In-depth Look

Hugh Freeze used a lot of Barry Brunetti and not so much of Bo Wallace. The Rebels were up 24-0 when Brunetti basically took the reins. So why not give the backup a shot to keep things rolling?

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And the Rebel offense was rolling, as it scored a field goal and four touchdowns in its first five possessions.

But that was it.

"I struggled at halftime (leading 31-0), whether to come back with (Wallace) or not," said Freeze after his starter was 8-for-15 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. "I know he gives us the best chance to win. Felt like we needed to get others reps. We'll need some others before this season is over."

So he went with Brunetti for most of the rest of the way.

Freeze admitted keeping his team motivated at halftime, after being up 31-0, is a tough thing.

"It is for me," he said. "I'm obviously not very good at that from tonight's performance. It is difficult to do. I thought our twos and threes would go out there and decide to play and play with a little chip on their shoulder. But I just didn't see it."

Backup Plan

Brunetti got significant playing time in this game, and it started early. It actually began with a 5-yard rush on Ole Miss' first drive, which resulted in a 37-yard Andrew Ritter field goal to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.

Like he had done at Vanderbilt the week before, Brunetti was called on in short yardage situations to rush the football and, according to plan, score a touchdown.

The Rebels' first touchdown of the game was a 4-yard run for Brunetti. After Ole Miss was up 24-0 in the second quarter, there was much more of Brunetti to come.

Barry Brunetti
USA TODAY images

Brunetti led a drive for a touchdown that put the Rebels up 31-0, with the scoring play a 10-yard rush for I'Tavius Mathers. The senior quarterback from Memphis rushed eight times in the first half for 72 yards but also turned it over on a fumble. He was just 2-for-7 passing.

For the game Brunetti rushed 18 times for 111 yards and the lone touchdown.

"We had a good first half and we can learn from that second half," said Brunetti, who was 3-for-12 passing with two sacks. "Overall I thought the line did good, and that was the reason I got in the open field some. It was a little tough out there, but that's what practice is for."

Brunetti said his passing game can be better, and will be.

"There are a lot of reads I can make that I wasn't," he said. "I was focusing more on my legs. Just something to work on."

A Close No-Call

Freshmen quarterbacks Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan sit at the ready if called upon. Freeze was asked if he thought about maybe putting one of them in.

"You have no idea how close I was. No idea. I was real close," Freeze said. "If they hadn't talked me out of it, it was fixing to happen. Deciding what is best for a young man and for a program is, you want to do right by the young man, and you want to do right by the program. Sometimes that's a fine line and it's not real clear. I'm glad I didn't now, but it was sure tempting."

Not Yet 100 Percent

Mathers got in on quite a bit of action against the Red Hawks after missing the Vandy game with injury. In the first half he had only two carries but one was for a touchdown.

For the game the Murfreesboro, Tenn., native had four carries for 56 yards and the lone touchdown.

"I'Tavius made a couple of really nice runs when he looked like he was stuffed in the backfield but made something happen," said offensive coordinator Dan Werner. "One was for a touchdown."

It was tough for Mathers to sit last week in his home area, but it was good, he said, to be back in a game against SEMO.

Serderius Bryant
USA TODAY images

"I still have some work to do," Mathers said. "I adjusted more toward the end (My leg) felt good. I'm just going to keep rehabbing this week, practice, and see."

"He's not healthy but had some good runs," Freeze said. "But when he went to put that left foot into the ground, it wasn't fluid. We've got to get him healthy."

Frosh TE Stepping Up

Evan Engram continues to have a strong impact in the Rebel offense early in his career. The freshman tight end from Powder Springs, Ga., had five receptions for 61 yards in the Rebels' 39-35 win at Vanderbilt.

It was a position of concern for Ole Miss as depth from last season was all but gone. Ferbia Allen, H.R. Greer, Jamal Mosley all contributed and all had used up their eligibility.

Against the Red Hawks, there was Engram early in the game catching a 64-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to put his team up 17-0.

"Evan's solid. He's getting better and better and starting to understand what we're doing, what we can do with him, kind of play to his strengths," said Freeze after Engram had two receptions for 70 yards and the touchdown. "He didn't get a lot of snaps tonight, but I thought he had a good night when he was in there."

Back On The Field

Serderius Bryant got in on his first game action of the season. The junior linebacker led Ole Miss with 15 tackles, eight of them solos.

"I felt like I played great," Bryant said. "It was great being back flying around. I felt like my teammates played great too."

Bryant admitted defending the option was something new to him, or at least something he hadn't faced in a while.

"I hadn't seen it since high school," he said. "It was even hard for our scout team to give us a look since they hadn't seen it. We just had to come out and check out how the game was going. Once we got used to it, we pretty much stopped it."

Freeze said Bryant being back was helpful for his team.

"He seemed to be solid," Freeze said. "His assignments were solid. Serderius is a good player, and I don't think the linebackers had any breakdowns."

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