On To Auburn

It's as if the storyline is about Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn, this Saturday night matchup at Auburn. The coaches would likely rather have it any other way than that.


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As all coaches would want, this is about Ole Miss and Auburn and not about a friendship between the two head coaches.

But the questions came Saturday night after a 25-0 loss at Alabama as Freeze addressed some concerning the backgrounds of him and Malzahn. And they came again in the Monday press conference in Oxford. Likely the same thing was happening in some form at Auburn's weekly press gathering.

"They remind me a lot of us last year," Freeze said. "Very, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, great energy, and great passion. Doesn't surprise me at all with Gus' leadership. They've been very good at home. It will be another hostile environment on a Saturday night. It's a big game for both schools, sitting at 3-1."

More Freeze on what he thinks is the case at Auburn.

"He's on his way getting them to buy in. He's off to a good start," Freeze said of Malzahn. "I don't know his depth chart issues well enough to know exactly where he is on those things. I don't think maybe they were as down as we were. I'm certain he's not as deep as he would like to be. He's got them playing with some confidence, and that's the first step in buying into the little things."

Offensively, the Rebels and Tigers, while not perhaps mirror images, are clearly similar in approach and execution.

"We certainly can look just alike offensively if we wanted to," Freeze said. "We'll be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense. Having said that, both of us can change a lot during the course of a week. And he's got two weeks. I know he'll have some wrinkles we haven't seen. But we are very similar offensively in what we do."

Freeze said the 3-1 Tigers, with their lone loss at LSU 35-21 the last time out, are doing a lot of good things.

"He's got them playing extremely hard," he said. "You face an offense that's very balanced in rushing and passing. They give you a lot of looks, a lot of motions, a lot of smoke and mirrors. They're very efficient at what they do. Defensively (coordinator) Ellis Johnson is one of the best in the business, and they're very, very multiple. You have to prepare for most anything."

Freeze said it's time to move on and play Auburn.

"We're excited about getting back on the field after a loss," he said. "We're 5-1 in the last six games we've played, which we feel establishes a good foundation for this program. Never like losing or looking at the what ifs. That's part of the game. Sixty teams do that every Saturday. Usually the team you become is defined after difficult moments."

Siskey-Gate?

Freeze didn't make an issue, when asked, about Tyler Siskey being in the press box. The former Ole Miss staffer was in the press box at Alabama Saturday night during the game. He's listed on the official Alabama sports website as an associate director/player personnel.


C.J. Johnson
Bruce Newman

"I don't know where he typically is (during a game)," Freeze said. "Certainly I'll say that Alabama had a wonderful defensive plan for us. Give them a lot of credit for the work that they put in preparing for us. Nick (Saban) and Kirby (Smart) are two of the best in the business, not that they need a lot of help in the game plan. But I'm sure Siskey helped in some way."

More Freeze.

"Tyler Siskey is a good man. I hate that it's been quite the drama. They had an excellent plan. I'm sure Nick prepares just like any of us would. I'm ready to move on to Auburn."

Freeze said he was not aware if Ole Miss has contacted the Southeastern Conference office concerning the situation.

"I haven't (contacted them) and I have no idea," Freeze said. "I don't know exactly what he did. Our administration is great, and I'm sure Alabama has a great administration. I don't think for one minute that Nick would put himself or his program at risk in doing something. So I have confidence that...I don't want involved in something like that. They lined up and beat us, and I'm ready to move on to Auburn."

Up Front

Alabama's line play was typical Alabama. Freeze said it was tough sledding for the Rebels.

"I try to be my hardest critic. You guys know that. With the exception of one thing we could have done, I think what we had was really sound in trying to attack what they were doing," Freeze said.

"We lost a lot of one on one battles up front. Reminded me of the Georgia game last year. We could have done one thing differently that maybe would have helped us. You still have to win some battles. Wish we'd have tried that one other thing to see. Matt (Luke) and I sat down yesterday and went through everything we tried to do in the run game. When you draw it up on the board, it looks really good. But you have to win some battles. They're good on defense. They played with an edge and a little attitude Saturday night."

Defensive Moves

Up front defensively the Rebels had some different personnel at times.

We'll look at that again this week," Freeze said. "We thought those were best for that game. Some of it is injuries and who is able to go full speed. We worked Robert (Nkemdiche) some inside and he did a nice job. I wouldn't say anything's permanent. We'll look at what we're facing. I haven't discussed that with the defense yet this week. We'll meet tonight and discuss those options."

Freeze said Nkemdiche did well there.


Robert Nkemdiche
Bruce Newman

"He did fine. Made a few mistakes," he said. "But so did everyone else. He graded out at like 82 percent. Strong, tough guy to move around. Played solid for a game of that magnitude against that offensive line. I thought he did really well."

Now the Rebels have to shift gears to an uptempo offense.

"Alabama was going to have one or two or three tight ends in the game, and that's not typical for (Auburn) to be that way. The smoke and mirrors are certainly different. The things that distract your eyes from fitting your gap properly or in your coverage zone is quite a bit different."

Health and Well-Being

Freeze said the Rebels are about as good in the medical department as can be expected a third of the way through the season.

"We're in decent shape for this point in the year," he said. "C.J. (Johnson) has an ankle he's been fighting the whole year. Robert may have broken his finger but that won't result in anything, any (loss of) time. Carlton Martin didn't travel to Alabama, but we expect him to go this week. Donte (Moncrief) sprained a shoulder. But he ran around yesterday and we expect him to be fine. We feel pretty fortunate (at this point in the season with injuries)."

Freshman Rebound

The Ole Miss newcomers haven't experienced any setbacks collectively since reaching campus in early August. Now they've lost a game, and how will they we respond?

"You've got to play the next play," Freeze said. "All of us didn't like losing. But it's been a while since we've lost. We had our team meeting Sunday. Told the truth. Put it in the trash. Practiced with a lot of energy. I was happy with everyone's response."


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