On the whole Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with his team following a season-opening 47-29 win over Central Arkansas.
“I was thrilled to see our kids excited with a victory. Its been a while since some of them experienced that. It was a very fun locker room to be a part of. Obviously there are a lot of things we need to improve on. We had a great Sunday practice. The kids’ energy was great. Hopefully we corrected some things we needed to correct going into this week’s game.”
Freeze said he was hoping to see a tentative UTEP team when he started breaking down video of the Rebels’ Week 2 opponent, but that wasn’t what he said. The Miners were down just 10-7 at No. 4 Oklahoma going into the fourth quarter.
“I was hopeful I would put on the film and see a team that maybe isn’t playing with great passion, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Coach (Mike) Price has got those guys playing with a lot of passion and heart, and they got after one of the best teams in the country last weekend. We’ve got our hands full, particularly with their D line and their skill positions. They’ve got a tremendous tailback.”
Regarding his mix of “high-percentage” passes versus throwing the ball down-field, Freeze said “That’s who we are.” He wants to see his quarterback complete 70 percent of his passes.
“If you look at Bo (Wallace’s) numbers, he was 20-for-24 and had two total drops. Ferbia (Allen) dropped one, Jaylen (Walton) dropped one, then he had the tipped ball on the interception on a protection issue. His percentage was really good as was Barry (Brunetti) at 5-for-7. That’s pretty typical of who we are. Defenses have to decide how many they will dedicate to playing our outside game as opposed to our inside game.”
On the injury front only freshman DT Isaac Gross (calf) did not finish the game. He played 12 snaps, and DL coach Chris Kiffin was very pleased with what he saw from Gross in those 12 snaps.
Freeze said WR Collins Moore will be “turned loose” this week and practice to see what he can handle. He said a decision will be made on more by Week 3 whether to go ahead and have the surgery or try to make it through the year.
Running back Jeff Scott (back) is expected back this week. “He was not pain-free (Sunday), but he moved around good. I expect him to be ready to go.”
Quarterback management will be about the same against UTEP as it was against Central Arkansas. “Bo will start. I feel like Barry will get his opportunity also. We have to see how the game’s going. They both didn’t hurt themselves, so we’re not going to change up too much at this point. They both did some really good things. Barry came in at a critical time in the game. We were up eight points, and Bo was drained. We had to bring Barry in, and he led us down the field for a nice score. I’m glad we’ve got both of them.”
Here’s Freeze on his defensive line, a point of concern for many who watched UCA amass 237 yards in the first half.
“We played six interior guys and six defensive ends. We played a lot of guys up front. I thought they played extremely well after looking at the film and getting the grades, all of them. No one really separated themselves. CJ (Johnson) had a really good game, so did Cameron Whigham. He graded out really high. Jason Jones graded out well. All the interior guys were about the same. They really were doing a good job in the first half, even though it didn’t seem like it. It takes all 11 to be on the same page. We ended up getting seven three-and-outs for the game after Dave and his staff made some adjustments at halftime.”
Johnson finished with six tackles and a sack and was named the SEC’s Defensive Lineman of the Week.
Freeze was asked about his decision to play No. 3 quarterback Maikhail Miller, as opposed to possibly redshirting Miller, and his response was, “We’re going to need him. In hindsight, I don’t know if that was the best time to do it, but I do believe we’re going to need him. You have to have three quarterbacks ready to play.”