Extended Weekend

Smiles ruled Monday in the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center on the Ole Miss campus. No surprise there.


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After unranked Ole Miss toppled sixth-ranked and one of the favorites for a shot at the national title LSU 27-24 last Saturday night, the sunshine and blue sky outside seemed to magically pierce the walls and ceilings inside.

But the day isn't without its low points. Injuries still abound for the Rebels. So Hugh Freeze, head coach, went down the lengthy list as the 4-3 Rebels prepare for a Homecoming game against Idaho Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

"We lost Evan Engram for the year. Tough loss for us. He was on track to be a freshman All-American. He's a tremendous kid and was very important to our scheme. We don't have another one like him that can win some one on ones in space and do the blocking we asked him to do. It's a difficult loss and you know what these kids put in. He's such a great kid and going to be a tremendous leader for this team for years to come. He's having surgery today and hopefully he'll be back by spring ball.

"C.J. (Johnson) as was announced is done for the year. Aaron Morris is done for the year. Serderius Bryant we're still waiting to get released from the concussion protocol. Robert Nkemdiche will not play this week. Carlos Thompson will not play this week. Mike Hilton is questionable. There is a possibility he could. Cameron Whigham is questionable. I'm not sure who all we'll play in the defensive line. But we'll piece it together and they'll play hard. Keith Lewis I think will play. Jeff Scott we feel has a chance to play. We'll see. Denzel Nkemdiche we feel will play. Charles Sawyer the same thing."

The fact remains the Rebels did get the job done. As a team. All of them that were available. And also those who were not but were there in a supportive role.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids and our staff. After watching the film, I think it's one of the most complete games we've played since we've been here," Freeze said. "We made a few mistakes. Couple of turnovers. The low kick by (Andrew) Ritter, but coming back and making the game winner was even more special. It was great to celebrate with him after the game.

"Our receivers played much, much better. They won a lot of matchups. Jaylen Walton and the offensive line...I just can't find much to complain about. Defensively I can't complain about anything as short-handed as they were. Holding a leader in almost every category in our conference to the number they did was a phenomenal effort and plan."


Bo Wallace
USA TODAY images

Freeze and Bo Wallace have been around each other a long time. They know each other well. Freeze said the junior signal-caller was at his best against the Tigers.

"I thought it was his best game since he's been here," he said.

Now the attention turns to Idaho, a team that's 1-6 this season.

"We've got a team coming in this week that I'm sure feels they have nothing to lose in playing in an SEC home with a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend," Freeze said. "We don't want to be on the other end of that. We've got to regain our kids' focus and elevate our concentration to do things right."

More Freeze:

* On Nick Parker: "Nick's a joy around this program. He's loved by his teammates. He makes people laugh. He goes to work every day. He's a local kid. So when he caught the touchdown, there was a lot of excitement and joy for him. His role will increase some."

* On the week's preparation: "Yesterday we just lifted and conditioned. We did not go out on the field at all. We'll have the same practice schedule we had last week. We're trying to get to that open week and hopefully get people healthy."

* On Senquez Golson: "He is back at practice. I have not made a determination yet on exactly what that means as far as competition (in a game)."

* On the level of emotion his team played with vs. LSU: "We're not the biggest, strongest, fastest or deepest yet. But we can play with the most passion. It starts with me and our staff. It starts with us and we pass that expectation on to our young men. Sometimes like last week you worry it might not come across after a difficult loss (to Texas A&M), and half the unit you're used to playing with may not be with you, and you're playing a top team in the nation. As a coach you wonder can I really get them ready to do this, because you have doubts you have to fight yourself. You call on every resource you can think of. Luckily I think it helped us that it was LSU which means a lot as a rival to this program. Emotion had to play into it for us to be able to win. I do think our coaches are pretty good at that, and we try to be consistent to them in our message daily."

* On depth: "If you don't have adequate depth, it's very difficult to get to the higher echelon of this conference, even if you stay healthy. Out of the 20 to 25 we sign, we'd better be good evaluators of talent and they'd better be a good fit here. You are going to miss on some. A win like last weekend against LSU in the presence of a lot of recruits helps validate our message that we're close. We need some help. My first thoughts usually go to recruiting."

* On Derrick Jones: "Played every snap, I think. May not have goal line. He did well. He's an athletic, big, strong, good-looking kid. I think he's going to have a phenomenal future. It was a tough baptism by fire. He stayed over the top. Didn't get beat deep. Gave up some passes but we knew that was going to happen. He missed one tackle in the open field. But all in all to find out Friday morning you'll be playing a considerable number of snaps and you're a true freshman going against a rival with a great offense and great receivers, I thought he passed with flying colors."

* On Bryon Bennett at DE: "He had his best game by far since I've been here. A high motor. Played a lot of snaps with more passion. It was evident to me he showed he has a great care for what was going to happen that night."

* On Lavon Hooks: "Played a lot better. Light came on. Lot of kids do that. No question he played better than what we had seen. It's good to see that. Another great kid and I'm glad he's with us. I hope he continues to improve."


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