Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze seemed relieved Monday when the tone of questioning shifted to the more positive points in the Rebels’ 35-13 season-opening win over Boise State.
There were plenty of positive points for Ole Miss, but most of them relative to offense arrived late – perhaps too late to have mattered in an SEC game.
It wasn’t an SEC game, however. It was the season opener, and some level of awkwardness is to be expected.
It was less so on defense, where the Rebels looked almost as good as advertised.
At the end of the day it was a good win – a one-sided win – against a quality opponent, but how you got there does matter.
In spite of the fact that Bo Wallace completed almost 70 percent of his 36 pass attempts – and that four went for touchdowns – the three interceptions can’t be overlooked, because in many instances they won’t be overcome.
It’s not fair, but it’s the SEC.
Freeze thought Wallace, wanting to badly to make a statement for his team and himself, might have been trying too hard.
Wallace said the same thing on Tuesday.
“I was forcing the ball in places that I shouldn’t have thrown it,” he said.
A healthy shoulder is never a bad thing, but in that case excessive confidence turned out to be one unintended consequence.
Freeze and Wallace arrived together at the scene of a train wreck following the 2011 season. At that time Ole Miss needed a junior college quarterback with a gunslinger mentality.
Bo Wallace has never lacked confidence. That’s a good thing.
The Rebels, though, need Wallace the risk-taker less now. There’s talent all around him as evidenced in the way wide receiver Laquon Treadwell took over on the drive that turned the game to Ole Miss and opened the fourth-quarter flood gates.
The most disturbing news from the postgame press conference was that on two of his interceptions Wallace came off his progression of reads. Freeze coaches his quarterbacks where to throw the ball from one primary option to the next. Once the ball is in play and they’re standing in the pocket, his quarterbacks don’t have the freedom to change those reads.
Wallace says he understands the corrections he needs to make. That’s good, but to restore the confidence of those around him he needs to embark on a long streak of pass attempts and plays – of games – without a turnover.
In the first half Wallace’s freelancing showed a lack of trust you would not expect from the most experienced quarterback in the SEC.
After some halftime “coaching up,” Wallace was 12 for 14 for 239 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in last two quarters.
That is quite impressive.
And it’s why if Ole Miss is to meet its high expectations for the season it needs the experienced and composed Wallace, not Wallace the risk-taker.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Read his blog at InsideOleMissSports.com.