Bielema, Freeze Assess Saturday's SEC Battle

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talked on the SEC Teleconference Wednesday about their teams battle on Saturday.

There is no doubt that Arkansas' 30-0 win over visiting Ole Miss last season in which the home team forced six turnovers left Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze an unhappy camper.

So it is not surprising that he wants to avenge that defeat when the Razorbacks (4-4, 2-2) visit Oxford for a Saturday 2:30 p.m. contest with the Rebels (7-2, 4-1).

“I don’t know about our kids and how that effects them, but certainly as a competitive coach in this business, you take pride in competing at a high level and when you don’t it motivates you so that is definitely a motivating factor for me,” Freeze said on Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference. 

“It is probably not one that will matter in the outcome of the game. The kids will decide it and who executes the best, but certainly as a coach that motivates you.”

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t think last year’s outcome will play too much into this year’s game.

“Obviously I think there is going to be a little bit of that, but 2014 is 2014 and 2015 is 15,” Bielema said. “New players, new rosters. Different people on both sides of the football even coaches are a little bit different. 

“I get the question why it has to get asked, but when you are at this point of the schedule everyone should be motivated no matter the situation. 

“It's a game I am sure they have had on their radar since last year just because of the way the game panned out.  But they have had a lot of big games already and they have got a few more ahead of them.” 

Ole Miss had a big win at Alabama earlier in the season before falling at Florida and at Memphis – both Top 20 programs right now.

Freeze – whose squad will be playing its 10th straight weekend - thinks his team may have lost its hunger and passion after it’s losses.

“It certainly seems that we have recaptured some of that hunger and passion and energy,” Freeze said. “I know that I have paid close attention to the way I go about doing things and hopefully that has energized our staff and our guys to refocus and make sure we are not losing the joy in the journey.

“We could go into a lot of things, but maybe we listened to too much of the noise around the fact that we went into Tuscaloosa and won.

“Obviously some of it had to do with injuries, playing without guys that were very much the leaders on our football team and other than that I really don’t know.

“Even trying to get through the 10-game stretch without a break and backing off some maybe lost some of our intensity and attention to detail.

“I think it is more likely a combination of all of those.”

Bielema also feels good about how his team – which has dropped Auburn 54-46 in four overtimes and hammered UT Martin 63-28 since its bye week – is coming on. 

“Very excited to be back in SEC play,” Bielema said. “A  chance to go to Ole Miss, a very good football team that's done very well. They control their path for the SEC West (championship).

“We have a chance to go in there and show how much we have hopefully improved and have another opportunity see where we measure in the conference.

“I know our guys are excited and should be able to go in full strength Saturday and see what happens.”

Freeze believes that Arkansas is coming on as it did last season by winning three of its last four games – including home shutouts of top 25 teams LSU and Ole Miss.

“We are about as healthy as we have been since the start of the season and are excited to play in front of our home crowd in another SEC West battle,” Freeze said. “It will be a difficult test.

“Each year that Coach Bielema has been there, they improve as the year goes on and I am impressed with that. This year is no exception.

“They started with some losses that were disappointing and rallied the troops and he has done a great job of getting them better each week. I know it will be a difficult task for us Saturday, but we are looking forward to it.” 

Freeze certainly remembers what he called the dagger in last season’s loss – Rohan Gaines’ 100-yard interception return for a touchdown that pushed Arkansas ahead 27-0.

“I think he (Gaines) is one of the better back end players in our league and I think he is playing at an extremely high level and was very, very disruptive to us last year,” Freeze said. “That interception run he made last year was kind of the dagger.

“If my memory serves me correct, I don’t remember the exact score, but I do think we had a decent drive put together trying to get back to the game and he put an end to that. He is a very talented kid.”

If Freeze had one wish, it would be that Arkansas tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle wouldn’t play on Saturday.

“I wish they wouldn’t make the trip,” Freeze said. “They are very talented and present you a lot of problems in the way they package their 12 (two tight end) personnel and the number of pictures you get with those guys.

“They are athletic enough to be flexed out and moved around and play on the ball. It is difficult to prepare for those guys.”

Arkansas looks like it will add injured junior wide receiver Cody Hollister back to game action. 

“He actually practiced very well yesterday,” Bielema said. “He has no regression today.  He was in here this morning early and didn't have any soreness or issues.

“We will work him in a little bit more today and we are going to take him on the trip with us and hopefully he will be able to help us in our offense for sure.”

Brandon Allen - who was injured in last year's win over Ole Miss - congratulates his brother Austin on finishing off the victory for him

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