Sifting through the ashes

As Egg Bowl week arrives Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has the challenge of not only preparing for a talented rival that spent five weeks at No. 1 and is now ranked No. 4 but also rebuilding his team’s confidence.

The Freeze presser is at 12:30 today, its regular time. However, interview opportunities have been scaled back. In addition to Freeze today, only one offensive and one defensive player will be available. Typically there are more — depending on the participation level of the players.

A few players and assistant coaches will be available Tuesday. The only opportunity Wednesday will be to listen to Freeze on the SEC teleconference, a shared 10 minutes with regional and national media.

The media opp schedule is a break from the norm. That could have to do with Thanksgiving week but probably not very much because the game is on Saturday. Most regular routines will remain in tact as much as possible I suspect.

There’s nothing wrong with dialing back distractions if that helps with preparation, and preparation, at least for the first quarter, did not look very good at Arkansas.

When you lose 30-0 fans want two things: answers and accountability.

There weren’t many answers, and Freeze immediately took responsibility for the preparation.

As I mentioned Sunday, I thought it was one of the more competitive 30-0 losses I’ve covered. Two plays — Bo Wallace’s two interceptions — accounted for a 21-point swing. The throws came from the Arkansas 13 and 16 respectively, red zone drives that could have ended in touchdowns. Both throws were in the end zone, again, single plays that could have ended in touchdowns. The second one not only wasn’t an Ole Miss touchdown, it was an Arkansas touchdown after Rohan Gaines went 100 yards. That’s a 21-point swing.

That doesn’t include Ole Miss’ other self-inflicted damage, the drives that ended with two Wallace fumbles, and really, the play that stands out at much as the picks — though ultimately cost the Rebels only a field goal — Kailo Moore’s running out of bounds at the 2 with a kickoff.

It’s hard to call a 30-0 loss competitive, and Ole Miss certainly wasn’t prepared to start the game. But when you peel back the layers this wasn’t about game-long domination by the Hogs.

Here’s the presser transcript:

Here’s the postgame transcript from Arkansas.

FREEZE

It was a tough one. They put it to us pretty good. I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that we weren’t locked in totally. I think that showed at the beginning of the game. That’s my fault. I’ve got to make sure our kids are, but it just felt like a weird week.

It’s disappointing that we didn’t start better. I thought our defense played pretty solid. We gave up some big plays on some over routes, but they held them to 316 yards of total offense and fought to the bitter end. Offensively we were pretty bad. You can’t turn it over the number of times we did and expect to win for sure.

I kept hoping we could make something happen and cut that thing to a score or two and our defense would give us a chance, but we never did. Congratulations to them. I know what it’s like to finally get bowl eligibility at a school that hasn’t done that in a while. He’s done a good job. It’s disappointing. Our mettle and our resolve, everything about us will be tested in preparing for next week’s game.

(What did you see during the week?)

You just have those feelings as coaches. I really can’t point to any one thing,. Our kids did the little things right. They were showing up on lists, and that’s usually the first sign I see.

I just had a feeling. It wasn’t everyone, but we had too many that weren’t as crisp and locked in to the task at hand. I would see some mistakes on practice film, on fits, things we do that should not be mistakes. It was just a feeling I had.

I think our kids played hard to the end. We came out probably a little … not sharp for sure. We did some things that you can’t do and be an elite team. We’ve been a good team this year, but we haven’t been elite at times, and that’s what we want to get to. We field a kick on the 1, and we turn the ball over in our own territory. All of a sudden it’s 17-0, and we’re fighting. Our defense played really well from that point on if you look at the stats and the way they got their other points. We certainly didn’t take care of the ball and didn’t convert when we got chances to put some points to make it an interesting game.

(Interceptions?)
I’d have to watch it on film. I don’t know if he got pressure on the little wheel route and floated it, I don’t know if he got pressure. When the snap was made I thought that was where he should go, but I thought he would try to throw it on a line on the back shoulder instead of up in the air over the top. Again i’d have to watch the tape and see if he had pressure or not.

(Run game?)
They’ve been very good against the run. We probably got out of it a little bit when we got behind. We felt like we could throw some things on them and were trying to press the pedal right before half and get a score on the board. We probably got away from the run a bit too early.

(Special teams more about poor execution or mental mistakes?)

You don’t field a kick going out of bounds at the 1. We’ve got to coach them better. It’s a bad decision to try and field it there.

(Markell) He muffed a punt. The old way of doing thing was put your feet on the 10 and don’t back up, but the game has changed with everybody doing the reverse spin kicks. Now you put your feet on the 5 so you don’t start deeper than the 5. He just muffed one. The one that really stands out is the one we field at the 1.

(Confidence?)

Our confidence is not the same as it was a month ago. We’re not the only team, and this is not the last time we’ll go through that. It will test you about yourself and about our team. I told our kids, to be in year three, I don’t like the way we finished year two, I don’t like the way we played tonight. But we’re still in a learning stage with a lot of kids for sure. There are still some young men in there and we have a lot to learn about ourselves about how you handle adversity, things they need to learn before they get out into life. It’s not a test we like. It’s not something we’re excited about, but it is what it is. We’ve got to respond or we’ll be in for a whipping against a good football team. Our kids will know exactly how much this game means to our people. We’ve got to get ready to play, and hopefully we can get everybody healthy to do it.

(Turnovers?)

Turnovers are always frustrating for sure, and I’m sure he’s disappointed that he played a role in any of those. I’d have to watch the film and see if it was a case on the fumbles, how they excactly occurred. On the picks I can’t tell if he had pressure to cause the ball to do what it did.

He was hurting (ankle), but he was adamant he wanted to play. He’s had such a good career for us. We felt like he was our best chance to get back in it. He did take us right down the field a few times and then we get the turnovers that result in zero points.

(Tunsil)

He was hurting. I havnen’t talked to the docs. I don’t think he played hardly any in the second half.

(The offensive line’s performance?)

These guys (Arkansas DL) tonight didn’t do anything real fancy. They lined up and played their gaps. They’re good players. They win their 1-on-1s. That’s what they’ve done the last month against the run. They’ve done it against everyone and they’ve done it really well. I can’t say schematically it was anything different. It was exactly what they prepared for, and they were better today. We’ve got to go recruit and get some help. We’ve said all along we were thin up there and sometimes that shows. Got some kids that are gutting it out and playing extremely hard. I don’t doubt that at all, but we’ve got get them some help.

BUCHANAN

(I asked Buchanan how difficult it is for a quarterback to reverse momentum to his team once it starts snowballing against his team.)

It’s tough. It requires a full offense to do it. It’s on the quarterback to do our best to get everybody up. If the momentum’s not with us it’s up to the quarterback to turn it around. It’s tough, but it’s one of the things that’s required with being a quarterback.

SHACKELFORD

(How frustrating was it when they kept getting short fields)

Very frustrating, but it’s a team game. Offense, defense and special teams we didn’t show up like we should have to win this game against a very good Arkansas team.

(Sluggishness during week?)

The head coach has more of a sense of awareness on those types of things, but as a leader you have to keep your eyes open for that. Some of the things that happen, you try to say … maybe … I just feel like we didn’t get it done. I don’t know what else to tell you.

WOMMACK

I thought our kids played extremely hard, did some really good things and had some great stops against them. There’s no question this is a team game. It takes everybody to focus on what they have to do.

I thought they did a couple of good things against us on some second downs that were effective that we had to adjust to in the second half. You have to give Arkansas a lot of credit for how they came out and played.

There were good stops at times after the first quarter, but the first quarter, but coming out of the gate they scored on us 1-2-3 and that kind of set the tempo for the game.

(Adjustments during the game?)

We had some things in the game plan that we called more other than what we called early in the game. We made a couple of mistakes on that first drive. The receiver got inside of the corner, which should never have happened on that first touchdown pass. The long run down the sideline, we fit that wrong.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • papatoLC

    A hog fan wrote on another blog that they obliterated Ole Miss. This was my response.

    “It was more like Ole Miss handed you a big win. Let’s see a fumble
    that led to a TD Fielding a kickoff and going out of bounds on the 2 led
    to a field goal. A fourth down stop that did not count because of
    lining up offside and the Hogs taking advantage with a fourth down TD
    An interception returned 100 yards. for a TD A fumble at Ole Miss one
    that resulted in a field goal, (Really from the one) You were the
    better team but you did not obliterate, you just won big.”

    You do not beat good teams when you make bad plays like this. This is also not a failure of the coaches to prepare a team. It is a team making mistakes. State has won big games this year and they are good but also they have been blessed with good teams playing bad ball against them. If we can play smart football, we can and will be State.


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