OLE MISS

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.
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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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a 28-point explosion in the fourth quarter to pull away from Boise State in the season opener, the Ole Miss offense delivered a message loud and clear in a 41-3 demolition of Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Ole Miss rolled up 34 first downs and 547 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play and converting 10 of its 15 third-down attempts. The Rebels scored on seven of their first eight drives, with the one exception being their fifth drive that ended the first half.

"They gave us exactly what we thought," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night. Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."

Wallace led the way with perhaps the most complete game of his Ole Miss career, completing 23-of-30 passes and shredding the Vanderbilt defense for 320 yards and a touchdown. It was his second straight 300-yard passing game, the ninth of his career, which is one shy of tying Eli Manning's school record.

Between the second half of the Boise State game and the first half of the Vanderbilt game, Wallace completed 31-of-39 passes for 488 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The 488 yards would have shattered Archie Manning's school-record 436 yards against Alabama in 1969.

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

With a 34-0 lead halfway through the third quarter, Wallace made way for redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who combined to lead the Rebels on a 13-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Kincade, his first career touchdown.

"That was fun for me," said Wallace of watching the game from the sideline. "I was watching Ryan warm up and I was laughing at him because I could tell he was a little nervous. It was good. They did a really good job."

The quarterbacks completed passes to eight different receivers. Five receivers caught at least four passes, led by sophomore tight end Evan Engram with career highs in receptions (7) and yards (112) and junior wide receiver Cody Core who hauled in his third touchdown catch of the season.

The Rebels also got the running game off the ground, rushing for 180 yards on 50 carries, a 3.6 average, after being held to 71 yards in the season opener against Boise State.

"We have to continue it," said Wallace of the start of the season for the offense. "There are some things we have to clean up. The defense is doing a great job in getting us the ball where we can run some plays. There's always something to clean up, so we'll watch the film tomorrow, and I'm sure we won't feel as good about it as we do right now."


Three areas to watch as Ole Miss travels to Nashville for its SEC opener against Vanderbilt from LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Rebels Look to Get Ground Game Rolling

The coaches challenged the players this week after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts (a 2.1 yards per rush average), and had no gains of 20 yards of more. The Rebels also look to clean up their penalties, as they committed seven false starts in the first half alone against Boise State.

For Vanderbilt, it will be its second game after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment under its new coaching staff. In their first game, the Commodores allowed 4.3 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per play on the ground, and held Temple to 2-of-17 on third-down conversions.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," said Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke on 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 to get that corrected going into game two."

Commodores Seek Consistency at Quarterback

After playing three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said he is looking for consistency at the position against Ole Miss.

Sophomore Patton Robinette, graduate student Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, and Mason said he would not announce the starter publicly prior to the game.

Robinette started the game against Temple, completing 4-of-6 passes for 38 yards, while Rivers earned the most playing time, completing 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards and an interception.

"You go through the process of evaluating and you want to see what you see in practice measure up to what you see on game day," said Mason in his weekly press conference Tuesday. "We don't have the consistency at the position that you'd like but I needed to see all three guys in order to see where we are."

Rivalry Feel, NFL Atmosphere in SEC Opener

It's a rivalry born out of competitiveness, but that's what Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have become in recent years. There have been notable exceptions, but it's been a closely contested series, with 10 of the last 15 meetings decided by eight points or less.

Two years ago, Vanderbilt erased a 17-point second-half deficit, and rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford. Last year, in Nashville, Ole Miss snapped the Commodores' three-game winning streak in the series with a 39-35 win behind a late 75-yard touchdown run from Jeff Scott.

Saturday marks the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the game will be played inside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. With a large Ole Miss contingent in the Nashville area, it might resemble a neutral-site to a pro-Ole Miss crowd.

"They tend to get up extremely high for us," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze of Vanderbilt. "It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. 

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason (starts at 24:58 mark)

Opening statement...

"Our football team is coming off a tough loss versus Temple. We found out a lot about ourselves in terms of who we are offensively, defensively and on special teams. The quarterback situation has been definitely resolving itself. We're working though the process of making sure that our schemes fit what their skill sets are. 

"In terms of our offensive line, we're working toward getting on track and doing what we do. It will be great to get Jerron Seymour back. Ralph Webb ran extremely well. The tight ends were very productive. In terms of the run and pass game, we need to make sure that those guys have opportunities for touches. We had a young receiving core group grow up in front of our eyes. That's where we are offensively.

"Defensively, we're looking at how we played. This group is definitely capable of doing great things. We have to keep being about the work at hand. Our focus is sharp and narrow, just in terms of the opponent in front of us. We're going to face a really good Ole Miss team. Our defensive unit has a tough task ahead. Our front has to continue working toward stopping the run, being able to set edges on the perimeter and playing from the top down in the secondary."

On the team's bounce back since the loss to Temple...

"They have done exactly what they needed to do and that's make the corrections, re-focus, understand who they are and understand more or less what we need to in order to be the team that we want to be. That's a day-to-day focus and day-to-day commitment. We work toward dominating the day. The practices have been physical and fast. That's the way we like it and that's the way we need to be."

On the offensive tempo of Ole Miss...

"Ole Miss is going to be much faster than Temple. They can go at a much faster pace and they have several speeds. They can go from a regular tempo, to a NASCAR tempo, to a warp-speed tempo. The ball is being hiked with anywhere from 20-28 seconds left (on the play clock). You have to know and understand what their mechanics are, and once you know their mechanics, you have to make sure you get lined up, get your calls in, structure your defense and play fast."

On a rivalry feel in games against Ole Miss...

"On Saturday, we looked at a little bit of Ole Miss in terms of preparing these guys, and some of the veterans got up and talked about the rivalry between the two schools, what it is and how tight it's been. That's where your leadership has to come out and give you a chance to understand the scope of the game. Not only is it an SEC opponent, but it's a rivalry game. There's always a little more on these rivalry games, but it also helped us understand where we need to go and what the level of intensity is going to be. With Ole Miss having a decent fan base here in the Nashville area, it's going to be a great crowd. We're excited and looking forward to it."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 58:12 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're excited to come away with a win last week against Boise in the Chick-fil-A (Kickoff) Classic. Let me take a moment to say what a wonderful organization Chick-fil-A is for our sport and the partnership they have with the SEC. Those guys are super people and run a first-class deal, so we were excited to represent our conference there and come away with a win.

"Our defense played extremely well for most of the game, as did our special teams. Offensively, we struggled the entire first half, but we settled (down) in the second half and played much better, so hopefully we can continue improving in all areas this Saturday up in Nashville."

On a rivalry feel in games against Vanderbilt...

"I've only been back here for two years, but we've had two phenomenal games with them. When I was an assistant here, we had some good ones also, so it's been more the competitiveness of the games when we played them. They tend to get up extremely high for us. It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason, and most of the time here (in Oxford) also."

On playing at LP Field and whether it will seem like an Ole Miss home game...

"It will be my first experience playing them there. In our bowl game, we certainly traveled well to (LP Field). Our fans always travel well, so I expect to have a very good representation there. It would be nice if it does, but I'm not sure if it will or not."

On Cody Core separating himself from other receivers and earning a start against Boise State...

"Probably after the second week, he was the most consistent that we had. We were playing him outside for the first two weeks, but he kept showing up. He's an intelligent young man, so we started moving him inside some, hoping to get the return of Collins Moore who could play outside, and we needed more depth inside with a bigger body besides just Quincy (Adeboyejo). We moved him there and he picked it up very quickly and continued to be the most consistent performer throughout camp. 

"I couldn't be more pleased for his success. Everyone knows about the tragedy that he went through in losing his mother who was very young and was a super lady who influenced many people as a schoolteacher. Our team was so ecstatic for him to have success in his first game."

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