Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze asked for one thing as the Rebels prepared for the 2014 SEC opener here against Vanderbilt - play "cleaner."
Limit the mistakes, take care of the ball and carry out assignments, something the Rebs had trouble with on offense in the opener nine days ago against Boise State in Atlanta.
This game was about Ole Miss, not Vanderbilt.
"Recent history tells us that this is a tough game for us," Freeze noted, "but we felt if we would take care of ourselves and play cleaner, we'd be OK."
He looked to senior Quarterback Bo Wallace to set the tone of eliminating errors and Bo delivered, eliminating interceptions, hitting his check down receivers when nothing downfield was open and working the middle of the field against a Vandy defense that didn't appear to understand the area between the hashmarks has to be defended too.
"Bo had a really good fourth quarter against Boise and carried that over to the game today," noted Freeze. "He was taking what the defense was giving and it paid dividends. He managed the game very well. I think the first half last week, when he had three interceptions, left an impression on him of what not to do."
Bo worked the middle with TE Evan Engram, Slot Receiver Cody Core and WR Vincent Sanders while the Commodores seemed content to shade their coverage to Laquon Treadwell and leave gaping holes in the middle of the field.
The Rebels were also able to muster enough of a threat running the ball to keep the Vandy defense honest. While the run game as not as effective as the coaches or players hope it will be down the line, it was a lot better than it was in the opener. Something to build on.
"We were able to keep them honest with the run and the run and the pass were feeding off each other,"
Ole Miss' defense gave up a few rushing yards here and there, but pitched a first-half shutout with the Dores not really even threatening to score.
At half, the score was 20-0 Rebs and it probably, except for a few snafus in the Red Zone, could have easily been 28-0.
CB Cliff Coleman had a pick six on Vandy's opening possession of the second half, the Rebs tacked on another quick score for a 34-0 lead midway through the third quarter and it was empty-the-benches time for the Rebels.
"We liked being able to get some kids, who work so hard all year, some quality playing time," Freeze stated. "That will pay dividends down the road.
"We were really solid on defense. We adjusted some things after their first possession and got our fits right and from there I thought we did really well. I think we have a chance to be good on defense. We are handling the run and putting pressure on the quarterback without giving up explosive plays. Offenses, so far, as having to earn everything they get."
Freeze said he was a little concerned pregame because he really didn't try to peak his team, but they showed enough maturity to get the job done anyway.
"I am a believer in not peaking your team but three or four times a year. I wanted to see if they were mature enough to go out and do their assignments and take care of their business without being on an edge and they were," he stated.
How easy was it? Will Gleeson, the National Punter of the Week against Boise, did not get to punt all day.
Meanwhile, QB Ryan Buchanan, TB Eugene Brazley, RG Rod Taylor, CB Kailo Moore, Husky A.J. Moore, LG Craig Frigo, and several more got some outstanding experience in a pressure-free environment.
"Those kids work hard in the practice and when we get a chance to play them, we are going to. They deserve it and I thought some of them really played well," Freeze said. "I like some things Ryan did, Brazley did, Adeboyejo made some good plays and the Moore brothers did. I know some of the linemen probably did some good things too, but I'll have to watch the film."
Good for the soul.
Coaches always say that teams should improve the most between the first and second games.
Ole Miss did their part in improving their game, but it says here Vandy didn't do their part in making it a competitive game.
2-0 and moving on.
"I like where we are so far. We've got work to do, but besides the first half on offense in the opener, I think we are right on schedule," Freeze closed. "We have to keep progressing, but so far, so good."
COLUMN: Surprisingly Easy
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