No Streaking

The Rebels had not won an SEC game since October 2, 2010, a shade over two calendar years ago. All that - mercifully and by will - ended Saturday when Ole Miss took down Auburn 41-20 for Coach Hugh Freeze's first SEC victory.

Last Sunday started dreadfully for the Ole Miss football team and it didn't get much better until Saturday afternoon when they broke a two-year losing streak in the SEC with a 41-20 victory over visiting Auburn.

They had to endure watching films of the "one that got away" the night before against Texas A&M and then it was learned that Quarterback Bo Wallace's sister, Baylee, had been in a life-threatening car accident.

The whole Rebel Nation, it seemed, collectively held their breath to get word of a successful spine operation on Baylee Tuesday afternoon.

But the bad news kept coming amidst the team's efforts to put the Aggie game behind them and focus on Auburn.

Volunteer Assistant Coach Jim Wiseman's Mother passed away. Wiseman helps Matt Luke with the offensive line and is well-liked and well-respected by the players.

Then a couple of players slipped outside of the boundaries of proper behavior and Coach Hugh Freeze had to suspend them for parts of the Auburn game.

If that weren't enough, DB Coach Wesley "Crime Dawg" McGriff started having chest pains during the week and when he went to get checked out Thursday, he was told to be at the hospital Friday for a heart procedure, which turned out to be stents for 95% blockage in three arteries.

It was beginning to look like Murphy's Law, if not the Grim Reaper, had taken up residence at Ole Miss in the IPF.

All the while, Freeze kept telling the media after each practice that his troops were responding well and he expected them to perform well, despite having several held together by tape and polyfoam from 11 grueling weeks of football without a break.

Needless to say, when the Rebs surrendered an early 14-0 lead to the Tigers and trailed 17-14 late in the first half, there was a tug of the heartstrings that resonated, "here we go again."

Even though Auburn wasn't gashing the Rebel defense, the tackling was poor and the Tigers were winning the battle of the trenches, especially in the second quarter when they outscored Ole Miss 17-3 and were dominating time of possession, 20:46 to 9:14 in the first half.

A beautifully engineered late half drive put the Rebs in position for a 28-yard Bryson Rose field goal to tie the game at intermission.

It was down to a 30-minute game and something in the locker room had to change.

Unlike the previous two years, these Rebels came out of the break on fire, driving right down the field for a go-ahead touchdown to make it 24-17 and they never relinquished the lead, finishing off the Tigers on the strangest of plays - TB Jeff Scott rolling over a defender, landing on his feet and scrampering 55 yards for a TD to make the score 34-20.


Freeze's 1st SEC win
US Presswire

Meanwhile, the Rebel defense tightened up and allowed just 34 yards of offense to the Tigers in the whole second half. Remarkable and unheard of numbers, even against an Auburn offense that has struggled this year.

LB Mike Marry officially ended the contest with an interception that set up an insurance score and record Freeze's first SEC win as the head coach and the Rebs' first SEC victory since gas was $2.49 a gallon. (Yes, we looked it up. The good old days of petro purchasing.)

You could feel the relief of the morning crowd - mostly decked out in the requested Red. In fact, it may have been the most prolific exhale in the modern history of Ole Miss.

Finally, the streak was over.

And even though Freeze was only part of two of the losses in that streak, he felt the pressure of stopping it.

"I could see it in our players' eyes. I could feel it talking with alums and fans. Most of it wasn't our doing, but it was our responsibility to stop it and we were feeling the pressure, to be honest," said Freeze, obviously emotional.

Even though Freeze has asked for patience, and has gotten it for the most part, it was getting harder and harder for him to hang his hat on the mantra that the Rebs played hard for 60 minutes.

Last week's loss shook the confidence of some Rebel fans, but not of this coaching staff and these resilient players.

And resilient is the perfect word to describe them.

Can you imagine being CB Charles Sawyer, who has worked his tail off for three-and-a-half years but has never been a part of an SEC victory other than his 2009 redshirt year?

Can you imagine being LB Joel Kight, having been a part of a successful 2009 team only to see the program deteriorate before his eyes the following two years?

And the list goes on. . . and on. . . and on.

Freeze kept saying there was a process that had to run its course.

Get in shape, learn the systems, play hard, eliminate mistakes, get games into the fourth quarter with a chance to win and then win. The last ingredient was finally completed.

The process has gone full circle, but what now?

While it's wonderful to get the "streak monkey" off their backs, Freeze was the first to recognize and state the Rebels "aren't there yet."

But here's the fun part.

The Freeze-led Rebs are 4-3 after seven games with a much-needed open week in the works.

Ask yourself a question and be honest answering it. If someone had told you in August this team would be 4-3, would play with fire and intensity for seven straight weeks, be a ton of fun to watch and would get their first SEC win, would you have taken it?

My answer is yes.

With the major hurdle of getting a 'W' in the league and the benefit of gaining confidence heading into an open week, this Rebel team now takes a step up in status.

They have gone, in this humble opinion, from a team that most took for granted to a dangerous foe, one to be respected and reckoned with the rest of the season.

I'll make no predictions on what the Rebs will do from here on out the rest of the season, but I like their chances to do something way beyond what was predicted and projected for them in August.

The week did not start off well, but it ended gloriously.

Now the Rebels are looking to start another streak, a winning streak.


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