Stare Down

The Ole Miss Rebels dug deep when not a whole lot was going right and came back with a stunning second half to swamp Texas in Austin.




Despite a hostile environment. . .

Despite facing a "mad" Texas team that was embarrassed a week ago. . .

Despite the ghosts of last year when this same Texas team humiliated the Rebels in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium haunting them daily. . .

Despite a second quarter showing that only a mother could love, and maybe even she wouldn't. . .

Despite facing a 23-14 deficit late in the first half and Texas having the crowd and momentum going in their favor. . . .

Despite a makeshift offensive line consisting of two backups, a true freshman and a hobbled veteran. . .

Despite a Bo Wallace fumble deep in Rebel territory. . .

Despite enough obstacles to make the heartiest of souls quake. . .

. . . The Ole Miss Rebels rolled into Austin and stared it all down for one of the most inspiring wins in recent memory and certainly a statement game for Hugh Freeze's fledgling program.

Freeze constantly talks about "the process." The process just got shorter. Milestones and success like this will do that.


Hugh Freeze
USA TODAY images

From Jeff Scott running almost at will, to a defense that shut out the Longhorns and held them to 100 total yards in the second half, to Andrew Ritter's long field goal to end the first half, to C.J. Johnson and the defensive line taking over the LOS in the second half, to Bo Wallace playing - sans a crazy ball slip in the first half - an almost flawless game, to a "smoke and mirrors" OL that had a hurting RT, a freshman LT and no Aaron Morris and very little Emmanuel McCray, to a wide receiver unit that blocked "their asses off" all night, to more quality halftime adjustments - which are becoming expected now instead of surprising, to well, you get the picture.

"We are getting better. Our kids have confidence. We have won five games in a row. We are going in the right direction, but this is just one step, not six steps, in the right direction," said Freeze. "We will have highs like tonight and I'm sure we'll have some lows, but we are going to stick together and we will keep getting better."

As was the case against Vanderbilt to open the season, the Rebels got abused in the second quarter. The defense was fitting blocks wrong and playing the bubble screen like they had never seen one before, but at halftime, the defensive coaches changed their DL fits, shored up the coverage of the bubble screen and, after they got a lead on Texas, who then had to throw, started applying more pressure, little by little.

"We didn't have to change much," said Freeze. "All we did was tighten up and go back more to our base defense. We limited our coverages, corrected just a couple of things they hit us on - the bubble screen and the bounce play on the run, and we started executing," he said. "We might have gotten a little complex in the first half. We honed back, corrected what they were hitting us with and started playing ball.

"On offense, I say this every week, we stayed ahead of the chains in the second half. We won first down, like we did in the first quarter. When we win first down, we are real good. When we don't, like the second quarter, we are not very good, but that is the case with most offenses."

But the main thing Freeze said postgame that was telling, and the most poignant, was his team never blinked.

"We preach it and preach it and preach it. You can't lose the game in the first half. Play every play. Forget the play before. Don't blink. Our kids did not blink in the halftime locker room," he continued.

There are lots of accolades and kudos to pass around in this one, but number one goes to the team, from the coaches, to the players, to the managers, as a whole.

This, by its truest definition, was a total team victory.

On a big stage.

With a bright spotlight.

Against a wounded Longhorn team with a desperate coach at the end of his rope, needing a win in the worst way.

The Rebs did not bat an eye. As Freeze said, they did not blink.

In fact, they stared down Texas like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry movies taking on a maniac.

Payback is a wonderful thing. The Rebs owed Texas one.

Texas received the stare, Texas not only blinked but wilted, and all is well in Rebel land.


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