April 5, 2014
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OXFORD, Miss. - On a beautiful, sunny Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Ole Miss football team treated Rebel Nation to a competitive afternoon with the 2014 Regions Bank Grove Bowl. In a modified scoring system featuring four different sessions, the offense defeated the defense by a score of 15-12.
The competition and effort displayed throughout the day was exactly what Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was looking for and has seen throughout the spring - a spring he said he was thrilled about it.
"I've obviously coached a lot of spring practices, and I can't remember one being better in the area of effort," Freeze said. "There are obviously a lot of things we can clean up, but I certainly believe that we got the most effort out of the young men that we put on the practice field for 15 days. It was extremely physical and extremely competitive for 12 of the days. I'm really pleased with the effort. That competitive nature will go a long way in taking whatever the next step is in our program. There are several reasons for that. One, we've obviously added depth through recruiting. Two, (head strength and conditioning coach) Paul Jackson and his staff have done a really nice job in developing our young men, and we've been with basically the same staff going into year three with a lot of the same kids. It pays great dividends. I'm really pleased with the effort and attitude."
Rising junior running back I'Tavius Mathers had the highlight of the day with an impressive 96-yard run. Rising sophomore defensive back Kailo Moore hustled back and caught Mathers to prevent him from scoring a touchdown on the play. Mathers finished the day with four carries for 121 yards.
"I'Tavius Mathers is just special," Freeze said. "We've got some good backs. Today he made a phenomenal run. Yesterday he made a run where he made two guys miss in space. That guy has improved."
Rising senior quarterback Bo Wallace led the Ole Miss offense, going 10-21 for 152 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers.
Battling for the second-string job at quarterback, redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade each had strong moments Saturday. Buchanan went 6-10 for 100 yards, including a 45-yard completion to rising sophomore running back Mark Dodson. Kincade finished 5-8 for 57 yards and a touchdown, and also logged six carries for 38 yards.
"I look forward to watching film between Ryan and DeVante," Freeze said. "They both do different things. Ryan has some natural pocket presence that's hard to teach. He'll hang in there and knows where it's supposed to be. You saw Kincade do a lot of things with his feet. He's got a strong arm. I'm excited that we have that competition going on."
The rising sophomore class had a great day catching the football Saturday. Tight end Evan Engram had two catches for 77 yards, including a 68-yard reception, Dodson had two catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, and Laquon Treadwell had two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, rising senior safety Cody Prewitt showed why he was a first team All-America selection last season, recording 10 tackles and forcing two fumbles, which were recovered by Serderius Bryant and Derrick Jones. Freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes had seven tackles and two sacks.
"You've got to be able to win some one-on-ones and you have to have some natural quick speed," Freeze said. "Marquis Haynes has that now. He reminds me of C.J. (Johnson) coming out of high school."
The 2014 Regions Bank Grove Bowl pitted the Rebels' offense against the defense with four different sessions with points available.
The first session was a best of nine third-down competition with one point available for the first string and one point available for the second string. The second session was called `coming out,' where the offense started its drives at its own 1-yard line. A drive of 20 yards or more was a point for the offense, and a drive of fewer than 20 yards resulted in a point for the defense. The third session had the offense start its drives at its own 30-yard line. It received a point for a drive of 30 or more yards or a field goal, and two points for a touchdown. The defense received a point for a drive of fewer than 30 yards or a turnover. The final session was a goal line session with the offense starting at the defense's 25-yard line. The offense got a point each time it scored a touchdown, and the defense got a point each time it prevented a touchdown.
The Regions Bank Grove Bowl concluded spring practice for the Rebels, who will open the 2014 season Aug. 28 against Boise State as a part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The game, which will be played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, will be televised by ESPN at 6:30 p.m. CT.