OLE MISS

Vanderbilt played three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, with sophomore Patton Robinette getting the start and graduate student Stephen Rivers earning the majority of the playing time, as he completed 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards to lead the Commodores. 

Vanderbilt was limited to 4.41 yards per play and committed seven turnovers that directly led to 27 Temple points. Robinette, Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters entering Saturday's game

"You can't just go off that one game," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Tuesday. "I totally don't expect to see that offense this week. Our players are mature enough to know it's not going to be like that."

For Ole Miss, junior defensive tackle Issac Gross practiced Tuesday after missing the season opener against Boise State. While he did not know his official status, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Gross practiced well and he fully expects him to be back for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. 

The coaches are also excited about the return of junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. An All-SEC second team selection last season, Nkemdiche is expected to split time at Stinger linebacker with senior Serderius Bryant. There may also be third-down and 4-3 packages with both of them on the field.

"Last year, after the knee injury and surgery after the Vanderbilt game, I don't know that he ever recovered," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "He always had a little gimp in his leg, and I don't see that during fall camp. I see a kid who is hungry to play and hungry to prove himself again. 

"He has gone through everything with us, and he's ready to play. It's just a matter of getting the game plan down this week. He and Serderius (Bryant) will split time at that spot.  I'm sure we'll have a third-down package for both of them on the field. We're excited to have him back."

Sophomore Derrick Jones had been listed as the No. 3 boundary cornerback behind junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman each of the past two weeks. It might be something, it might be nothing, but Jones worked with the wide receivers during the portions of Tuesday's practice open to the media.

"There's great competition there (at cornerback)," Freeze said Monday. "The other guys are playing really well, not that he didn't play well. We'll need him before the year is up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to play the best kids out there, and we love Derrick. I expect him to play a lot of football for us before his time is over. 

"Right now the others, Senquez (Golson) and Kendarius Webster and those, are playing pretty solid. There are some things Derrick is better at than they are. They didn't really threaten us, but if we get in the red zone against big receivers you'll see Derrick. There are certain things he has to continue to improve on."

Adjustments Along the Offensive Line


In Monday's press conference, Freeze challenged the offensive line after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts, a 2.1 yards per rush average, in a 35-13 win over Boise State.

"We didn't play physical, and that's a result of the stemming and noise that was being made," Freeze said Monday. "We jumped offsides so many times. You know what we're saying to them, and they think they better not jump offsides so they were a little tentative. We got it fixed at halftime, but it was still not physical in the second half in the run game."

It appears the offensive line has answered that challenge in the practices since the Boise State game last Thursday.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," offensive line coach Matt Luke said Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game and you want to try get that corrected going into game two."

Luke also noted some possible changes and the challenge of developing chemistry with playing different players in different spots along the offensive line.

"It will take a little while, but everyone has to do their job and step up and handle their job," Luke said Tuesday. "That will occur. We'll look at (Robert) Conyers at center some more and Fahn (Cooper) playing more and you're going to see Rod Taylor some at guard because the heat will be a factor and it will be important to keep some guys fresh."

"We'd never really played beside each other, but at the end of the day, we trust each other and that's the most important thing," junior offensive guard Justin Bell said Tuesday. "I feel like we got things clicking. We have worked real hard on this week, feeling each other out. I expect big things out of us."


Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Aug. 25-31)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Aug. 25-31, 2014

Football
- No. 18 Ole Miss opened the 2014 season with a 35-13 win over Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
- The Rebels led 7-6 entering the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the offense exploded for 28 fourth-quarter points to cruise to victory.
- Wallace passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, and receivers Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core both set career highs and went over 100 receiving yards.
- The Rebel defense picked off the Broncos four times, including Cody Prewitt's 10th career interception that ranks him top 10 in school history.
- Logging his first start, junior wide receiver Cody Core finished with four catches for a career-high 110 yards and his first two career touchdowns.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss kicked off the Steven McRoberts era this past weekend by winning the Buffalo Classic. The Rebels defeated Canisius, Siena, Lehigh and Buffalo all by 3-0 scores to capture their first tournament title away from home since 2007.
- The Rebels started the year 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and swept their first four matches for the first time since 1984.
- Melanie Crow, Aubrey Edie and Nakyeta Clair were named to the All-Tournament Team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors.  
- The Rebels averaged 15.0 kills per set, led by Crow, who posted 46 kills for an average of 3.83 kills per set.  Crow came up with several big kills in Sunday's win over Buffalo to stave off the Bulls and also added 13 blocks, 7 service aces and hit .320 for the weekend.
- Clair finished the tournament with 42 kills and 13 blocks and hit .381, while Edie tallied 149 assists (12.42 per set).

Cross Country
Men's Team
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team opened the 2014 season on a high note, tying for first at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic. Three runners finished in the top 10 for the Rebels.
- In his first event as a Rebel, freshman Mark Robertson recorded the best time for Ole Miss in the four-mile run. His time of 20:07.74 was good for second overall in the event.
- The first-place finish was against a field consisting of four regionally ranked teams.
Women's Team
- The Rebel women's cross country team finished third in the Twilight Classic, ahead of two other regionally ranked teams.
- Sophomore Mary Alex England's fifth-place finish in the 5K led the way for the Rebels.
- Of the 10 Rebels who competed in the opening event, five were freshmen and four were sophomores.

Soccer
- Sophomore Addie Forbus turned in her first hat trick and added two assists to help the Rebels defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 5-1 on Sunday.
- Junior Jessica Hiskey added a pair of goals against Louisiana-Lafayette as the Rebels improved to 2-1-1 on the season.
- The Rebels split on the weekend, dropping a road contest at Louisville 1-0 on Friday before picking up the win over the Ragin' Cajuns to close out play in week two of competition.

The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines and former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, will premiere on Tuesday on the Vanderbilt campus and will debut on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

"It's time is a film about two people whose lives change in one football play," said Fritz Mitchell in his director statement. "Before Oct. 28, 1989, Brad Gaines and Chucky Mullins had never heard of each other. After that day, they would be bonded in friendship and they would never be the same again."

From the ESPN MediaZone press release:

On October 28, 1989, Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins hit Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines in the back and separated him from the ball. While Gaines was uninjured, Mullins suffered a broken neck on the play, leaving him a quadriplegic. But in that heartbreaking moment, a friendship was born that lasted another two years, until Mullins died of a blood clot in a Memphis hospital room, with Gaines at his side. "It's Time" will chronicle the inspirational journeys of these two men brought together by tragedy.

Here are some more clips from ESPN:

 

 
 

Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Aug. 31

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Observations Logo.pngThis is a new concept we've created for the Ole Miss Sports Blog that we're calling Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss sports. Some of these will be stat nuggets, some of these will be links to great work from other people, and some will simply be casual observations about a game/subject/whatever. Sometimes I'll be posting these weekly features, sometimes it will be Austin Miller, and sometimes we'll team up for it. We'll keep it professional, of course, but we're also going to have some fun with this because it is a blog after all. Let's get started:

1.) Great season-opening win by the Ole Miss football team. Was it always pretty? No. Does it matter? Not really. At the end of the day, the Rebels are 1-0, which is a fact half the teams in the country cannot say.

2.) He plays a position that doesn't always (OK, ever) get a whole lot of attention, but can we please give a shout out to Will Gleeson? The Punter from Down Under was a beast Thursday night against Boise State. Not only did he punt for distance, he also punted with precision, landing three of his four punts inside the Broncos' 20-yard line, including a 70-yarder that stopped at the 7.

3.) Here's a nice story on Gleeson from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger from back on Aug. 10. Check it out.

4.) We had read and heard about the Ole Miss defense throughout fall camp, but when they're going against the Ole Miss offense there (obviously) aren't any big hits so as to prevent injury. Well, my guess is those defensive players had a little energy built up. There were some absolutely massive hits Thursday from a number of folks. Check out this Vine showing three of the bigger hits: https://vine.co/v/MlV2vObKAxE.

5.) In camp, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said he expected really big things from sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. The former consensus No. 1 overall recruit didn't disappoint. While his stats weren't necessarily eye-opening, if you watched the game you saw how much attention he drew from the Broncos, which thus freed up his teammates for three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I really liked this quote from Nkemdiche after the game: "The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity. You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."

6.) Senquez Golson had a big-time game for the Rebels against Boise State. The senior from Pascagoula, Mississippi, made a game-high tying eight solo tackles, including one tackle for a loss and he also had a key interception in the end zone.

7.) Speaking of that interception in the end zone, the key to the game may have been the Rebels' defense bending but never breaking in the first half. Boise State had two drives stall inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line. In total, the Broncos ran seven plays inside the Ole Miss 5 and came away with just three points. If Boise State scores two touchdowns there the whole game could have been different.

8.) Stop me if you've heard this before: Cody Prewitt picked off a pass. The first team All-American picked up right where he left off a year ago when he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions.

9.) While there wound up being a lot of good that came from Thursday's game, there were also a couple head scratchers. Fourteen penalties is a whale of a number, first game or not, and that's surely something Coach Freeze and the rest of the Rebel coaching staff will be focusing on prior to their next game at Vanderbilt. Of the 14 penalties, half came as a result of false start calls ... in the first half.

10.) Ole Miss will also look to kick start its running game its next time out. Ole Miss finished the day with 34 rushes for just 71 yards and a touchdown. I, for one, believe the Ole Miss running back corps is a position of strength and the remainder of the year will be a different story.

11.) Here's a fun fact: With Thursday's win, Ole Miss Football is now 8-0 all-time in the month of August.

12.) Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? Do yourself a favor and click here to check it out: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=164946. He's the best photographer in the biz, folks. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.

13.) What a great weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team as it kicked off the Steven McRoberts era in grand fashion by going 4-0 in Buffalo, New York, at the Buffalo Classic.

14.) The Rebels didn't drop a set throughout the entirety of the tournament. The Rebels' 4-0 start is their best start since 2007, and it's their first time opening a season without dropping a set in their first four matches since 1984. Wow. The volleyball team will play in three matches next week (Sept. 5-6) in nearby Memphis, Tennessee, before hosting two tournaments in back-to-back weekends Sept. 11-12 and Sept. 18-20.

15.) The Ole Miss soccer team also continued its strong start to the year with a 1-1 weekend that saw it bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Louisville on Friday with a 5-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium on Sunday. Love seeing a team respond from its first loss with five goals and a victory.

16.) The soccer team is now 2-1-1 after facing four tough opponents to open the season. Come on out to support your Rebels this upcoming week for two home games against Minnesota and Memphis on Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, respectively. It's a fun environment and the team really feeds off a strong crowd.

The No. 18 Ole Miss football team won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game defeating Boise State 35-13. The Rebels move into Southeastern Conference next week with a road test at Vanderbilt from Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. The Commodores are coming off a 37-7 home loss to Temple on Thursday night. Here are a few Ole Miss-Boise State related links to audio, videos and stories:

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

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Boise State highlights from ESPN

VIDEO: Vine supercut of big hits from Keith Lewis, Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner

Plays that changed the game: Ole Miss, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Freeze keeps faith in uneven Ole Miss QB Wallace, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss defense flashes dominance against Boise State, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Turning Point: Treadwell's big drive rescues Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Winning Late, writes Jeff Roberson of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Player of the Game: Laquon Treadwell, writes Ben Garett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Uneasy feeling ends in good feeling for No. 19 Ole Miss, writes George Schroeder of USA Today

What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

And in case you missed it, "Ole Miss Pulls Away Late, Wins 35-13" on OleMissSports.com and two posts on Ole Miss Blog: "Second-Half Surge for Rebel Offese" with Bo Wallace and Laquon Treadwell videos  "'The New Normal' on Defense" with Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt videos.


ATLANTA -- Boise State had been the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 40.2 points per game dating back to the 2000 season. 

Highlighted by four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and big hits by several different players, the Rebels held the Broncos to 13 points in a 35-13 win in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

"The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."

Boise State made three trips to the red zone, and the Ole Miss defense held the Broncos to just 10 points, including two trips when the game was very much in doubt in the first half.

"We talk about winning the critical areas, and those are third down, fourth down and red zone, and had our defense not won those critical areas tonight, we were fighting an uphill battle for sure, but those were big stops," head coach Hugh Freeze said.

With the game scoreless in the first quarter, senior cornerback Senquez Golson stopped a six-play, 51-yard Boise State drive with an interception in the end zone.

Later in the half, after Ole Miss went ahead 7-0, Boise State looked to answer and had the ball first-and-goal from the Ole Miss 1-yard line. The Rebels defense stonewalled the Broncos on three straight plays, including two tackles for loss, to hold them to a field goal.

"For a defense to stop a team in the red zone, especially a team as Boise is at scoring, that means a lot," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "That goes to show that we're never going to blink, we're always going to play the next play and we're really confident in each other and the coaches' game plan."

Prewitt, sophomore Huskie Tony Conner and junior defensive C.J. Johnson also had interceptions in the game, as the Rebels intercepted four passes for the first time since the 2011 season against Southern Illinois. For Prewitt, it was his 10th career interception after he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions last season.

The defense finished with just three sacks, but they created consistent pressure for much of the game, which helped lead to turnovers.

"I'm so excited to see our pass rush develop throughout the season," Prewitt said. "They're a really good group of athletes down there. Whenever they're going at the quarterback like they are, that's whenever we're going to start getting picks, fumbles and everything."


ATLANTA -- After an up-and-down first half, which included a touchdown and three interceptions, senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense found their stride in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Leading 7-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-8 on the Boise State 43. The Broncos jumped offsides and Wallace took advantage, finding sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for a 29-yard gain to the Boise State 14.

Two plays later, Wallace found Treadwell for a 14-yard touchdown pass, the first of four touchdowns the Rebels would score in the frame, as they went on to defeat Boise State 35-13 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from the Georgia Dome.

"I felt like we could move it on him the whole time," Wallace said. "I was throwing interceptions and we were jumping offsides. They never stopped us the whole night. It was us stopping ourselves every time."

The coaches and players credited a silent count for helping eliminate some of the false starts and keep the offense on schedule and ahead of the chains, which paved the way for the offensive explosion in the fourth quarter that featured 28 points and 216 yards of total offense.

"With our scheme, because we go so fast, we were going on a quick count," said co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner of the change to a silent count. "They were getting lined up and they would shift and they would yell, 'shift,' so the line hears it and they think it's the quarterback. In the second half, we went to a silent count when we weren't listening for the snap count and we cleaned up the false starts."

"We went silent snap count and that slowed their movements and their shifting, and he was able to go through his reads without it having to be third-and-long and second-and-long," Treadwell said.

For the game, Wallace completed 25-of-36 passes for 387 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, throwing for 239 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. 

On the receiving end, Ole Miss had two receivers set career highs and finish with 100-plus receiving yards. Treadwell hauled in a team-high seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, while junior wide receiver Cody Core, making his first career start, had four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

"We got in a rhythm," said Wallace of the second half. "The short passes got me in a rhythm and not trying to do too much. The first half, I was trying to do too much. The first game, I was trying to come out and do things I shouldn't have done. We got it together in the second half and had a good one."


Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Contrast in Experience

Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen and sophomores among the team's 105-player roster, and the youth is apparent along the offensive line compared to the deep and experienced Ole Miss defensive line.

Boise State returns just 26 starts along its offensive line, tied for the seventh-fewest in the nation. Entering 2014, Marcus Henry had started a team-high 12 games, followed by Rees Odhiambo (eight), Travis Averill (three), Steven Baggett (two) and Mario Yakoo (one).

With their two returning starters switching positions -- Henry moving from right guard to center and Odhiambo moving from right tackle to left tackle -- the Broncos are breaking in a new starter at each position along the offensive line.

Ole Miss returns 59 starts among its two-deep along the defensive line, led by Bryon Bennett with 21 starts, followed by C.J. Johnson (17), Robert Nkemdiche (10), Woodrow Hamilton (nine) and Lavon Hooks (2), not including Issac Gross (11) who may or may not play against Boise State. 

The Rebels also add FIU transfer Fadol Brown and mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes, who have drawn rave reviews throughout fall practice.

First Live Look at Special Teams

Junior running back Jaylen Walton has served as the team's primary kick returner in each of the last two seasons. Outside of Walton, there are capable but unproven players in many key roles on special teams.

Redshirt freshman punter Will Gleeson has impressed throughout fall practice with his sky punt and coming-out punts, but he has not seen action in a game. 

Senior Andrew Fletcher, who converted both of his PAT tries in the two games he has played, and freshman Gary Wunderlich are listed as co-starters at kicker. 

Sophomore safety Anthony Alford is listed as the starting punt returner, and while he played in nine games with starts at quarterback for Southern Miss in 2012, he has not fielded a punt in game action.

Freeze has talked about the team's depth, and it will likely show on the special teams coverage and return units, but it will be the first significant action for many key players.

Freshman Impact

It might not have the star power of the 2013 signing class, but the coaches have raved about the depth of the 2014 class from top to bottom. Compared to years past, there are far fewer freshmen pressed into significant roles, with just five among the two-deep in Rod Taylor (RG), Marquis Haynes (DE), A.J. Moore (Huskie) Kendarius Webster (BCB) and C.J. Hampton (FS).

"This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal -- they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "We hope that continues to where we don't have to play as many."

In addition to those five, Freeze also mentioned defensive back C.J. Moore, linebacker Demarquis Gates and perhaps wide receiver Markell Pack as freshmen who will get significant snaps in the season opener Thursday.

Look for the freshman impact on special teams, particularly early in the season.

Here are three pieces to keep in mind as we look ahead to the Ole Miss volleyball team's season-opening weekend in Buffalo, New York, starting with Canisius on Friday morning, the first of four matches over three days at the Buffalo Classic.

Staying with the Process

A program with three NCAA Tournament appearances in its history, Ole Miss is coming off a 14-17 season and was picked to finish 10th in the league. The overall goal remains going undefeated every weekend, but playing with confidence and playing within their system are also part of the process to build a successful program in the Southeastern Conference.

"The bottom line for us as coaches is to not lose our vision of what the process is, based on putting some band-aids on things just to get a win," McRoberts said. "In the long run, if we do things the right way we're going to get the wins. And if we stick with what we have been doing, we're going to get wins. We need to keep coaching the same way we have been coaching."

Depth on Both Sides of the Net

McRoberts said Monday they hadn't 100 percent settled on a lineup, and they will go into the weekend with two lineups - more than likely trying each one in their matches on the first day against Canisius and Siena. For McRoberts, it speaks to the team's depth and ability to play different players in different positions. That depth, he said, also helps in practice to prepare his team for live matches.

"You want, like any sport wants, it to be competitive on the other side in practice," McRoberts said. "The other side of the net pushes our rotation every day. That's what makes us better. It's fun when you can get into a match and your team is thinking, 'Our other side of the net is better than this. We should handle this team.' From a practice standpoint, you try to make it feel like a match every day, so when you know you have multiple people who can play both sides it's nice."

Who to Watch for

Sophomore setter Aubrey Edie and junior middle blocker Nakeyta Clair, McRoberts noted, are players who have stood out through the spring and fall. Edie, who made the U.S. National Collegiate Team, led the team in assists per set and double-doubles, while Clair led the team in kills and hitting percentage last season. But there's talent throughout the roster beyond them.

"We have multiple players who on any given night can really stand out," McRoberts said. "That's the fun part, too. We have some athleticism. For us, maybe it will be some sleepless nights wondering who's going to show up. We have a lot of players who can have great nights."

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