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.
"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."
Sept. 15-21, 2014
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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).
So Oct. 4 looks like it will be bananas in the Magnolia State. Alabama at Ole Miss AND Texas A&M at Mississippi State.-- David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) September 21, 2014
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.
Rebels with the classic trap game Saturday against Memphis. Can't snooze on these Tigers right now. Took UCLA to the wire earlier this year-- Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) September 21, 2014
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.
No need to sprint around the bases when you crush a ball to the picnic tables in LF like Tate Blackman just did. pic.twitter.com/De5P5qascW-- Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) September 20, 2014
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.
NL East Champs!! Wow.... Can't describe how amazing this is! What a team! #Nats-- Aaron Barrett (@aaronbarrett30) September 17, 2014
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."
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.
Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.
"We're coming off of a solid win last week against ULL, and any time you're going into an open week, you hope it come at a good time to work on some things that you're struggling with and also maybe to get your team fully healthy. In all candor, I wish the open week was a bit later and that we were continuing to play.
"We try to control the things we can control, so we're using this week on ourselves and to do some self scouting and to obviously prepare for our next game and do some recruiting. I like the chemistry and demeanor of our team right now, and hopefully we can maintain our focus on the process and not get caught up in being result-oriented all the time. I'm excited about where are at this point, but we have some very difficult games coming very soon."
On watching other games...
"I will watch every game I can physically do. We'll let our kids and coaches off Saturday. I'll do some family stuff that morning, I'm sure, and go a volleyball or something to watch my kids. The TiVo and DVRs will be running and I will try to catch every SEC game."
On the SEC Western Division...
"It's scary. I said in my press conference this week that I really believe that all seven teams could be considered Top 25 teams. I think they're all that talented. Whether or not the high rankings for all of us are really justified to this point, I don't know, it's still really early.
"The fact remains we may all be Top 10, Top 15, Top 20 teams, but we're going to beat each other up at some point. It doesn't mean you're not a quality team for sure, but it's inevitable that's going to happen. I've seen film on every one of these (SEC West) teams and I think all of them are tremendously gifted and well-coached. It's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out."
NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team.
Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an Ole Miss football jersey. Stenhouse Jr. also caught passes from Bo Wallace and threw passes into the target net at football practice.
Having a great day here in Oxford, MS http://t.co/K3TgExFiZq-- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (@StenhouseJr) September 16, 2014
Sept. 8-14, 2014
- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.
- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1 after dropping the first set for the first time all year.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson was named the tournament MVP, while Ty Laporte and Aubrey Edie joined her on the all-tournament team.
- Thompson averaged 2.80 kills, 3.00 digs and 0.50 blocks and aces per set to lead the Rebels to the title. She tallied a career-high 18 kills, and a career-best 17 digs in the 3-1 win against Jacksonville State. With the Rebels dropping the first set for the first time all year, Thompson tallied 7 of her 18 kills in the second set, as the Rebels evened the match.
- Laporte finished the tournament with 28 kills and 9 blocks and hit .375. Edie posted 122 assists (12.2 per set), to earn her third straight all-tournament team honor.
- Ole Miss used a high-octane offense and suffocating defense to claim a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.
- The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) moved up from No. 14 to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, their first top-10 ranking since week four of the 2009 season.
- The Rebel offense produced its second-highest scoring output of the Hugh Freeze era and accumulated 554 total yards in the rout.
- Bo Wallace completed 23 of 28 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns, notching his third straight 300-yard performance and the 10th of his career, which ties him with Eli Manning for the school record.
- Vince Sanders set career highs of eight catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
- The Rebels have surrendered only two touchdowns to their opponents this year and rank fourth nationally with just 10.3 points allowed per game.
- The Rebel defense snagged three more interceptions against the Ragin' Cajuns and now leads the nation with eight this season.
- The Ole Miss soccer team went 2-0 on the week with a pair of shutout victories over Austin Peay (2-0) and Middle Tennessee (4-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
- Junior forward Olivia Harrison led the Rebels against the Lady Governors on Friday with a pair of goals in a three-minute span. Ole Miss out-shot Austin Peay 18-7 on the road in Clarksville, Tennessee.
- Unlike Ole Miss' win over Austin Peay, the Rebels spread out the scoring against Middle Tennessee with four different goal scorers, including sophomore Georgia Russell's first career goal, and one goal each from Addie Forbus, Gretchen Harknett and Jennifer Miller.
- The two shutouts by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick were her first two of the season and give her 19 for her career.
- Freshman Arianne Hartono won the Country Club of Little Rock Invitational on Sunday for her first title with the Rebels. In the final, she defeated Houston's top player, Desponita Vogasari, who is ranked No. 68 in the preseason ITA Singles Rankings.
- Before winning the singles title, Hartono teamed with junior Mai El Kamash to capture the doubles title in their first tournament together. The duo defeated 59th-ranked and the top-seeded duo of Arkansas, Yang Pang and Sasha Shkorupeieva, 8-6 in the final. On Saturday, Hartono and El Kamash took out the No. 2 seed from the University of Houston.
- The Rebels opened the 2014-15 season with the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate (Sept. 8-9). Ole Miss took third-place with a score of 886 and Abby Newton claimed medalist honors. The third-place finish was Ole Miss' highest finish since taking runner-up honors at the UNC Tar Heel Classic in 2012-13.
- Newton's win at the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate was the first individual title for the Rebels since Natalie Gleadall won the Cougar Classic in 2010.
- Several Rebels set new career marks at the tournament. Newton's second-round score of 68 was an 18-hole career-low, while her three-day tournament score of 210 was also a new 54-hole career low. Ole Miss' 886 is the sixth lowest total for the Rebels.
- The Ole Miss men's golf team claimed fourth-place at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
- Junior Connor Davis finished the tournament with a career-low, three-round score of 208. He tied for fifth-place, which is a career-best for the two-year letterwinner.
- Senior Joe Lewis and sophomore Ben Wolcott fired career-low tournament scores of 212 and 213, respectively.
Men's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed a third-place finish in the Commodore Classic, besting both SEC rivals Mississippi State and Vanderbilt at the event.
- Just as in the first meet of the season, freshman Mark Robertson posted the best time for the Rebels. His time of 25:00.31 in the 8K was good for 10th overall in the field of 242 runners.
- The Rebels have a first-place and third-place finish on the season, while sending only a portion of the team to the meets.
Women's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss women's cross country team placed sixth in a field of 17 teams at the Commodore Classic.
- For the second time in as many events, Mary Alex England finished with the best run for Ole Miss. Her time of 17.23.33 in the 5K placed eighth overall of 260 runners.