By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – As the curtain rises on the 2012 football season there aren’t a lot of games, presently, that people will predict Ole Miss to win.
However, Saturday’s season opener against FCS member Central Arkansas is one of those games.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze will not put the pressure to win on his players in his first game as coach of the Rebels.
At his first regular in-season news conference, Freeze repeated themes he’s stressed throughout the off-season about patience in rebuilding a program.
“I would never say it’s do or die. Any time you put that statement out in front of your kids it’s not good, because this is a process. It’s going to take patience. It is going to be a process. It’s not going to be cured overnight,” he said.
The Rebels are coming off a 2-10 season, and while as an SEC team playing at home they may be expected to win against UCA, the memory of a loss to Jacksonville State in 2010 still lingers.
Ole Miss defeated Southern Illinois 42-24 in Oxford in its only FCS matchup of 2011.
Ole Miss players understand rebuilding and process, but they remember lopsided defeats following the announcement that former coach Houston Nutt would not be retained, and they’re eager to finish on the plus side of the scoreboard.
“You have to stay positive. You can’t let last year get you down by no means. There’s a lesson to be learned from it,” senior tight end Ferbia Allen said. “I’ve had two good seasons here, I’ve had two bad seasons. I want to go out with a third great season. It’s something to look forward to not just for me but for my team.”
Central Arkansas finished 9-4 last season and made its first trip to the FCS playoffs.
Freeze remembers that team. He led Arkansas State to 53-24 win over the Bears in Jonesboro last season.
It was one step in a 10-win season and a Sun Belt Conference champion-ship for Freeze and ASU.
This season’s Central Arkansas team comes in ranked No. 21 by College Sporting News and picked third in the Southland Conference.
“Would a win expedite our journey? Absolutely,” Freeze said. “The confidence that’s gained from success … there’s nothing like it. But win or lose, it will still be about the process.”