LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - When Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze took the podium after the Rebels defeated Arkansas 30-27 in War Memorial Stadium, he didn't contain the pride he was feeling in his team.

The word of the week heading into the SEC road battle with Arkansas was "courage."

Freeze knew it would take that for his young team to pull out a win in a hostile environment like War Memorial Stadium, a small venue, but rowdy when full.

"I knew it would take courage - our word of the week," said Freeze. "I knew every facet of our team would have to step up and make plays, and they did."

It was not a picture-perfect game, there were mistakes and lapses. But the Rebels did what they needed to do to win, and that's the name of the game.

"I wasn't happy at the half with our defense, but they turned it around and had an excellent second half," he continued. "In the second half, we sputtered on offense most of the day, but had a terrific drive at the end of the game to set up the winning field goal.

"Our team grew up some today to win on the road in this conference against a very good team, no matter what anyone says. They have a very good offense and their defensive front is very, very good, better than we thought. Our team just continued to fight and remained poised the whole day."

Rose, who began the year shakily, turned out to be the hero of the day, with a 53-yarder to keep the Rebels up 7 points in the fourth quarter and then the 31-yarder at the horn to win the game.

"Bryson is a senior we count on. I put him in some bad situations earlier in the year asking him to hit a couple of 60-yarders, but since then he has been rock solid," noted Freeze. "I am happy for him to win one at the end. That's the dream of every kicker."

Bo Wallace
Bruce Newman

But before Rose got the opportunity to kick the winner, the Rebels had to drive the length of the field with 2 minutes left in the game and coming off a couple of stagnant offensive attempts just prior.

"Looking back, I probably should have gone with what I know - the tempo stuff - all day, but that puts so much pressure and wear and tear on your defense if you are not moving the chains," Hugh explained. "At the end, when we went tempo, I was pretty confident.

"I told Bo (Wallace) to not force anything - we were still tied. We talked about three routes we liked and he took what they gave him. Our guys executed and didn't get rattled at all - the sign of a team growing up."

Freeze was complimentary of the young secondary and the defense as a whole.

"Mike Hilton had his first start. Quintavius Burdette had his first significant action. Trae (Elston) is a true freshman. Senquez Golson has been sick all week and then Wesley Pendleton goes down. Whoever we put back there just kept battling. . . that's all you can ask," said Hugh. "We just wanted to mix things up, make them earn everything they got and try to rattle Tyler Wilson some. I thought Dave (Wommack) mixed things up really well and kept them off balance. We ended up with two picks and should have had two or three more."

Now, the Rebels have won two SEC games in a row, they have moved their record to 5-3 - one shy of being bowl eligible - and, most importantly, they are playing with confidence and momentum.

"I don't think we have arrived, but I do think our staff has done a remarkable job of building relationships so there is some trust being built. The kids deserve a lot of credit. They have continued to fight, even after losses," he said. "Our staff carries the demeanor that we are going to win and I think that has rubbed off on the kids some.

"They know we are going to stay confident and positive and that anything can happen in a 60-minute game. Our kids believe in us and we believe in them. Now, we aren't where we want to be, but we are making baby steps in the right direction and winning cures a lot of things."

Now the Rebels, picked last in the SEC West in preseason, are 2-2 in the SEC.

"In the preseason, you cannot determine a team's heart. You cannot determine their attitude. You cannot determine their chemistry," Freeze closed. "Right now, we have good chemistry. The kids are buying in and giving us everything.

"They finally expect more of themselves, which was not the case when this season started. Let's see where this takes us."

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