By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Hovering near the outside of the joy of an SEC win and bowl eligibility has been the word “sluggish,” used by Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and assistant coach Matt Luke, to describe Saturday’s 34-24 win over Arkansas.
However, there’s not been much to derail the enthusiasm around a program that has won three straight and steps out of SEC play to take on Troy on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Luke subbed for Freeze at the Rebels’ regular Monday news conference.
With three games remaining the Rebels (6-3, 3-3 SEC) have met the minimum bowl requirement. Maximizing their eligibility means getting rid of the sluggish word.
Quarterback Bo Wallace doesn’t believe that becomes a trend against a 5-5 Sun Belt Conference foe.
“I don’t think so,” Wallace said. “Our mindset is so much on nine wins. We know we have to be prepared to play, and we have to reach that goal.”
After Troy, Ole Miss closes with No. 6 Missouri at home and Mississippi State on the road. For his part, Wallace wants to improve on third downs to help the Rebels get to nine wins.
In conference games, the Rebels are converting third downs at a 41.3 percent rate, eighth in the league.
Ole Miss is converting at a 43.4 clip in all games.
Wallace and offensive coordinator Dan Werner communicate closely to make the quarterback as comfortable as possible on third downs.
“I’ll write down my top eight third-down plays for each situation third and long, short, medium. Coach Werner knows that,” Wallace said. “The third-down plans have been really good the last several weeks.”
Starts up front
Ole Miss was 6-for-13 on third downs against Arkansas. Luke said third-down success starts with setting the protections and that Wallace has done a good job making calls then executing.
“He’s stepping in and making some big throws,” Luke said. “He’s started making a couple of plays with his legs where he’s run for some big first downs.”