Know the Opponent: Memphis

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Know the Opponent: Memphis (6-1) 
KenPom ranking: 89 

Ole Miss is presented another opportunity on Saturday to grab a nice win when Memphis travels to the Pavilion for the Tigers first road game of the season. The Rebels let an opportunity slip by against Middle Tennessee with an awful first half, but a win against Memphis would put that game firmly in the rearview mirror. It will be interested to see how Andy Kennedy tweaks the rotation, given the spark that Breein Tyree gave the Rebels in the second half on Wednesday. 

Tigers On Offense: The good news for Ole Miss is that Memphis is not a team that shoots 3s with great regularity. Just 25 percent of Memphis' points come from behind the arc, the 276th-most in college basketball. That's noteworthy because the Rebels have not been able to stop teams from shooting from deep. Ole Miss is near the bottom of the barrel in 3-point defense and percentage of opponents' points from long range. 

Memphis is very effective in what they do, though. They shoot 58 percent on two-point shots, 11th in the nation. Adding to that, Memphis has been one of the best teams so far this year at crashing the offensive class, ranking inside the top-30 in basketball. Ole Miss will have to be especially strong on the defensive glass to keep Memphis from being able to rack up extra opportunities. Dedric Lawson can make Ole Miss pay if the Rebels don't put a body on him on rebounds. 

Lawson can do a little bit of everything and do it well. He shoots over 50 percent, averages 20+ points, grabs nearly 12 rebounds a game, and leads the team in blocks. 

One of the few things Memphis has not done well this season is hit free throws. The Tigers are one of the worst teams in the nation at hitting their freebies, barely making 60 percent of them. 

Tigers On Defense: Ole Miss has to cut out the turnovers that have haunted the team through the early part of the season. The 14 in the first half took away any chance of a win against Middle Tennessee. Nearly 22 percent of Ole Miss' possessions have ended in a turnover, one of the worst marks in the country. Despite that, Ole Miss is still above the D-1 average in offensive efficiency. If Ole Miss does drop the turnovers to more of a norm for an AK team, the team can score. 

Memphis has been very good against the 3 so far in this season, allowing opponents to shoot barely over 30 percent. Three-point offense has been a strength for Ole Miss, ranking second in the SEC in 3-point percentage. 

That doesn't mean it's easy to score inside against the Tigers, though. Memphis reject nearly 15 percent of opponents' shots, ranking 32nd in the nation. Lawson has already turned away 15 shots in this young season. However, Ole Miss hasn't been a team to get shots blocked this season.

Know the Opponent: Middle Tennessee State

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Middle Tennessee State (6-1) 
KenPom ranking: 108 

The next six days could go a long way in building the Rebels' postseason resume, and that stretch begins tonight with Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders return seven players that knocked off No. 2 seed Michigan State in the first round of the tournament last year. Kermit Davis has built a consistent winner that competes for a Tournament bid each year. 

Blue Raider Offense: Middle Tennessee has a very efficient offense based largely on the fact that they don't turn the ball over much. Their turnover percentage of 14.6 ranks 12th in the country. For comparison, despite playing one more game than Ole Miss, the Blue Raiders have 26 fewer turnovers. 

When he's on the floor, expect forward Jacorey Williams to be the Blue Raiders' catalyst on offense. According to KenPom, he accounts for more than 1/3 of Middle Tennessee's shots when he's on the floor. He leads his team with 21.6 points per game. While Ole Miss tries to get down the court quickly on offense, MTSU would much rather slow the game down and get the ball inside to Williams. 

If the game is to be decided in the last minutes, MTSU has struggled with freebies this year. They're shooting below 60 percent as a team. 

Blue Raider Defense: Ole Miss has struggled with turnovers, although some of them have been self-inflicted. Those have to be eliminated against an MTSU defense that can make life difficult on an offense. Nearly 1/4 of MTSU's opponents' possessions have ended with a turnover, one of the best marks in the nation. Teams have struggled scoring inside on the Blue Raiders and had to rely on the 3-ball to score points. That's due in part to MTSU being one of the best teams in the nation at blocking shots. While Ole Miss will need to make shots, they need to be careful to not fall in love with the deep ball and keep Saiz involved inside. 

Kennedy Quotable: "Kermit and I go way back. I have great respect for him. He's a friend of mine. Every time I get close to the game I wonder 'Why in the world would I schedule them' because they're good. They're going to be tough, and they're not going to give us anything free. It'll be a good challenge for our team."

Rebels' Most Valuable Senior: D.J. Jones

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Jones,DJ_091716_JM.JPGDefensive tackle D.J. Jones has been recognized by the Jackson Touchdown Club as the Most Valuable Senior on the Rebels' football team.

He will be recognized with the award tonight during the C Spire Most Valuable Senior Program at the River Hills Club in Jackson, but will be unable to attend while recovering from an elbow injury he sustained in the Egg Bowl.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Jones has anchored the Ole Miss defensive line as a starter in all 12 games this season. He finished the year with 30 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. He had a standout game in the win over Memphis, recovering a fumble and making his first career interception.

In two seasons since transferring from East Mississippi Community College, Jones racked up 69 tackles, 8.5 TFLs and 6.0 sacks, while playing in every game with 14 starts.

Jones is known as one of the Rebels' strongest players, boasting the ability to bench press 430 pounds and squat upwards of 700 pounds. At an even 6-foot and weighing 321 pounds, he also has a 31.5-inch vertical jump and can dunk a basketball.

The Jackson Touchdown Club has been presenting the Most Valuable Senior awards every year since 1946.

Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

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The 2016 season began with high hopes and expectations. Those are the things that accompany a No. 12 preseason ranking. Instead, it became a season of injuries, what-ifs, close calls and disappointments. Instead of championships, the season came to a close with a losing record in a lopsided Egg Bowl loss. 

In a way, the Egg Bowl encapsulated the season. Ole Miss was able to survive the first half and fortunately head to halftime down only by a touchdown, 27-20. That was despite settling for two field goals and having a pass intercepted in the end zone. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze emphasized on Monday how this game would be a shootout and that Ole Miss had to score touchdowns in those scenarios. 

Still, after missing those opportunities, Ole Miss was very much in the game. The defense delivered a hard to come by three-and-out to start the third quarter, and Ole Miss marched down the field. Once again, the red zone proved hazardous. Mississippi State stuffed Akeem Judd on 4th-and-1. Instead of a game-tying drive, the Rebels came away with nothing, and Mississippi State dominated from that point on. 

Four Bulldog touchdowns and many rushing yards later, the game, and the season, came to a jarring end. Ole Miss failed to find any answer, staying scoreless in the half. The game was a 60-minute synopsis of what the season has been like for Ole Miss. Once again a second half doomed the Rebels. Instead of taking advantage of an opportunity, the Rebels were unable to do so. That leads to a five-win season. 

It's a shame that is the brutal conclusion to the season, especially for a senior class that meant so much to the program and raised the standard expected from the players that put on the Ole Miss uniforms. It was inconceivable that Ole Miss missed a bowl at the beginning of the season. Obviously, it happened. As someone that has been around Ole Miss football for years, that's a culture change from just a decade ago. 

The seniors didn't get an opportunity to finish though, because sometimes that's how football goes. Ole Miss played a difficult schedule, didn't stay healthy and let close games get away from them. That's how their college careers end, as unfortunate as it is for the players that helped carry Ole Miss back to New Orleans. 

Now the onus falls on the underclassmen to not let this become anything but a blip on the radar on a long-term scale. Leaders like Chad Kelly, Evan Engram, Issac Gross, and John Youngblood are out of eligibility. Now, it's up to the young guys to take over leadership roles and come back next year with a renewed vigor and not let a season like this happen again.

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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It's Egg Bowl week. That should be enough motivation for the players and coaches. The game means an extraordinary amount to this university and theirs. Ole Miss has faced adversity, but now they have a chance to go to a bowl game with a win against their rival. Their offense will be a challenge. Ole Miss has to score TDs in the red zone when they get opportunities. It could easily be who scores the most touchdowns. They have a good scheme and their QB makes them efficient in the run game. It's going to be a great atmosphere as the Ole Miss fans show up to help the Rebels defend the Egg Bowl. 

Ole Miss is a beat up team. John Youngblood talked to the team this year. He can't play though. Evan Engram and Issac Gross are both questionable for Saturday. Sean Rawlings and Robert Conyers will try to go. They need the young guys on the team to realize how important this game is because Ole Miss will need them against State. 

Shea Patterson is where any freshman would be in this situation. He had a great game against A&M, but there were things he didn't understand. Some of those things carried over against Vandy, but he also had about 10 drops. He missed some too, but those drops could have made his game very different. There were a lot of good things he did on Saturday, but he still has a ways to go. He got out of the pocket at times when he didn't have to. He was anxious. More reps would be the answer to that. The best teacher is experience. 

It's the coaches' job to get the team ready for this game regardless of the team's record coming in. It's going to be a battle. The players have to place a premium on preparation. 

Ole Miss didn't respond very well to Vandy's defensive change after the success on the two early scoring drives. 

Stringfellow had his hand stepped on during practice last week, which affected him against Vandy. It wasn't a normal game for Ole Miss' WRs. 

Ole Miss has to win first down against State because of how difficult stopping a running QB is on third and manageable.

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze said that it was good meeting with the team yesterday. A lot of good things happened with a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. To go on the road to Kyle Field, there was a lot of great things about the game. The defense deserves a lot of credit. They played a really good game. It was overwhelmingly joyous for him to see the players have so much fun in the locker room after the game. When you're having a difficult season, it's really good to see the people have fun that are with you in this journey. 

Offensively, it was up and down. That was to be expected with a freshman quarterback out in that environment. They threw a lot of looks at him. He made a lot of plays. Five balls could have easily been caught that weren't, so the day could have been better. Shea handled himself well, and some playmakers made plays around him. Robert Conyers and Sean Rawlings are the heroes offensively. They go without attention. Neither felt good enough to play, but they bailed the offense out. They love this team and university and program. They went through a lot of pain to go above and beyond on Saturday.

Vanderbilt is very good. Playing a team led by Derek Mason is always difficult. They know what they're doing defensively, and they're getting better on offense. They want to run the ball, but they can throw it. Ole Miss needs to win on first downs to put Vandy in difficult situations. Mason has given Ole Miss' offense problems every year. They're fundamentally sound, and they're always in the right spots.

Benito Jones has gotten better and better every week. You don't have to worry about effort with him. He loves this place and will be a really great player. Deontay Anderson is coming on as well. A.J. Brown has great hands and continues to come on as well. He needs to block better, but he's progressing and competing. 

The defensive line has played well all year. They haven't cost the team this year. The defensive line played well on Saturday, but they've played well all year. D.J. Jones was a wrecking crew. A&M's center had problems all year. 

Freeze felt like the team had a chance to win every game left, and Shea Patterson gave the best change to win those games. The decision to pull the redshirt was for the seniors to finish their careers at Ole Miss in the best way possible.

Freeze hasn't seen better effort from a group as the offensive line has given this year. They're good kids that care about this program. They're willing to go the extra mile to make sure they do the part in Ole Miss being successful. 

In the second half, Ole Miss ran mainly four plays. They had different options, but it was the day one installation plays. They'll expand it some this week.

The team hasn't been bad in the red zone, but the team needs the offense to be excellent in the red zone. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze said the team is excited to win a game. It was a tough one. They spent a lot of time working on Georgia Southern's option attack, but they didn't show a lot of it. They had to change on the fly. They were able to put it away though. 

It's disappointing to see a senior's career end with injury. It's heartbreaking, and Ole Miss is indebted to them for their service to the university. John Youngblood has been a leader since he arrived. Chad Kelly wanted to rewrite his story, and he's done that. He's changed for the better. Freeze has watched him make an impact to others. They both played like they were indebted to this university. The way they played the game the right way and represented Ole Miss. Now they have to move on without them. It creates challenges and opportunities. Injuries have not been kind to Ole Miss this year, but that happens in football sometimes.

The team was good in the red zone, and they took care of the ball. There were few penalties, and they had explosive plays on offense. Defensively, there were too many explosive plays in the first half. The second half was the best half of the year. Ole Miss will need the defense to play well during the stretch. It was an outstanding game from Fadol Brown, who recorded 14 tackles. 

The blocked punt has to be fixed, but the coverage on punts was the best it has been all year. 

It was a slow start but solid effort. Now they have to play in a difficult place to play against Texas A&M. They'll face another SEC defensive front and they have playmakers on offense. It will be a difficult environment to play in without Chad or John. 

It's difficult to pull a redshirt off a player like Shea Patterson with three games left. All options are on the table. Markell Pack, Evan Engram, Jeremy Liggins were all mentioned as emergency options. He wouldn't rule out taking the redshirt off yet, but he hasn't decided yet. Jason Pellerin will get most of the reps. Shea is one of the most complete QBs that Freeze has seen as a freshman. 

Van Jefferson has a hip pointer. Robert Conyers is going to be what he is. He's suffered through a lot of injuries, and probably doesn't need to play a lot. Rod Taylor and Sean Rawlings are in a waiting game, but they couldn't go if the game was today.

With a week of practice, they can expand the offense more than it was on Saturday. However, it's not going to be like it was with Chad at QB. 

Chad had a difficult day yesterday. It was tough to hear. He said that God has a plan for him, and he'll work hard to come back stronger. He wanted to finish his journey here in a different way.

Freeze thinks that Chad will be remembered as one of the best competitors that have ever played here. He led the team to the Sugar Bowl, and Ole Miss fans won't forget that.

Freeze isn't content or happy with the season, but he's at peace. Maybe it's because of his faith or the the people he's around or being at this university. When you're in the SEC and have some turnovers and injuries, these years can happen. The team has three opportunities left. 

By Alex Sims, Ole Miss Athletics

The Ole Miss Rebels entered Saturday's meeting with Georgia Southern already shorthanded--then defensive captain John Youngblood went down. Then quarterback Chad Kelly went down. And suddenly, Ole Miss found itself fighting off a feisty underdog with one arm tied behind its back.

But even without perhaps the two strongest leaders on either side of the ball, Hugh Freeze's group found a way, holding off the Eagles in a 37-27 victory.

"We learn to celebrate the wins this season," Freeze said. "Everything is a fight. I'm proud of our young men today, shorthanded as we were, and the injuries that occurred today. It's a solid Georgia Southern team, give credit to them. I'm proud of our kids for fighting."

As the Ole Miss head coach said afterward, it has been that kind of year for the Rebels. The injury bug has spread across the field, forcing established starters to switch positions and freshmen to be thrust into action.

Youngblood was one of several players to make a transition, sliding from defensive end to Mike linebacker, but the move lasted just a few snaps. The senior was lost in the second quarter to a dislocated ankle, likely ending his season and his career as a Rebel.

"I don't know the extent of the damage," Freeze said. "Youngblood has been so much, obviously with the loss of his father. He's been a captain, a leader. It stinks to see kids go down to injuries like that to end their season. I don't see how he could (come back) from what I witnessed out there. He's just the model student-athlete. That's why they voted him a captain. It was by a landslide. He's meant a lot to the program."

With Youngblood out, the Rebels had to regroup to stop the tricky triple-option attack of Georgia Southern. But a 68-yard run by Matt Breida put the Eagles up 21-10 early in the second quarter. Then came the turning point. Tight end Hunter Thurley recovered a surprise onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff, and Kelly made the Eagles pay, punching in one of his two rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.

From there, the defense came together, walling off the end zone for the remainder of the game. Ole Miss scored 21 unanswered, capping the run with a 38-yard touchdown connection between Kelly and Evan Engram to make it 31-21 at the half.

Kelly did so with a different man snapping him the ball. Normally positioned at left guard, Javon Patterson shifted over and played his first ever game at center at any level. There were a few hiccups along the way for the sophomore standout, but as one of several players holding down new positions and new roles, Patterson knew his team needed him.

"You just have to make sure you can be versatile," Patterson said. "We have a great group of guys in there and anybody can step up. Young guys have had to step up early this year and they're doing a great job of doing that."

Just when it looked like all was right for the Rebels, adversity struck again. On Ole Miss' first drive of the second half, Kelly had a defender inadvertently roll up on his leg, tweaking his knee. He didn't return but stood on the sidelines for the remainder of the game. His status is uncertain going into next week, but the Rebels know they have a reliable option in redshirt-freshman Jason Pellerin.

Normally brought in as the quarterback of Freeze's jumbo package in short-yardage situations, Pellerin had full command of the Ole Miss offense. He finished with just 19 yards passing and an interception--but he nearly had two scores.

One deep ball landed in the hands of A.J. Brown, only to be stripped away by Darius Jones Jr. and ruled as an interception. Another glanced off the fingertips of Engram in the end zone. Nonetheless, Freeze was happy with the performance of Pellerin, and of course, happy that the Rebels came away 1-0 this weekend.

"We kept them out of the end zone the second half. That was big for us," Freeze said. "It allowed us, with Chad going down, to manage the game with Jason in the second half. I thought he did a nice job. I thought he managed the game well enough to get us to the end of the game with a victory. We'll take it. Our goal was to be 1-0 this week, and we accomplished that. Now we'll try to be 1-0 next week."

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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12210711.jpegAfter meeting yesterday and watching the film, our kids competed against one of the hottest football teams in the country. They needed a couple more plays. Freeze has zero frustration over effort, but he does over having a recurring problem with stopping the run. 

The team is determined, and the goal is to go 1-0 this week against a talented Georgia Southern team. Georgia Southern gets up to play big teams. Ole Miss has to score touchdowns against them in the red zone with the way the defense has been playing. 

Georgia Southern has talented skill players. They have concerning speed. They can pull and run out of any blocking scheme. Ole Miss has a lot of work to do to get honed in on stopping it. 

Rommel Mageo will start at the Mike linebacker this week. DeMarquis Gates has an MRI scheduled on his knee. He didn't play well on Saturday and wasn't moving well. 

A.J. Brown is getting better. He's going to be a phenomenal wide receiver. His deal is understanding the different leverages in coverage and how that changes a route. He doesn't have a great understanding of that just yet, but that's normal for young receivers. 

The offensive line injury situation is not good right now. Injuries have followed the team around this year. Sean Rawlings is in a boot. His injury hurt them in the red zone because Robert Conyers had to come in with a bad knee. Daronte Bouldin had a hip pointer and wasn't doing well yesterday. Rod Taylor came out of his boot, and they hope he can go on Saturday. It's hard to burn a redshirt so late in the season. 

The students help make the atmosphere in Vaught-Hemingway. However, it bothers him when the team comes out at halftime, and there are empty parts of the student section. He hopes those that leave reconsider. The students play the largest role making the atmosphere difficult to play in for opponents. He loves the student body but wishes they would stick around for the entire game. 

Greg Little and Alex Givens in their first starts both held their own and did very well against a very talented Auburn defensive line.

Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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For most of the game on Saturday, Auburn's defense had no answer for Ole Miss' signal caller. Even his incompletions were on target. He threw for a school-record 465 yards while adding 40 yards on the ground to eclipse 500 total yards. 

This wasn't against a run-of-the-mill defense, either. Auburn was one of the best defenses in the nation, especially against the pass. The Tigers averaged fewer than 200 yards through the air. Clemson's Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson only managed 248 yards. 

"His performance (ranks) way up there, against that defense," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They'd given up seven touchdowns all year and caused real problems for quarterbacks. Chad played really well. He battled and fought."

Ole Miss' offense places a large degree of responsibility on the quarterback. On Saturday, Kelly accounted for 89 percent of Ole Miss' yards on the night. Without Kelly playing at the level he was, Ole Miss would have struggled to stay in the shootout.

Ole Miss struggled to get much going with the rushing attack, which meant Auburn's defensive line had the advantage of pinning their ears back. Nearly every time he dropped back to throw, despite the pressure, he put the ball where it needed to be. 

"We were moving it almost at will against one of the better defenses in the country," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "Nobody else has put up those kinds of yards or points against them."

Kelly's one real mistake came in the fourth quarter when Joshua Holsey jumped in front of a third-down pass. The play before, Ole Miss had what looked to be a touchdown, but Evan Engram was unable to haul it in.

"We work hard everyday," Kelly said. "Evan makes those catches in his sleep. On the turnover, I can't turn the ball over. Once again, it led to points. We just have to keep fighting."

It was a game where if only a couple plays go differently, Kelly's performance would be one of those that Ole Miss fans remember fondly for years. Really, it still should be. Archie's total yards record was also in a loss against Alabama. Maybe, it will be appreciated down the road. Right now though, it's a game where Ole Miss couldn't take advantage of their best player's best game.

"I hate losing more than anything," Kelly said. "I just want to win. That's all those guys wan to do is just win, too. We don't care about anything else, just winning."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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    in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels

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    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

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