MVP Game

Hugh Freeze said he knew Bo Wallace had a bad taste in his mouth since the end of the regular season. The Rebel Coach said he did as well.

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That's why Ole Miss winning the Music City Bowl 25-17 against Georgia Tech, including a MVP performance by the junior quarterback, was so immensely satisfying for both.

"I'm so proud of Bo, obviously," Freeze said after Wallace rushed for 86 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns while going 22-for-32 through the air for 256 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

"I've said every time somebody would ask me that the quarterback in this league gets way too much of the criticism when things don't go your way," Freeze continued. "People have bad days at work. I have them. Bo has had a few."

In the offices that are the football fields the Rebels have played on recently, there were indeed bad days for Wallace and the offense. Against Missouri and Mississippi State, both losses, the Rebels had scored one offensive touchdown. Total.

Wallace shouldered much of the blame, even though Freeze didn't necessarily believe that was the cause of it all, and moved ahead to get better. And to do the things he does best.

"Going into this game, I knew I needed to have a good one," said Wallace, from nearby Giles County High School. "Sometimes I try to make too many plays. All day I was thinking don't make too many plays. Just make the plays that are there. And I think that's what I did today."

Ole Miss offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said he knew since the loss on Thanksgiving night that Wallace was going to be ready in the bowl game.

"After the last game, we got on the bus and we talked," Werner said. "There was a look in his eye that he didn't want to feel that (losing) pain again. So it was obvious right from the get-go he was going to be ready."

Freeze agreed.

"I just knew from watching him prepare, that the way we ended the season didn't sit well him, nor did it me," he said. "We didn't have to really talk about it a lot. I like the way he prepared, and I'm proud of the game he had today."

Wallace rushed for 86 yards and 2 TDs
File Photo

Werner said having a break since the final game of the regular season was important, apparently.

"The last few weeks off looked like it helped him," Werner said.

Tempo is important to the Rebel offense. It was "up-tempo" in the Music City. There was little doubt the Rebels were at a faster pace all game long.

Freeze said the officiating crew was the way he liked them to be in that regard.

"We've had these officials a couple of times. I love the way they put it down," he said. "Our kids did a good job getting set and getting the ball snapped. If we can win first down, our tempo is good for us. We didn't always win first down, but the tempo was good to us."

With the victory, Ole Miss finished 8-5. Last season with a win in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, the Rebels were 7-6. The building of the program continues. At times it hasn't been easy.

"We're thrilled with the outcome of the game," Freeze said. "We've had more than our share of some things that have hit us at the end of the year. Not just injuries, but loss of loved ones and of children. Just difficult things. Those are the times that the love of a team or a group are really tested. I couldn't be more proud of our young men who went out and battled today."

As for Wallace, the middle of the field was open for him at times against the Yellow Jackets. Tech head coach Paul Johnson said he was surprised Ole Miss was able to run the ball as well on his defense as it did.

Wallace took advantage.

"Yeah, they definitely gave me some pulls out there," he said. "This was one of the O-Lines' best jobs as far as getting set for tempo and rolling. I thought it was their best game of the year, probably. I was able to hit a few nine or ten yard runs, and I think that definitely opens us up for everything else in our offense."

Freeze said the offensive line is definitely to be commended for playing so well, especially short-handed.

Wallace was bowl's MVP
File Photo

"Not having Aaron Morris, Laremy Tunsil, Austin Golson, those guys, we were down to very few guys that played quality snaps," Freeze said. "We're not real good when we can't run the football some. I just felt those kids would play good. How about E-Man (Emmanuel McCray)? His future is not football. But he's got his degree. Somebody ought to hire him. If you're looking for a quality individual to hire, that's Emmanuel McCray. I'm lucky we didn't have many get injured out there today. It would have gotten interesting.

"Like Jared Duke this morning. We're 30 minutes from getting on the bus, and he gets a phone call that he lost his grandfather. You've got a young man who's heartbroken and still wants to go and fight. I'm so proud of him."

Wallace said things were good from the start. The Rebels took the football on the opening drive and went 75 yards in 15 plays, converting three third downs and even one fourth-down play.

"I just feel so much more comfortable with that first series," Wallace said. "Just having a good first series and positive plays and not too many negative plays. (Freeze) doesn't like negative plays very much. I definitely hear it when we have one. So I get into a rhythm when we have a good offensive drive like that. I just try to sustain that throughout the rest of the game."

Next season? Yes, it was asked about. And yes, Wallace responded.

"I'm really excited for the offseason to actually have an offseason to get better," he said, obviously in reference to offseason shoulder surgery last winter. "I just had to try to get to a point this year after shoulder surgery (to be able to play). I'm really excited to get with (S&C) Coach (Paul) Jackson and work really hard this offseason."

But for now he and his teammates will enjoy a season-ending win in a bowl game for the second year in a row.

Freeze, at the end, summed up what Wallace, who returns for his senior season in 2014, has meant to Ole Miss so far.

"There's no way we'd be sitting here with 15 wins in two years and two bowl victories," said Freeze, "had Bo not been with us."

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