Fight Hard, Fall Short

BATON ROUGE, La. -- For the third time this year, the Ole Miss Rebels were left at the altar, the victims of another close-and-almost, could-have, maybe should-have, game when they lost to LSU in Baton Rouge 41-35 Saturday afternoon.

The scene has become a familiar one this year for Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze - meeting the press after a heartbreaking loss.

This time, it was against seventh-ranked LSU here Saturday. The Rebels lost to the Tigers 41-35 after leading for most of the contest.

"I've been in coaching a long time and have not experienced, in the same season, three losses in the same year as tough as the ones this year," said Freeze. "These have been some difficult locker rooms to be in - after A&M, Vandy and tonight, but these kids keep bouncing back and fighting.

"I am really proud of this team and these coaches. We came down here shorthanded and fought for our university and for our fans. Everyone should be proud of them. We just can't seem to get the stop when we need it the most or the big offensive play to put us over the top."

The Rebels, Freeze said, did make a lot of big plays, on both sides of the ball, but they were, again, one or two short.

"We scored 35 points, forced three turnovers - we did some great things," he said, "but LSU made more. They have a great team and made the plays to win.

"It's just heartbreaking that we haven't been able, as close as we have been, to celebrate one of these yet."

A backbreaking play for the Rebs was with 9 minutes to go in the game and the Rebs holding a 35-28 lead, Odell Beckham, Jr., broke free on an 89-yard punt return.

Hugh Freeze
Bruce Newman

A nervous Death Valley erupted and momentum suddenly shifted to the home team.

"They have great athletes. They were trying to block it, with no return set up, and our punter hit a nice punt," said Freeze. "He made one guy miss and he was of to the races.

"Our special teams have been very good the last few weeks, but we are having to play a lot of kids a lot of snaps. We had chances to make the tackle there and just didn't make him change directions enough. Credit Beckham too."

The Rebels were able to score 35 points, passing for 316 yards and rushing for 147 for a 463 total against one of the top defenses in the country.

"We saw some things we liked and were able to exploit. They like to get up and play press and we challenged that. Our guys made plays," Freeze explained. "We wanted to stay aggressive and wanted to take our shots and we connected on some things.

"What broke us down were some sacks against a talented defensive front and two or three turnovers that gave them short fields. I thought if we scored 35, we'd win. Our defense just gets worn down at the end - we have seen that before. They battled, but ran out of gas."

QB Bo Wallace was 15-35 with 3 picks and 2 TDs.

"Bo had a couple of picks that were not good and he was late on some throws, but he was a trooper out there tonight considering he doesn't have the zip on his throws with the hurt shoulder he did early in the year. He made some good throws too and played his heart out," said Hugh.

In the end, the Rebs are left to lick their wounds again.

"I love being with those kids every day, but I hate being in that locker room watching them hurt knowing we should have that sixth or seventh win already," Freeze ended. "We played a Top 10 team toe-to-toe and I want them so badly to experience beating one of these teams.

"We have continued to get better as a team, and continued to fight. I just hurt that we have not been able to celebrate a whole lot."

How will the Rebs come back from yet another devastating late loss?

"I can't answer that physically, but mentally, we will come back again. We will be ready mentally for the challenge of the Egg Bowl."

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