By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – There was a positive vibe for Ole Miss football coming out of a 33-14 loss to No. 1 Alabama, but Rebels coach Hugh Freeze is trying to move the program from good feelings to wins.
“We’ve come a long way in the areas of effort and attitude and kind of who (players) believe we are,” Freeze said. “The next step is for us to get into the fourth quarter with some of our conference opponents who are really good teams. In order for us to do that, we have to eliminate mistakes and turnovers.”
Three interceptions against Alabama have led to a revived quarterback competition.
Ole Miss begins preparation for Texas A&M ranked No. 95 among the NCAA’s 120 FBS teams in turnover margin.
While much has improved from the 2011 season, the very important category has by just a fraction. The Rebels finished last year ranked No. 100 in turnover margin.
Freeze says the Rebels have to be better there in order to take the next step.
Once in those fourth quarter games finishing with a win is a separate challenge.
“That’s a whole other issue we’ll have to cross,” Freeze said.
Sophomore wide receiver Vincent Sanders posted career-high numbers against Alabama, the beneficiary of the Crimson Tide’s focus on Donte Moncrief.
Moncrief, the Rebels’ leading receiver, had just two catches for 37 yards, though one, a 31-yard gain on a fade, was the big play on the Rebels’ first touchdown drive.
“All the receivers realized it was going to be a big game. We kind of figured they would try to take away Donte, and we had to step up and make plays when they came our way,” Sanders said.
Sanders did step up and finished with seven catches for 46 yards.
More catches for Sanders could become a norm as teams remain aware of Moncrief.
“From what I saw, they played him two-man high, like one man on top. I think a lot of teams will continue to double team him, because he’s a great and special player,” Sanders said.
Moncrief leads the team with 21 catches. Slot receiver Korvic Neat, who has missed the last two games, is next with 14, followed by Sanders with 11.
After average 255.7 passing yards through the first three games, Ole Miss has passed for less than 150 yards in each of the last two games.
Freeze said there was positive early reaction from recruits to the Rebels’ performance at Alabama.
“Some of our commitments called. They were pleased. They’re like, ‘Everything you’re telling me is that we can get it done here.’ Now they’re starting to see some evidence of that,” he said.
An Ole Miss class of 18 commits is currently ranked No. 24 by Rivals.com.