off a game against Memphis where he completed 22-of-37 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"His mindset never changes," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday's game. He's always that way. It's a really good quality about him. He's very resilient. He'll be looking forward to this game."
Alabama ranks fifth nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg), second only to Ole Miss among SEC teams, but the Crimson Tide have been more susceptible to the pass than the run.
On the ground, Alabama ranks second nationally, giving up 62.0 yards per game, including just 2.67 yards per attempt, while through the air the Crimson Tide rank 25th nationally, giving up 188.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt.
"It's obviously a big challenge playing Alabama," Wallace said. "They're a top-five team and the distractions are going to be here. It's a great opportunity for our team. We're excited about the challenge, and we know it's going to be a good game."
Eliminating Negative Plays, Staying on Schedule
The biggest mismatch on paper is the Ole Miss rushing offense against the Alabama rushing defense. The Rebels' rushing offense ranks 76th nationally, averaging 160.8 yards per game, and ranked 82nd nationally, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, while the Alabama rushing defense ranks second nationally.
Ole Miss has showed more two-tight sets to help in the run game, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins has found success in short-yardage situations, converting three third-and-shorts, three fourth-and-shorts and scoring a 2-yard touchdown in his 10 carries this season.
"It's a tall task to consistently do it," said Freeze of running the football against Alabama. "You have to be balanced. You have to mix it up and find things that give your kids a chance to do what you're asking them to do, but it's a difficult defense to do it against."
Eliminating negative plays, staying on schedule and staying out of third-and-longs, offensive line coach Matt Luke said, are among the little things it takes to win close games, and those little things start with running the ball effectively and finding balance offensively.
"They're big and fast," Luke said. "They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball."
Tough Test for Stout Defense
If called upon, whether to keep Ole Miss in the game, or win the game, can the Rebel defense rise to the challenge as they have so far this season?
Through four games, the Ole Miss defense has been among the nation's best, giving up just 8.5 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally.
More impressively, the Rebels have given up just two touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation.
"I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," said Freeze after holding Memphis to three points and 104 total yards in a 24-3 win this past Saturday. "They were really phenomenal. That was a team that was putting up some really good numbers."
In Alabama, the Ole Miss defense faces a balanced attack, one ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (42.0 ypg), 19th in rushing offense (258.5 ypg), 12th in passing offense and fourth in total offense (594.3 ypg), headlined by senior quarterback Blake Sims and junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Sims ranks second nationally in completion percentage and fourth in passing efficiency (190.3), leading the SEC in both categories, while Cooper leads the nation with 163.8 receiving yards per game, and leads the SEC with 10.8 receptions per game and five receiving touchdowns.
"The most impressive thing with Sims is his accuracy and how efficient he's been running the offense," Freeze said. "He's completing a huge percentage of his passes and throws the deep ball extremely well.
"Cooper is arguably one of the top three receivers in the nation, if not the best, and he's been super explosive. You have to guard him on runs because of the screen game, and you have to guard him on the deep ball. He's a difficult matchup for everybody, including us."
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