OLE MISS

VIDEO: Return of The Grove

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Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.

Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday. In his 26th season with the Ole Miss Radio Network, he handled the football sideline reports and Locker Room Show until his passing. He touched the lives of so many people.

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:04:35 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

I was really excited to see some improvement from week one to week two in a lot of areas. We certainly have a long way to go, but I did think we got some really good play out of some key positions like quarterback and our wide receivers, and our offensive line certainly took a step forward. We still have a ways to go, like I said, and defensively we continue to play really well, holding an opponent in this conference under 200 yards. It was a solid, solid day, and our special teams were solid. We played a pretty complete game. I'm excited about that, and hopefully we can get back up and do the same thing this Saturday against a very talented Lafayette team.

On Bo Wallace's performance since the first half against Boise State...

"If you take the first half out, I think everybody would say he's been phenomenal. The second half of the game and the two-and-a-half quarters he played at Vandy were as solid as I have seen him play. He was pressing quite a bit in the first half (against Boise State) and tried to force some throws down the field. We really haven't changed anything about the way we prepare him. He's settled in and hopefully will continue to understand that we have a quality defense and that he doesn't have to force things offensively, take what we have, try to keep us on schedule and that it's OK to punt. Hopefully he keeps that mindset moving forward. He certainly has played really well the last game and in the second half of the Boise game.

On Bo Wallace's maturity...

"There's no question he's much more mature. He never got rattled or showed any signs of being down. He just wanted to get the next possession going. He handled it well, and our team handled it well. We were all encouraging him. He's very resilient. To be a quarterback in this league and have some of the tough losses that you have some times and to get some of the criticism, you have to be resilient, and he's very much that."

On the 2014 schedule...

"I don't have enough power to control any of the scheduling. I wish I did. I assure you, if I had a say in it, absolutely it would be broken up some because that's going to be a murderous stretch to go through with those quality teams. I wish we could break it up, but unfortunately I have no control over that. We have to control what we can and that's preparing to play the best we can. It would be nice if it was broken up some."

On the team and where he wants the team to improve...

"Our team has great chemistry and is very hungry. Those are the two things. I love our staff. There are no egos. We all want to do the best we can here in mentoring young men, first in life, and then hopefully win some football games with them. I like our team as far as that goes.

"We have to continue to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense. We have to improve our red-zone scoring of touchdowns, and defensively we have to continue to make sure we don't give up the big plays. I think our defense is talented enough that if people have to drive the length of the field consistently on us we're going to win some of those battles. In the past, we have given up some big plays. We haven't yet this year, and hopefully that will continue."

Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins.

Hill will be signing copies of his book on Friday starting at 5 p.m at Off Square Books in Oxford. Billy Brewer, who was Hill and Mullins' head coach at Ole Miss, will also be in attendance at the event that will kick off the release of the book.

For more information, visit Hill's website here.

What members of the Ole Miss family are saying about "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect":

Billy Brewer

"My former player Jody Hill has written a firsthand account of the life and legacy of our beloved Chucky Mullins. This is not hearsay, but the direct feelings offered by family, friends and teammates. Every Rebel needs to read this, He got it right!"

Cooper Manning, former Ole Miss football player

"My Ole Miss teammate Jody Hill has written a heartfelt tribute to his teammate Chucky Mullins. Although Chucky and I never played together, Jody has helped me to better understand and appreciate Chucky's impact upon so many. I recommend this read to everyone who has a love for Ole Miss or Chucky Mullins. I think you will find it to be an inspiration"

Carver and Karen Phillips, Mullins' guardians

"We were fortunate enough to be blessed by sharing our lives with Chucky. We believe this book will be a blessing to many others as they learn more about this very special person. Chucky has encouraged many through his motto: 'Never Quit.' We pray that each one who reads this book will also be inspired by Chucky's story."

From week one to week two, head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke are generally pleased with the progress along the offensive line.

The number of false start penalties went from eight to two, while the ground game improved from 34 carries for 71 yards, a 2.1 yard per rush average, to 50 carries for 180 yards, a 3.6 yards per rush average.

"They were prepared this week and there was some good and some bad," Freeze said Monday. "We have to continue to work on them understanding what we are facing and getting better at their technique, but there were a lot better things up front against a good defensive line." 

"There was some improvement from week one to week two, and I want to continue to see improvement as we go forward," Luke said. "That's the key on any team."

Sophomore offensive tackle/center Robert Conyers missed Tuesday's practice with a hip flexor, but Freeze expects him to practice tomorrow and play on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. 

In his absence, junior Fahn Cooper got additional reps at right tackle, where he started each of the first two games with Conyers playing some behind him. Cooper was flagged for three penalties against Vanderbilt, including a holding penalty that resulted in a touchdown being called back.

"I was disappointed in those penalties because they cost us a touchdown and we had to settle for a field goal," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "Anytime you take points off the board, you're not pleased with that, but I do think for sticking a guy in there coming out of junior college without the benefit of spring practice, he's going out there and battling and doing well for what he has been asked to do. 

"He's going to keep improving as the experience happens. I remember when Pierce Burton went through some of those same growing pains."

Behind Cooper and Conyers, the coaches are also bringing along redshirt freshman Christian Morris, who recently received a hardship waiver from the NCAA. He and redshirt freshman Davion Johnson split reps at No. 2 left tackle behind sophomore Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked good," Luke said. "He's rusty. He's probably a few pounds overweight just from not getting him as many reps on the scout team. He's rusty. We worked him in with the 2's some today and we're going to bring him along slowly. It's obviously good to have that extra body to get in there some. I don't know if he's quite game ready yet, but we're working toward that for sure."

Like Cooper, Luke expects freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor to improve as he gets more reps in practice and gets more experience in games. He and junior offensive guard Craig Frigo both saw extended action against Vanderbilt

"I was pleased," Luke said. "He played physical. He got beat on a pass rush right before the half, but I was pleased with him. He was out there bouncing around with a lot of energy. He played really physically and had some pancakes. He showed his ability and showed what we thought he could be."


Core, Others Not Surprised by His Fast Start

After setting career highs with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdown against Boise State, junior wide receiver Cody Core followed it up with four catches for 85 yards and another touchdown against Vanderbilt.

"I wouldn't say I saw it coming, but I knew something was going to come if I kept working hard," said Core of the start to his season.

In his new role as the team's No. 1 slot receiver, he's already set career high with his two-game season totals of eight catches, 195 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 24.4 yards per catch and he is tied for first nationally with five receiving plays of 20 yards or more.

"It's his first chance and first opportunity," Freeze said. "He didn't all of a sudden become talented. It's time now with Ja-Mes (Logan) and Donte (Moncrief) gone, it's time for a kid in the program to step up now and have his chance, and he's used that."

"I've always thought he could be a good player for us," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "I think it's just his opportunity. He's surprised me with how well he is (running) after the catch. He made some good moves after the catch in the Vandy game. I've always known he was able to play ball. It's really not a huge surprise." 


With back-to-back tournament titles to open the season, the Rebels are 7-0 to start the season for the first time since 2007 and are also the only Southeastern Conference team still undefeated.

"We feel like at this point in our season that the team is really buying into our process and really holding true to the values that we've instilled in them," head coach Steven McRoberts said. "It's like we're seeing a rebirth of our volleyball program here. We're working to create a different culture. We've had a few demons that we've had to kill along the way. We were able to do some of that this past weekend."

Among those demons were five five-set losses and six four-set losses, as Ole Miss posted a 14-17 mark last season.

After the Rebels did not drop a set on their way to capturing the Buffalo Classic, they dropped their first set of the season against Memphis at the Memphis Invitational. Ole Miss later saved a match point 14-13 in the fifth and decisive set before scoring the next two points to clinch the match.

"We talked about it during the fifth set," McRoberts said. "We made the changeover and we got on pretty good run, before Memphis called timeout. I told the team, 'This is a point in our season where we can define who we are. If you guys want to change how you think of ourselves, we have to win these types of matches.' 

"I was really proud of them that even with Memphis having a match point, we fought it off and won in a tough environment. I wouldn't say it was a huge step, but It was definitely a step in the right direction for us. The huge step will come when we're doing those types of things against SEC opponents."

McRoberts noted the team's aggressiveness and confidence, making plays and executing the game plan in critical moments against Memphis. The Rebels turned around and defeated Arkansas State and UT-Martin in four sets the next day to capture the Memphis Invitational.

"Our drive to win is so much clearer than it was last year," said junior Nakeyta Clair, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. "We know what we have to do to win. We know we have to win games like that to get to where we want to be at the end."

Ole Miss wraps up nonconference play with their first seven matches at home starting with the Magnolia Invitational this weekend. McRoberts said fans can expect to see a program that's getting better and a program that's going to be competitive all season and in the seasons to come. He's also aware of fans' expectations for the program.

"From our standpoint, we have told the team: Fans want to come see winners," McRoberts said. "If we're trying to convince someone who's watching other events on campus, what would make them come watch you? It's going to be winning more. That's the business end of it. If they're coming to watch, they are coming expecting us to win."

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 1-7)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 1-7, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches poll after its dominating 41-3 victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- It was the Rebels' largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent since beating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.
- Ole Miss ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (8.0 ppg) and second nationally with five interceptions.
- Ole Miss outgained Vandy 331-76 in total offense at halftime and finished 547-167. The Rebels also piled up 34 first downs -- the most in a game under Freeze.
- Vanderbilt didn't get past midfield against the Rebels until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, and the Commodores had to settle for a field goal after recovering DeVante Kincade's fumble at the Ole Miss 5 in the fourth quarter.

Volleyball
- The Rebels captured the Memphis Invitational this past weekend, defeating Memphis (3-2), Arkansas State (3-1) and UT-Martin (3-1) to win their second consecutive tournament title to open the year.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair, sophomore Aubrey Edie and junior Ty Laporte were named to the All-Tournament team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second week in a row.
- Clair finished the tournament with 55 kills, nine blocks and hit .463. She posted double-digit kills in all three matches, including a career-high 20 in the win over UT-Martin. Laporte finished with 13 blocks (1.00 bps) and equaled her career-best (eight) in the win against Memphis. Edie tallied 149 assists (11.40 aps).
- The Rebels are 7-0 to start the year for the first time since the 2007 season. They are also the only SEC team still undefeated on the season.
- For the weekend, the Rebels averaged 14.00 kills per set and 1.85 blocks per set. In the tournament finale, the Rebels hit .312 to defeat UT-Martin 3-1.
- Senior Cara Fisher was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week last week for her performance at the Buffalo Classic.

Soccer
- Olivia Harrison tallied her first career hat trick, including the golden goal, to give Ole Miss a 3-2 double overtime win over Minnesota on Friday.
- Harrison scored two goals in three minutes Friday night against the Gophers to tie the match for the Rebels.
- Harrison and sophomore Addie Forbus had two of the three hat tricks recorded by an SEC team this weekend following Harrison's performance on Friday night.
- Jessica Hiskey tallied her third goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Memphis on Sunday night as the Rebels went undefeated on the weekend.
Thumbnail image for Observations Logo.png

This is the second installment of 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. Let's get into it:

1. What a weekend. The football, volleyball and soccer teams went a combined 5-0-1 on the weekend, headlined by the 15th-ranked football team's 41-3 win over Vanderbilt at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

2. Let's start there. Head coach Hugh Freeze may have downplayed the play of his team in his postgame press conference, but Saturday's win over Vanderbilt may have been the Rebels' most complete performance in the Hugh Freeze era.

3. Since the first half against Boise State, Bo Wallace has completed 35-of-44 passes for 559 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Between the Boise State second half and Vanderbilt first half, he threw for 488 yards, which would have broken Archie Manning's single-game school record.

"He didn't make any bad decisions, or anything that was even close," said co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner of Wallace's performance against Vanderbilt.

4. A lot of it is the small sample size, but here are some more fun stats: Bo Wallace is seventh nationally averaging 10.7 yards per attempt and has accounted for a nation-best 15 passing plays of 20 yards of more. That's a big credit to Wallace getting the ball in the hands of his talented group of receivers.

"We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night," said Wallace after the Vanderbilt game. "Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."

5. Another note: The 41-3 win over Vanderbilt was the Rebels' largest margin of victory in an SEC game since defeating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.

6. On a very related note, the margin of victory (38) was also former football player Chucky Mullins' jersey number, while the total number of points (44) was also former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines' jersey number. The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between Mullins and Gaines, debuted on Thursday on the SEC Network.

7. Robert Nkemdiche called the defense's performance in the season opener against Boise State the new normal. The defense showed up again, as they allowed only a fourth-quarter field goal and 167 yards of total offense against Vanderbilt. Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just 4.19 yards per play and just eight plays of 20 yards of more.

"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," head coach Hugh Freeze said after the win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."

8. Speaking of Nkemdiche, the former consensus No. 1 overall recruit recorded his first sack of the season, the third of his career, against Vanderbilt. It likely won't be his last.

9. It may get lost in the team's overall performance, but Cliff Coleman may have turned in the play of the game, making his first interception and returning it 39 yards for his first career touchdown to keep the momentum in the Rebels' favor and stretch their lead to 27-0 early in the third quarter.

10. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack earlier said this freshman class was a hit across the board. Through two games, Kendarius Webster has been the one who has stood out. He had a well-timed pass breakup late in the game against Boise State and had two massive tackles to keep the shutout intact against Vanderbilt.

11. The reigning national punter of the week, Will Gleeson did not see the field, as Ole Miss did not punt in a game for the first time since 2002. Andrew Fletcher connected on each of his first two career field-goal attempts, one from 31 yards and another 25 yards, while Gary Wunderlich made his collegiate debut kicking off four times with three touchbacks and one kick out of bounds.

12. College GameDay producer Lee Fitting has said the Ole Miss looks like a strong a candidate for a visit from College GameDay on Oct. 4 if Ole Miss and Alabama are undefeated. It would be their first trip to the Grove. Home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis stand in the way for Ole Miss, while home games against Southern Miss and Florida stand in the way for Alabama.

13. With that said, don't sleep on Memphis. Under second-year head coach Justin Fuente, Memphis put a scare into No. 11 UCLA before falling short 42-35. The Tigers rolled up 469 yards of total offense, led by second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch who threw for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns.

14. The Ole Miss volleyball team is the last undefeated team in the SEC. With a 3-0 weekend to win the Memphis Invitational, the Rebels improved to 7-0 on the season for the first time since 2007, when they started a school-best 9-0.

15. In their first match of the weekend at Memphis, the Rebels saved a match point down 14-13 in the fifth and decisive set before scoring the next two points to clinch the match. Those are the kinds of wins where you can see the mentality change that first-year head coach Steven McRoberts has talked about since arriving in Oxford.

16. The Ole Miss soccer team had their own share of dramatics this weekend. Down 2-0, Olivia Harrison netted a pair of goals within four minutes of each other in the final 12 minutes of regulation to force extra time against Minnesota. She capped off her hat trick with the golden goal in the second overtime period.

17. Even more impressive, it was the second straight game where an Ole Miss player scored a hat trick, with Addie Forbus scoring three goals in their previous match against Louisiana-Lafayette.

18. The NFL is back, and so is the large contingent of former Rebels among its ranks. Mike Wallace caught a game-tying touchdown, as the Miami Dolphins scored 23 unanswered to rally to defeat the New England Patriots. On the defensive side of the ball, Greg Hardy, who was third in the NFL in sacks last year, recorded his first sack of the season, while Patrick Willis intercepted a pass and led his team in tackles.

19. Looking ahead, there's another big weekend on campus upcoming with volleyball's first three home matches of the season as part of the Magnolia Invitational on Thursday and Friday, football's home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, and a home soccer match against Middle Tennessee State on Sunday.

The No. 15 Ole Miss football scored early and often defeating Vanderbilt 41-3 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. The Rebels return home for its home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, the first of three home games also including Memphis (Sept. 27) and No. 2 Alabama (Oct. 4). Here are a few Ole Miss-Vanderbilt related tweets and links to audio, videos and stories:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from ESPN

Ole Miss QB Wallace rebounds, makes better decisions, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Turning Point: Ole Miss sets tone with timely turnovers, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

It's hard not to think about Alabama bout, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Three Rebels from Midstate have happy homecoming, writes Sam Brown of The Tennesseean

This week's win more satisfying, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal

Looking forward, writes Ben Garrett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

What we learned from Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com

What we learned in the SEC: Week 2, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

And in case you missed it, "Ole Miss Thumps Vanderbilt 41-3" on OleMissSports.com and "Wallace Leads Rebels in Romp" with Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace videos on Ole Miss Blog

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