Finally Finish One

After the Rebels smoked Mississippi State with a 24-7 second half barrage of domination to claim a convincing 41-24 win, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze addressed the media.

"I couldn't be prouder of a group of players and coaches. I am so happy and thrilled for them, our administration and our fans," said Freeze, who had stood in the same spot this year after three crushing late losses. "To go through what everyone has gone through in losing the momentum in this series, I've lived it and been through it.

"We made sure every kid, no matter where they were from, on our team understood how important this game is to our state and our university. They were very aware and they responded accordingly."

The Rebel response was complete and thorough, with the Rebs coming up on the winning end of play after play after play.

"We did not motivate our kids on hate. We motivated them on how much they care for each other," Freeze stated. "It worked well for us - they do care."

It's been a long time coming for this senior class, something Hugh understood.

"They have been hearing it for three years. You know how social media is and even our own people. It's been tough and for them to come out on top and get that monkey off their backs is phenomenal," he said. "While I'm on that, I would like to urge our people to stick together through thick and thin. We are going to have some fun around herein the future and we will have some disappointments, but if we stay together, we will come out on top in the long run, just like this team did this year."

The Rebels had a dominant second half performance and this time, finally, they finished a game that promised to be a close one in spectacular fashion.

"We had thre turnovers, two shanked punts, a couple of defensive busts and allowed a kickoff return and we were still tied at halftime (17-17)," Hugh continued. "We just told them at half - do what you are supposed to do and we will win this game.

"We ran the football effectively and knew if we could that there were some things in our play-action package that would work. Our play-passes were very effective all night.

"At halftime, we just challenged the defense. Just do your job. We did nothing special. We didn't blitz much. Line up and do your job, then line up and do it again. Don't give them the cheap plays. If you do those things, you will stop the run and win the game."

Hugh Freeze
US Presswire

The Rebel offense amassed 527 yards compared to 333 for Mississippi State. One of the main weapons was Mr. Donte Moncrief, who had seven catches for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"I thought it was coming. I really felt we had a good matchup with him and he had had about enough of hearing how good their secondary was," Hugh said matter-of-factly. "We hit them several times when they didn't have a safety rolled up on top of him and he won - almost every time.

"I coached Mike Wallace and Shay Hodge when I was here as an assistant, and Donte is in their class - and more physical. He's a special talent, and he's still young."

Bo Wallace, after a dismal first half with three turnovers, was spectacular in the second half.

"I told him at half he and I were going on a little retreat next week if he turned it over again," Freeze laughed. "It's just the year he has had, but he has been very resilient. Some would have gone in the tank under this kind of pressure. Not Bo. He just looked at me and said 'I know, I know, I know - let's go.' And he went out there and got it done.

"Bo is a really tough kid who is very competitive. That showed tonight."

Most of that was set up by being able to run the ball. The Rebs gained 233 yards on the ground and most of it was produced out of the tempo packages.

"At the end of the first half, we went tempo and they didn't like to see that," Freeze said. "I just made up my mind at halftime we were going to sell out and go tempo and we were able to run in those sets and it set the tone for us."

The Rebels got somewhat unexpected sparks from QB Barry Brunetti and DE E.J. Epperson.

"They were giving us some things defensively that I knew Bary could have success with. He sparked us and made some big plays when we needed them," said Hugh. "And the way E.J. has been practicing and how focused he was all week, he was just waiting on a game like this. He made several big plays for us - real big."

Freeze was asked if in January he would have taken 6-6 and a bowl opportunity.

He did not hesitate.

"Absolutely, as long as one of the wins was over MSU," he said. "I would have taken that quickly, no question. We had some challenges - to get them to care and give great effort.

"But I can tell you this - 12 games our kids gave us everything they had. It wasn't always pretty. We didn't always finish. But I cannot look at any film and question their heart and effort and pride."

Now Freeze gets extra practice for his team, which deciphers into more experience and being further indoctrinated into the offensive and defensive systems.

"We are not going to grind them, but these extra practices are invaluable. We have kids like Carlos Thompson and Temario Strong and D.J. Bailey who we can turn loose and get some valuable reps for. These are guys who are going to be good players, but they need work," he explained.

Does Freeze expect a recruiting boost from this win?

"No question it gives momentum, but this won't last real long. February is a long way of and what will be important is the relationships we have built with kids - the long-term relationships. Most of them will not make a decision of one win, but it does give us some momentum," he noted.

In the meantime, however, he will savor this win.

The Golden Egg is home, which was critical to his program's momentum, but just as importantly, the Rebels finished what they started in a important game - the most important one - finally.

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