OLE MISS

Wearing the lighter blue helmets for the first time since 1994 to honor the late Chucky Mullins, the Ole Miss defense also honored his memory with perhaps the most dominant defensive performance of the Hugh Freeze Era.

"Chucky would have been proud of the helmets, the baby blues, and particularly how the defense played," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I know Chucky would have loved that. We will continue to honor him because of his character traits, his selflessness and his attitude about life and the university."

Against a Memphis offense that averaged nearly 45 points and 500 yards per game, the Rebels held the Tigers to only a field goal and 104 total yards, the fewest by an opponent since Mississippi State in 2008, as they defeated the Tigers by a score of 24-3.

"I'm extremely proud of our defense," Freeze said. "I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here. They were really phenomenal. That was a team that putting up some really good numbers."

"We were dominating up front," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "The linebackers played well and the secondary was in the right position most of the night. You don't get many of those, but we did a lot of good things."

The Ole Miss defense created some big plays, an interception by junior safety Trae Elston and a sack and a sack-strip by freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes that helped lead to the Rebels' second touchdown drive, making it a two-score game in their favor at 17-7. 

The Rebels also finished with a season-high 12 tackles for loss and four sacks, as they limited the Tigers to just 1.7 yards per play.

"We were flying around, doing our job, being in the right place and making the plays we're supposed to make," junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. "Playing as one defense. This is probably the most emotional we have played since we have been here. That's us now. That's who we are. We have seen what we can do. We have seen how our defense is coming together."


One of the biggest question marks entering the game was the rush defense, which Ole Miss answered emphatically, holding Memphis to negative-four rushing yards on 17 carries.

"We were fitting our gaps, flying to the ball," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We had a lot of energy and we were running to the ball and hitting as much as we could. That's what gave us so much success against the run."

Prewitt said the only thing he could remember they did wrong on defense was a 42-yard pass late in the first quarter. Despite that long gain to the Ole Miss 7-yard line, the defense responded with three straight tackles for loss and held Memphis to a field goal.

The defensive effort was especially important given that the Ole Miss offense was held to seven points through three quarters and also committed four turnovers.

"We're a team," Prewitt said. "There's going to be some games where the offense is going to win the game. There are going to be some games where the defense carries the load. That's how a team goes. It goes back and forth. I'm just really proud of the way the defense played. We never blinked."


Three areas to watch as No. 10 Ole Miss faces Memphis Saturday.

Battle of the Quarterbacks

Ole Miss and Memphis have both gotten steady quarterback play, as both teams rank inside the top-15 nationally in scoring offense. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5 percent) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He also ranks eighth in the NCAA in passing offense (341.0 yards per game) and ninth in total offense (346.3 ypg). Behind the arm of Wallace, the Rebels have put up 132 points, the second-most through three games in school history (145 in 1935).

"My understanding of his career is that he's been through some ups and downs and persevered through it and plays with a true toughness out there," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "He does a good job of getting the football to those guys on the perimeter, and he seems to have good control of what they're trying to accomplish offensively and thus has gotten them to where they are now."

In his second year as the starting signal caller for Memphis, sophomore Paxton Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions, including a career-night against No. 11 UCLA, when he completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

After scoring 30+ points just once in 2013, the Tigers have scored 30+ points in each of their first three games, including a 63-point explosion against Austin Peay.

"When you look at last year's and this year's film, (Lynch) is more of a field general and feels comfortable with his checks," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "He's more accurate with his passing. They have good backs and receivers, too. They do a nice job with their scheme and coaching it. We'll have to play well."

Stopping the Run

The Ole Miss defense has allowed just two touchdowns this season, giving up just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

But if there's been a weakness on the defensive side of the ball for Ole Miss, it's been rush defense.

The Rebels' total defense (296.0 ypg) and pass defense (151.0 ypg) both rank second in the SEC and top 15 nationally, but their run defense ranks ninth in the SEC, giving up 145.0 yards per game on the ground.

"That was probably my fault because I was trying to get the ends up the field too much and we weren't squeezing on some of the things that we needed to squeeze on," Wommack said. "It was scheme more than it was the players. I think we got those things answered, I believe. We'll see."

Memphis will provide a test for Ole Miss in this area with a top-25 rushing attack (242.7 ypg), ahead of a five-game stretch for the Rebels including four top-20 teams, starting with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4.

"I've said from the beginning that I thought these guys are different and their mentality is different, that they want to do well," Wommack said. "They've worked extremely hard and they're not into letting things slip and move in the wrong direction. They're hungry to play this week. I'm proud of where we are right now, but it's important to get better each and every day you go out to practice and each and every game."

'Staying in the Moment'

Ole Miss stressed focus and attention leading up to Saturday's matchup with Memphis. 

Head coach Hugh Freeze said he hasn't really talked to the team about it being a rivalry game, but he expect both teams will be emotional because of their close proximity and connections between the two teams.

And then there's the elephant in the room: The impending Oct. 4 matchup with No. 3 Alabama and likely visit of College GameDay, should Ole Miss defeat Memphis on Saturday.

"With all the media attention and the social media that continues to talk about the future, I wake up thinking about those things and what can I do today to make sure our kids are focused on staying in the moment and preparing ourselves today for what the next step is in our journey, which is Saturday against Memphis," Freeze said. "We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. It doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Playing in their fourth overtime game of the season, the Ole Miss soccer team played Arkansas to a 1-1 double-overtime draw on Thursday night. 

The teams combined for 30 shots, including 13 on goal, but the game was characterized more by the physical play with a combined 22 fouls and two yellow cards for Arkansas in the second half. 

"When you get into the SEC games, the intensity and physical are up," head coach Matt Mott said. "Both teams were really fighting for the three points. When you have days like that, you have to be physically ready, and our guys did a good job of getting ready and up for the game."

"It was a battle," junior Jessica Hiskey said. "We knew coming out they were going to be very physical and very good in the air, so we knew he had to challenge for everything and keep digging out the second balls."

Arkansas went ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 15th minute and held the one-goal advantage for much of the game before sophomore Gretchen Harknett found the equalizer in the 69th minute on a bending ball from the top of the box to beat the keeper.

It was a big goal for the Rebels, not only battling back to draw even in the match, but also coming off a 4-0 loss at Central Florida this past Sunday.

"We needed it for our confidence," said Mott of the goal. "We needed it for our mentality. Gretchen Harknett is a good player for us, and it's big for her to get that goal and help us settle things down. We created plenty of chances. We should have gotten one in the first half and maybe it would have been a different second half."

With the draw, Ole Miss moves to 6-2-3 overall, 1-0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, ahead of a Sunday showdown with No. 10 Texas A&M, the second-highest ranked team in the league behind No. 7 Florida. The Aggies (7-1-1) are led by the top scoring scoring duo in the SEC in seniors Shea Groom and Kelley Monogue who have combined for 15 goals this season.

"They're really good," Mott said. "They're worthy of their rankings, but it's an SEC game, and we're in every SEC game that we play. It will be a big challenge for us on Sunday, but one that the girls are certainly looking forward to. A&M is very good and they are explosive offensively. Hopefully we can create some things against them."

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' matchup with Memphis on Saturday (6:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Net).

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:21:20 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

"We're excited to be back in a game week after an off week last week. We had really good attention and focus yesterday (Tuesday) in practice. This will be our most difficult game of the season thus far. Justin (Fuente) has done a nice job there. 

"His kids play extremely hard, tackle extremely well, they have one of the best third-down defenses in the country and they are getting really good quarterback play right now. We have to raise our game. After our last two games, the sample size we have to judge our team right now is still a bit too small. We're excited to get back out and see how we match up."

On improvement he has seen from Memphis...

"My last experience with them was when I was at Arkansas State, and I was hoping that they would be similar to (the team) then, but it's so much different. Justin has done wonderful job. They have just upgraded the talent level and he has them playing well. 

"The thing that really stands out to me is the way they tackle. I can probably can count on my 10 fingers how many missed tackles I have seen in their games and the passion with which they play. Their third-down efficiency on defense is really remarkable. Teams are only converting around 28 to 29 percent of third downs, so they're getting off the field.

"Offensively, their quarterback play has been very steady. When that happens, you have enough skill people around you at this level to make plays. That's what they have done. They're a really nice team." 

How have the changes on offense over the last 10 years changed recruiting players on defense....

"We want to get longer and faster. We're not so much concerned with our defensive linemen or linebackers being a certain weight. We think we can add weight when they get there, but you have to recruit speed. If you can't run on the defensive side, it makes for some long afternoons because people are so good now at exploiting matchups and putting their guys in space with these offenses. 

"From five years ago, if you look at what teams are averaging now offensively in yards per game and points per game, the game has certainly changed. Defensively, you have very little chance to slow people down if you are not dominant up front and have some back-end guys who can really run."

On concern about Memphis being a trap game ahead of a matchup with No. 3 Alabama...

"I'm concerned all the time about our focus and our attention to what's going on today. With all the media attention and the social media that continues to talk about the future, I wake up thinking about those things and what can I do today to make sure our kids are focused on staying in the moment and preparing ourselves today for what the next step is in our journey, which is Saturday against Memphis. 

 "That's all said here within these walls, but I would be foolish to think that they're not hearing all the other. We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. it doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Memphis is 2-1 heading into Saturday's matchup with wins over Austin Peay (63-0) and Middle Tennessee (36-17) and a 42-35 loss at No. 11 UCLA. The Tigers scored two early fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the Bruins at 35-35 with 13:44 left in the game before falling short in its upset bid.

"Going to UCLA, it was a big stage," Memphis junior linebacker Wynton McManis said. "This is another big stage but now we are more prepared for it and we know how to handle it. It's just another game on the schedule that we have to handle."

"As a team, we got a lot of confidence, even though we didn't come away with a win," Memphis senior cornerback Bobby McCain said. "We feel like we can compete with anybody in the country. Having true confidence out there as a team, offensively, defensively and special teams wise is huge. Going to Ole Miss and playing in that environment, playing in the SEC is a big deal, but you have to take it as the next game."

Memphis rolled up 469 yards of total offense against UCLA, and it started with sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch who completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

For the season, Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing 20 times for 77 yards with three touchdowns.

"They've gone toe-to-toe with one of the nation's best at their place," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "If their quarterback keeps playing solid, their defense is good enough to keep them in every game. That's what they've done."

Opportunistic Rebel Defense


Through three games, the Ole Miss defense has been one of the nation's best.

The Rebels are allowing just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third in the NCAA, and allows 4.37 yards per play, which also leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the NCAA.

Ole Miss has also forced nine turnovers, including a nation-best eight interceptions, led by senior cornerback Senquez Golson who leads the SEC and ranks top-five nationally with three interceptions.

"They force you into mistakes," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "When they hit you, it's usually hard. You have to hold onto the football, and you can't let some pressure force you into poor decisions."

On the other side, Memphis is tied for fourth in the NCAA with just one sack allowed and tied for 18th in the NCAA with just three turnovers lost. 

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack noted how Memphis moves quarterback Paxton Lynch around and how quickly he gets the ball out. Going against the Ole Miss offense in practice, Wommack said, has helped in preparing for Memphis.

"It's discouraging sometimes to the D-line when you don't get the sacks, but we have had so many pressures and hurries, which have resulted in good things for us," Wommack said. "We have to explain that to the D-line because they want the sacks."

Wallace, Rebels Look to Avoid Negative Plays


The SEC's active leader in most passing categories, senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5%) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He has thrown for 341.0 yards per game, which leads the SEC and ranks eighth in the NCAA.

Wallace and the Rebels will face a Memphis defense that mixes up its looks and has created a lot negative plays that have put teams behind the chains. The Tigers rank top-15 nationally in tackles for loss (8.67/game) and sacks (3.67/game).

"These guys are really scary," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "They bring a lot of different blitzes. They disguise it really well. The teams that we have seen have given up a lot of sacks and negative plays. That's one thing we have been fairly good on so far this year. They bring a lot of different things for the table."

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 15-21)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 15-21, 2014

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 4-0 to capture the Rebel Classic and improve to 14-0 on the season.
- Through four weeks of the season, the Rebels have equaled last year's win total (14-17).
- Sophomore setter Aubrey Edie was named the Rebel Classic MVP ... Edie tallied 127 assists, (9.77 per set), to earn her fourth consecutive all-tournament honor ... The Fayetteville, Arkansas, native also posted 12 total blocks ... Junior middle blockers Nakeyta Clair and Ty Laporte were also named to the Rebel Classic All-Tournament Team ... Laporte finished with 34 kills and hit .500, while adding 13 total blocks to earn her third straight all-tournament honor ... Clair posted 30 kills on a .533 attack percentage and added a team-leading 20 total blocks, including seven solo.
- In the win over Samford, the Rebels hit a school-record .431 with just five errors.
- The Rebels rank first in the SEC in hitting percentage (.286), kills per set (13.98) and assists per set (13.06).

Soccer
- The Ole Miss soccer team went 1-1 on the week with a 1-0 win at Mississippi State on Friday before falling at UCF 4-0 on Sunday.
- Addie Forbus scored in under a minute to give the Rebels a 1-0 win at Mississippi State and a second consecutive win in the Magnolia Cup.
- The shutout win over Mississippi State was the fourth of the season for the Rebels and 21st career shutout for senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick.
- McCormick needs one more shutout to tie the career record of 22 set by Brittany Gillespie in 2003.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team finished 17th at the 2014 Cougar Classic at Yemans Hall in Charleston, South Carolina. Stani Schiavone was the Rebels' top finisher after tying for 30th-place with a three-day score of 219.
- Sophomore Madisen Bentley, who is playing her first season at Ole Miss after transferring from Portland State, made her debut in the Ole Miss lineup last week. She posted her best round in the third round with a 4-over-par 76.
-Rookie Sofia Idoyaga had her best round of collegiate golf to date at the Cougar Classic, posting a 3-over-par 75 in the final round, while draining a career-best five birdies.

Men's Golf
- Sophomore Ben Wolcott fired an impressive 1-under-par 70 in the final round of the DICK'S Collegiate Challenge Cup to tie for 18th-place, marking his fifth top-20 finish of his Rebel career.
- As a team, Ole Miss finished in eighth-place. The Rebels have placed in the top 10 in their first two tournaments of the season.
- In the ACC-SEC Conference Challenge, junior Connor Davis carded Ole Miss' only win against Clemson. Davis downed the Tigers' Miller Capps 3&2 in match play.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels kicked off the season at the SEC Fall Classic in Gainesville, Florida. Junior Stefan Lindmark and sophomore Ricardo Jorge teamed up in their first tournament together to reach the semifinals in doubles, but lost a tight match 8-7(6).
- In singles, senior William Kallberg advanced to the third round. Jorge finished as the runner-up in the singles consolation after they did not play the final due to Ole Miss' travel plans. One of his three wins included a triumph over the 46th-ranked player in the nation, who teammate Stefan Lindmark defeated Friday in the main draw first round.
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This is the fourth 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. This week was a combined effort with Metz Camfield. Let's get into it:

1. The Ole Miss football team was on a bye week, but the volleyball and soccer teams went a combined 5-1 on the weekend, as both of those teams wrapped up nonconference play.

2. As much fun as it is covering Ole Miss home and away games, and they are, it's also fun to have a Saturday to watch games from 11 a.m. - and thanks to the late-game dramatics between Oregon and Washington State - until late into the night. That game, along with Mississippi State-LSU and Florida State-Clemson were the highlights for me, but it was an overall great day of football.

3. After moving up four spots the previous week, Ole Miss remained No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, one of six SEC West teams ranked in the top 17. Think about that, approximately one of every three teams in the top 17 are from the same division of the SEC. That's insane.

4. Among those six SEC West teams is Mississippi State, which entered the top 25 at No. 14 after its road win over LSU. Its inclusion marks the first time since the final poll of 1999 that both Mississippi schools are ranked in the Associated Press top 25. 

5. Oct. 4 is shaping up to be a potentially huge day in Mississippi with No. 10 Ole Miss hosting No. 3 Alabama and No. 14 Mississippi State hosting No. 6 Texas A&M. Standing in the way are Memphis (at Ole Miss) and Arkansas (vs. Texas A&M in Dallas).

6. When asked what he wanted to get out of the bye week, head coach Hugh Freeze said he wanted to build depth and work on two-minute, third-down and red-zone offense. Those are some areas to watch in the Rebels' matchup with Memphis on Saturday.

7. Speaking of Memphis, the Tigers are 2-1 to start the season for the first time since 2004. That was also the last time Memphis defeated Ole Miss. Don't forget, earlier this season, Memphis put a scare into then-No. 11 UCLA in Los Angeles before falling short 42-35.

8. Much has been said and written about Bo Wallace's start to the 2014 season. Here's a nice story on Wallace from Chase Parham of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com earlier this week. Check it out.

9. Following the program's first College World Series appearance since 1972 and a top-four national finish, Ole Miss baseball head coach Mike Bianco's contract was extended to run through the 2018 season. Well-deserved for the all-time winningest coach in Ole Miss history.

10. The new ball that will be used in college baseball this season, which features lowered seams, is definitely going to make a difference. While it doesn't seem to come off the bat any hotter, it does carry further. In talking with coaches and players after Saturday's scrimmage, there were a few balls hit Friday and Saturday that would have been fly ball outs last year. This will certainly be a topic again as we get closer to the season, but this is a good thing for college baseball.

11. Former Rebels Aaron Barrett (Washington Nationals) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) have clinched berths in the postseason, with Barrett and the Nationals having already clinched the NL East Division. Tip of the hat to them.

12. Sticking with the theme of former Rebels in the big leagues, how about a shout out to Chris Coghlan of the Chicago Cubs and Drew Pomeranz of the Oakland A's? Coghlan went 4-4 with two home runs and four RBIs Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his second home run, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, proved to be the game-winner. Pomeranz, meanwhile, finished with a strong line against the Philadelphia Phillies in a start, going 5.0 innings, with one hit, zero runs, zero earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts.

13. Amory, Mississippi, native Addie Forbus scored in the first minute, and the Ole Miss defense made it stand up, as the Rebels defeated Mississippi State 1-0 to retain possession of the Magnolia Cup. It marked the Rebels' first win in Starkville since 2009. Congrats to Coach Matt Mott and the girls.

14. With a 4-0 weekend, the Ole Miss volleyball team remained undefeated at 14-0, matching last year's win total ahead of the start of SEC play. The Rebels open SEC play with matches at South Carolina and Florida, which will likely serve as a measuring stick for the team after being pushed to five sets just once in the nonconference.

15. The Ole Miss athletics department will be honoring the life and legacy of former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins this weekend. He will be inducted posthumously into the M-Club Hall of Fame and Ole Miss will rename Coliseum Drive "Chucky Mullins Drive." For more on the celebration of Chucky Mullins, click here.

16. In case you missed it, here's Episode 4 of The Season: Ole Miss Football, which includes a touching tribute to the late Stan Sandroni.

The Ole Miss Volleyball team remained undefeated at 14-0 and matched last year's win total with a 4-0 weekend at the Rebel Classic capped by wins over Lamar (3-0) and Jackson State (3-1) Saturday.

The last three sets against Jackson State tell the story for the Rebels entering Southeastern Conference play next weekend on the road at South Carolina and Florida.

"Our team did what it's done all season so far and that's respond to challenges," head coach Steven McRoberts said. "We challenged them in between two and three, and you can see from the score that they responded to that."

After cruising to a 25-12 win over Jackson State in the first set, their then-most lopsided win in a set this season, Ole Miss dropped the second set 25-23 hitting just .194 and committing seven errors.

Coming out of halftime, the Rebels won the first five points on the way to a 25-13 win in the third set and clinched the match with a 25-5 win in the fourth set, their most lopsided win in a set of this season.

Ole Miss hit .389 for the match, including .500 in the third set and .545 in the fourth set. Junior Ty Laporte led the way hitting .455 with 13 kills, followed by sophomore Melanie Crow hitting .409 with 10 kills.

"We had a really good stretch through these four matches (this weekend), where we had a lot of low-error attacking games and where we had really high hitting percentages," McRoberts said. "If we take care of business in the second set, we're breaking the record that we broke yesterday as far as hitting percentage. 

"When you have three sets where you're hitting over .500, that's pretty nice. It's definitely a mental thing in there to all of a sudden lose a set when you hit over .500 in the other three sets."

Despite the dropped second set against Jackson State, the first-year head coach is generally pleased with the confidence gained from the first four weeks of the season but also stressed the importance of performing well and winning tight games once SEC play starts.

"Hopefully, it stirs interest around Ole Miss that people want to come out and watch this team," McRoberts said. "One of the questions that was asked of me early on was how to get more fan support, and I said fans want to come watch winners. They want to watch teams that are exciting but also winning. That's something that hopefully we're starting to establish here.

"I feel confident with this team right now. I like where we're at. I like their mentality right now."

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