By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In the cramped visiting media room at War Memorial Stadium, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze wondered aloud, not for the first time, if he should have pulled the trigger on his tempo offense just a few more times.
While many refer to Freeze’s offense as a “spread,” that may be technically correct, but he’s always embraced the tempo part of the system that’s been so good to him in years past.
And in his first season in the SEC as well. After a 30-27 win over Arkansas, Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2 SEC) has won back-to-back conference games for the first time in three years as it prepares for Saturday’s visit to No. 7 Georgia (7-1, 5-1).
Against the Razorbacks, the two most notable times Freeze had his players rush to the line of scrimmage for quick snaps in Little Rock were two very successful drives – at the end of the first half to score on Jeff Scott’s 1-yard touchdown run and at the end of the game to score with Bryson Rose’s game-winning field goal.
Why not run tempo all the time?
“It’s very tempting, but these games are so long. When you’re playing a team like Georgia, with those receivers and those running backs … every time they touch it you hold your breath,” Freeze said. “I’ve got a defensive staff saying, ‘Man, can you slow this one down a little bit?’ It’s a balancing act.”
Knowing how often to ramp up the tempo is a balance Freeze is still learning.
The pace can put undue pressure on the offensive line as well as a defense that has three true freshmen playing extensively in the secondary and has depth concerns.
Linebacker Joel Kight, a senior from Lithonia, Ga., remembers the early days of going against the faster-paced offense in practice.
“When they first started it was rough. I’d never seen anything that fast before. It wears you down,” Kight said. “The game is 60 minutes, and it wears on you.”
When the tempo is working, the offensive line benefits by seeing fewer defensive fronts and stunts than it might at a more regular pace.
But tempo isn’t going to work all the time.
“Georgia has the type of plan and the coaches to make it unsuccessful at times. I’m not confident right now that we could go score 60 against Georgia to win a game. You have to feel that way if you’re going to sell out and do it all the time.”