Great Effort Continues

There is no substitute for effort and intensity. Ask the Rebel coordinators, who are realistic in their comments about needing improvement, but love the effort they are getting from the 2-0 Rebs, fresh off a 28-10 victory over UTEP.

"The kids are playing hard for us, no doubt," said Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack after the Rebels had stymied UTEP 28-10 Saturday night to raise their season record to 2-0. "They are working hard to try and get it right. That's all we can ask of them right now."

Wommack knows there is room for improvement, but nobody improves without putting in effort.

"We are making mistakes. Tonight, we should have gotten off the field on some third downs we didn't and some other things, but we did a better job of putting our eyes in the right places and we made some big plays when we needed to," Wommack stated.

So in the postgame euphoria of a win, there is also reality.

"Overall, I am very proud of our kids. They are laying it on the line, but it's going to take time to get things right around here. We are going to keep working to get better and better every week and see where that takes us," he added.

Where the Rebel defense did have consistent success was when the Miners were in the Red Zone.

"We only gave up one touchdown and that was on a true freshman corner (Anthony Standifer) seeing his first action. Those are things we are going to have to live with for a while," he said. "We had a nice goal line stand, we had a pick in our end zone, we held them to a field goal after a turnover deep in our territory. Those are all positives you can build on.

"We spent more time on Red Zone stuff this week. The assistant coaches put a good plan together and it worked. We didn't always execute the way we should have, but we tightened up when they threatened, which is a good sign toward improvement."

The Rebel front held the Miners to just 37 yards rushing on 30 attempts.

"DL Coach Chris Kiffin and LB Coach Tom Allen did a great job with our front," said Dave. "We were seeing things so much better and playing so much better with our eyes. We pretty much stuffed them on the run. We knew they could run the ball because they rushed for over 200 against Oklahoma last week, so we emphasized rush defense all week. We played physical, way more physical than we did in the first game. As they get more confidence and keep putting their eyes in the right place, they will get to the ball faster and be more physical. We saw a bit more of that tonight.

Aaron Garbutt
US Presswire

"They did hurt us some with the pass, but again, we are taking baby steps back there because we are playing a lot of young kids and kids new to different positions. We expected them to be more effective with the pass than they were with Oklahoma because the Sooners have some bad dudes out there. We don't have that type of player here overall yet, but there were things we could do to be successful."

One player who made a big advancement from game one to game two was Safety Trae Elston, a true freshman who registered four solo stops and broke up a couple of passes.

"I love that kid. He is what you are looking for in an SEC safety. We just have to bring them along slowly or you can ruin them. With Trae, he's starting to pick everything up and recognize things. He studies extra film and just has the it factor. We just have to be patient with him," Wommack said. "Cody Prewitt also had a nice game. He's been solid back there. He's a linebacker playing safety, but he runs the show for us and is very smart so we can't afford to move him right now. He's done a good job back there."

The Rebel defense definitely took a step forward, according to the 'D' boss.

"We are judged on points. We gave up 27 last week and 10 this week, so by that alone, we were quite a bit better against, I think, a better offense," Wommack closed. "We are not a great defensive football team by any stretch of the imagination, but if we will keep getting better each week, who knows?

"To win our first two, and match last year's win total already, has given our kids some confidence. We have confidence in them and they have confidence in us, but we all know we have a long way to go to be an upper tier defense. Let me say this, though, as long as we try hard and strive to get better, that's what it is all about."

On the offensive side, Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner was mostly pleased.

Why shouldn't he be? The Rebs scored more points against UTEP than Oklahoma did and they racked up 538 yards, over 500 for the second week in a row.

"We had some drives I'd like to have back, but overall, against a pretty good defensive team, I am pretty happy with the outcome," said Werner.

Check this out - 332 yards rushing at roughly seven yards a clip.

"I think our line was upset with the way they played last week and Coach (Matt) Luke whipped them into shape this week. They were blocking - there were holes there all day and, to be honest, we thought UTEP's defensive line was pretty salty," Dan stated. "It also helped to have Jeff Scott back. He loosened them up a bit and helped out with the rest of the run plays we called."

QB Bo Wallace continued his stellar play, going 15-22 with no interceptions, 174 yards and three touchdowns.

Randall Mackey
US Presswire

"The big thing is that in two games, Bo has had one bad decision," he continued. "That's what we are looking for. That's what it is all about - protecting the football. If he will continue to do that, the rest will come - looking off defenders, making a little better throw in certain situations.

"I have preached to all our quarterbacks to take care of the ball and make good decisions. Those are the two most important things and Bo has done them both so far."

Wallace also completed a couple of deep balls, one to Donte Moncrief for a 55-yard score and the other to freshman TB Jaylen Walton for a 51-yard score.

"He's been throwing the deep ball all fall camp. When guys get wide open, that is what he's supposed to do and he has," Werner said. "On Jaylen's TD, we called some run plays out of the same formation and saw they were biting up to stop the run. He came wide open and Bo put the ball right where it needed to be."

Werner and Freeze added a few wrinkles to the play package this week - like the halfback pass from Randall Mackey to Ja-Mes Logan that spark a TD drive when the Miners were trying to get back in the game in the third quarter.

"We will always throw in some new wrinkles each week. That's what we do. We hope we keep defensive coordinators up at night coming up with a plan to stop us," he smiled. "We studied a lot of UTEP tape and we came up with three or four things we thought could produce big plays and they did.

"But I will be honest - UTEP's defense made me nervous. You watch the Oklahoma film and they were getting off blocks, flying around and making plays. We had to get them on their heels with some calls. After the game, the players didn't think they ever stopped us - we stopped ourselves, which is something we will have to eliminate this week."

Werner says the offensive players have gained some confidence with the first two games.

"They should feel like they can score points. They have proven they can. Sure, the competition now jumps up a notch or two, but why not be confident based on what we have done so far?" he closed.

Up next: the Texas Longhorns come to Oxford.

OM Spirit Top Stories