By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Even though Ole Miss started the 2014 season away from Oxford and Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Saturday will be the first major road test for the Rebels.
Kyle Field will play host to the matchup between the No. 4 Rebels and No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies. Ole MIss coach Hugh Freeze said it was going to be a great challenge playing in front of newly renovated stadium that can now accommodate 106,000 fans.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys in that environment,” Freeze said. “We’re looking forward to it, and I’m sure they are hungry to get back on the field after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game.”
Freeze was asked if he had to do anything different this week for his team coming off the emotional 23-17 win over Alabama. He was quick to point out that teams are either coming off a bitter defeat, or riding a high from an emotional win with the way the SEC West is set up now.
“Either one we try and treat the same and that is have our normal Sunday meetings where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash,” Freeze said. “It’s worked on the bitter end because we have had some difficult losses in our two and a half years here. We bounced back from those and played really well the next week. I don’t know if we’ve had just a lot of experience yet on this side of it. I do like what I see in our preparation, and hopefully they follow this lead and move on very quickly.”
Better on D
Freeze thought that the Aggies were better on defense than they have been the past couple of seasons, while Kenny Hill was a different type of quarterback than Johnny Manziel, who had a great knack for keeping plays, and drives, going with his legs, and improvisational skills.
“I think they are deeper at receiver and really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well,” Freeze said. “Their offensive line is one of the better ones I’ve seen in a long, long time. They’re really good, and athletic. They do a good job. I think the only real difference that you see is they actually may be a little more athletic in every spot, and they don’t extend plays quite the same that we’ve seen the past couple of years.”
Not much sleep
It was hard for Freeze to shut his eyes Saturday evening when he finally returned home following the win over the Crimson Tide. He said he picked up his normal meal from the Grill in the Manning Center and then hung out with his wife and kids at home. He didn’t sleep a wink.
“I normally sleep a little bit, but that one, I guess I was on such an emotional high, I didn’t sleep very much at all,” Freeze said.
There may be too many names to list, but Freeze thanked the contributions made by some former players like Donte Moncrief, Evan Swindall and Pierce Burton for their help in getting the program to the point it’s at currently.
“Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I’m sure I’m going to forget somebody that is very key to us,” Freeze said. “These were the kids that were 100 percent bought in to our values and doing things the right way. Those kids that were bought in really helped us overcome some negativity that existed when we first got here. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning.”
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M’s head coach, and Freeze are good friends. The relationship goes back to when Freeze was still the head football coach at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis and Sumlin was an assistant coach. The two coaches came into the SEC at the same time and both employ a faster paced, spread attack that is predicated by good quarterback play.
“We’re old friends and we go back and we did come in to the league at the same time,” Freeze said. “We’ve kind of made sure that we know what was going on in all those meetings and didn’t embarrass ourselves too much. He’s helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities.
“We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well, I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it.”
Freeze also said there were a lot of similarities when it came to how to build a program, and recruit players.
“He’s a player’s coach, I can say that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me,” Freeze added.