The Rebel linemen approached the coaches with a challenge in this morning's meeting. Accepted. The players won.

Everyone is in the Christmas mood around Oxford and in Ole Miss football.

So when the Rebel offensive and defensive linemen challenged the coaches to a game of 7-on-7, the gauntlet was thrown down and picked up by the mentors.

The prize? If the players won, the last practice before the Christmas break, today in the IPF, would be nothing but scrimmaging. No individual drills, no running afterwards, nothing but "Red Ball."

"That was a fun way to end our first week of bowl practices," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "They threw down a challenge and we took it."

The players - led by DT Gilbert Pena and OG Justin Bell - got the better of the coaches, in overtime.

"I'd have to give the MVP to Pena and Bell. They each scored a couple of touchdowns and showed some agility out there catching the ball," Freeze smiled. "I might have to put Pena at TE or fullback in the bowl game. We could call it the Party Package or something."

On a more serious note, the meeting this morning also focused on Christmas and doing the right things with the time off the team is being given for the holidays. They left this afternoon and will return for a December 27th night practice.

"We talked a lot about the meaning of Christmas and what it means to us as individuals and as a team," noted Freeze. "We stressed making the right decisions. They handled it well between the Egg Bowl and this week with that break and we expect the same this break.

Gilbert Pena
File Photo

"Kids now have so many decisions to make these days. They are exposed to so much and some of it is not good. We are not going to require them to be here during the holidays, but we expect them be men. We show them the core values of who we are and want to be and hope they respond. We trust them to do right."

In the 7-on-7 challenge, A.J. Hawkins, Pena, Bell, Carlos Thompson, E.J. Epperson and QB Robert Ratliff comprised the players' team.

The players all exchanged numbers. Bell wore Donte Moncrief's #12. When he caught one of his TD passes, the rest of the team mobbed him and started chanting "Feed Moncrief!"

In overtime, Pena caught the game-winner, but the coaches still had a chance to tie from the 5-yard line. QB Maurice Harris overthrew WR Grant Heard and the celebration was on.

No indo!

Freeze was extremely pleased with this week's practices, as a whole, and probably a big reason he went along with the challenge.

"These kids busted their tails for us this week," he closed. "We got everything we wanted to accomplish done. We got some good work in on Pittsburgh, we got a lot of reps for our main guys and we got a great look at our younger players.

"It was a really good week."

Random Note: * The injury list grew by one today. DT Uriah Grant (groin), QB Bo Wallace (shoulder) and OL D.J. Bailey (knee) have been out, but freshman TB Jaylen Walton joined them today after pulling a groin muscle late in yesterday's practice. Jaylen, who will handle kickoff return duties in the bowl game, will be ready for the Compass Bowl Jan. 5.

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