Pushing Through

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is looking forward to the off-season. But not for reasons you might expect.

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The schedule isn't as strenuous with no games to be played. Still, Wallace won't be taking advantage of the extra downtime. Instead, he'll attack the next few weeks and months in an effort to regain strength in his throwing shoulder - the same shoulder he had surgery on last off-season.

Sure, he improved upon his sophomore numbers, besting his 2,994 passing yards with 3,090 as a junior. He's thrown five less touchdowns (17 compared to 22), but one game remains. Ole Miss faces Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl today t 2:15 p.m. CT on ESPN.

However, even Wallace will admit he hasn't been the same quarterback. Ole Miss seldom attempted to stretch the field with the deep passing game. Wallace, who did record a season-long completion of 75 yards, was limited due to six months on the shelf prior to August practices.

"I think one of the things that happened to him is his off-season shoulder surgery didn't allow him to lift weights, go through spring practice," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said.

Bo Wallace
Ole Miss Athletics/Josh McCoy

"He finally got released going right into fall camp. I think him not being able to strengthen that arm fully it's demonstrated all year long a digression in the velocity on his ball and maybe even the accuracy and changing his motion a little bit to adjust for a weakness he feels."

Freeze and staff have tried to give Wallace plenty of rest since the regular-season-ending, 17-10 loss to Mississippi State last month.

Wallace had his worst game in an Ole Miss uniform in Starkville, completing 26 of 40 passes for 182 yards and three interceptions. He fumbled at the 3-yard line in overtime to seal defeat.

"Hopefully the time off has helped him," Freeze said. "In this world that we live in, our kids take a pounding when they don't do well. And they probably get too much praise when they do something well. I'm not a huge fan of how the college kids are treated. And certainly the last few games, he got his share of criticism.

"We tried to manage this off-time a little bit to give him some proper rest. Hopefully he's got one more game in him maybe at a higher level than he played at the end of the season. Some of that was decision-making, but some of it was the hand he was dealt. I know he's excited to have an off-season where he can really work out and hopefully get (the shoulder) full strength."

Because he wasn't cleared until the start of fall practices in August, Wallace couldn't properly train his shoulder and back muscles. In turn, he spent the season frustrated, unable to make the same throws he's made for years.

"I always thought that it was just going to build up and build up to where I'm throwing it 55 yards like when I first got here," he said. "It never did, so I just had to adjust the way I played."

Including more of a reliance on the short-to-intermediate passing game.

"I was playing the game with my mind. I wasn't playing it physically, because physically I'm not where I've been," he said. "I even think I was better last year throwing that I was this year, just because you're not working out. You don't have that strength that you had."

The Ole Miss offense sputtered in the final few games of the regular season, scoring all of one touchdown in its last eight quarters. One game remains for Wallace and his teammates to go out on a high note, and he'll get his chance in front of friends and family.

Wallace, who said he grew up going to Tennessee Titans games, hails from nearby Pulaski, Tenn.

"It's fun. I love Nashville. I'm 40 minutes from here, so I have a lot of family and friends here. I'm excited about it. I grew up going to watch the Titans play. It'll be cool to play in their stadium."

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