Saturday Night Showdown

Missouri is arguably the surprise team in the Southeastern Conference this football season. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the Tigers are good for many reasons.


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"I consider (Missouri) to be one of the most well-rounded teams we've faced," Freeze said. "There are no weaknesses on this Missouri squad. The job Coach (Gary) Pinkel and his staff have done is to be commended. Their kids play extremely hard, and they've got great schemes. They make you earn every single thing you get that goes your way."

Missouri enters the game ranked eighth in the latest national standings. Their 9-1 overall record and 5-1 SEC mark is as surprising as any team in the country. Last season in their inaugural campaign in moving from the Big 12 to the SEC, the Tigers were 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the league.

This year they've been a totally different team from the start. Only South Carolina with an overtime win in Columbia – Missouri, not Columbia, South Carolina – has been able to derail the Tiger express.

"We've got a great challenge," Freeze said. "It is at home, which I know our people will embrace. We certainly need the Vaught to be rocking and for there to be an electric atmosphere for our football team. We'll need a little help from that aspect."

Freeze said this late-season game on primetime national television is what it's all about – for Ole Miss, Missouri, and all of college football.

"It's an exciting week for us," he said of his 7-3 Rebels who are ranked 24th nationally and stand 3-3 in SEC play. "You get in this game as a coach and as a player at this level to play in exciting atmospheres and against great competition. All those ingredients are in play this week. We're going to enjoy the preparation for it, and hopefully elevate our kids' focus for a great task that's at hand."


Evan Swindall
Bruce Newman

More From Freeze:

* On his Rebels being in the top half of the SEC in every offensive category: "I think it speaks particularly defensively to the job that with the injuries we've had, we've had to piece together, particularly in the defensive line and in the linebackers, and then the youngness of our secondary, we've had some difficult challenges from week to week (defensively). For (the offense) to still be up there in the top half in all those team stats speaks to the job that our young men have done and our coaching staff has done. Hopefully it talks about the attention to all aspects. We're rushing the football fairly well, throwing it fairly well, scoring some points. But I do think we've improved in all those areas, particularly with the challenges we've faced defensively throughout the year from the very start. The stats are something I guess we're proud of, but it doesn't mean you're going to win games in this league. But that does I think speak again and is another sign we're in the right direction."

* On the fast-paced tempo the Ole Miss-Missouri game could have offensively: "The mode we've been in the past four or five weeks is to make sure the plays we have called, if executed, they are not negative plays. If we can do them at a fast-pace and that's advantageous for us, we will. We haven't gone extremely fast. Missouri has the capability of going really fast. It could turn out to be that way if both are having success. We'll meet this afternoon and discuss all that. We'll be prepared to be basically what you've seen the last few weeks. It's been good to us. Their defensive front causes negative plays. They're as athletic as any we've faced and maybe a little faster than some. Their ends are really, really talented players. They've got a great scheme. They understand who they are. You'll have to earn everything you get. They don't make many mistakes."

* On preparing for two Tiger quarterbacks: "I don't think there's much difference in them. That's the good thing. They're going to be who they are. They've done the same things with their second guy that they do with their first guy. It's not like preparing for two different schemes. They have confidence in both of them and have good reason to. So the schemes are going to be the same, and that helps in that regard."

* On the Tigers' tall wide receivers: "That's a physics problem we can't solve. It is a concern for sure. There are times where their guys are just more able to make a play on a ball than some DBs they've faced. That is a great concern and something we've got to try to find the best answers are when thos occasions arrive. On what Missouri does well to be 9-1: "Defensively they stop the run. Very few people have lined up and run the ball effectively on them. They get you one-dimensional, and those ends are quick and cause problems in the backfield for you. We've got to find a way to run the ball enough to be who we are and keep them thinking we're balance. We've been effective being balanced lately. Their offense stays on schedule and makes you defend sideline to sideline. Their running backs are better than they get credit for. Their O-Line is solid. Those receivers and quarterbacks are on the same page as well as any unit we've faced. So it's a great challenge."


Barry Brunetti
Bruce Newman

* On if this is the game to find out if Ole Miss is indeed a Top 25 team: "It will certainly be a test. All the teams we lost to are in the Top 10, as is Missouri. We lost one of those by three points. We lost another by a touchdown. If you compete at a high level against a Top 10 team, the polls don't always reflect that if you lose in a close game to a team of this quality….I guess what I'm saying is I don't that having to win the game will answer the question if we're really a Top 25 team. If we go out and compete and have a chance to win it, that's what we're asking for right now out of our kids in year two. Let's go find out where we stand and how we match up with the elite in the nation right now. Hopefully we'll be in it at the end and see. I think if you're in it, you probably have said that is a step in the right direction, even though you get judged on what the scoreboard says. The schedule we've played, looking back on it, think it will prove something. But the scoreboard is always important. We've had our share of tests. We'll have another one Saturday night."

* On how Barry Brunetti's passing improvement has helped the Rebel offense: "He's definitely a different player right now, much more confident and that certainly helps us. I don't think if you're preparing for us now, you can load the box when he enters the game. We've shown we have confidence in him throwing and running. He's been effective at it, completing a high percentage of his balls. And when things weren't there, he's taken care of the ball. That's what we ask of him. Real pleased with his play lately. I think that adds an element to preparing for us."

* On Rebel injuries this week: "(Charles Sawyer) worked at (Individuals) yesterday. He didn't go through team drills. He looked pretty good in the indos. Tomorrow will be a good test to see. (John) Youngblood is back. With the exception of the guys we've lost for the year, I think Charles Sawyer is the only question mark whether he'll be ready or not Saturday."


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