By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Two weeks ago, following a loss to Memphis, the Ole Miss Rebels were in needed of some energy. And better overall execution on both sides of the ball.
Two straight wins, one over Texas A&M and Auburn, has renewed the energy level of the Rebels, or as head coach Hugh Freeze said during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, the energy, passion and hunger has been recaptured.
“I know that I have paid close attention to the way I go about doing things and that has energized our staff and our guys to refocus and to make sure we’re not losing the joy in the journey,” Freeze said.
Freeze went on to speculate that maybe his team listened to too much of the noise that surrounded them after the win over Alabama in Week 3. He also felt like the injuries to key players, like Tony Conner and CJ Johnson, played a part in the losses to Florida and Memphis.
“Other than that, I really don’t know,” Freeze said in regard to what was lost from the Alabama game through the two most recent wins. “I think me trying to get through the 10-game stretch without a break, me backing off some, maybe allowed us to lose some of our intensity and attention to detail. I think it’s more than likely a combination of all those.”
Talented tight ends
Freeze was hoping that Hunter Henry, a junior, and Jeremy Sprinkle, wouldn’t make the trip because they were so talented.
“They present you a lot of problems with the way they package their 12 personnel and the number of pictures that you get,” Freeze said. “Those guys are athletic enough to be flexed out, moved around and play on the ball. It’s difficult preparing for those guys.”
As a competitive coach, Freeze said last year’s 30-0 loss to Arkansas motivated him.
“It’s not one that will matter in the outcome of the game. The kids will decide it, and who executes the best,” Freeze said. “Certainly, as a coach, (2014 loss) motivates you.”
Praise for Gaines
Senior safety Rohan Gaines played a big role in the Razorbacks’ win over Ole Miss in 2014, returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown, which set a new school record. Freeze thought Gaines was one of the best defenders on the back end in the SEC.
“He’s playing at an extremely high level and he was very, very disruptive to us last year,” Freeze said. “That interception run he made last year was just kind of a dagger. If my memory serves me, and I don’t remember the exact score, but I do think we had a decent drive put together there to get back in the game and he put an end to that.”
So far this year, Gaines has 45 tackles, one interception and one pass defensed.