Now the Rebels, 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference, try to bounce back against a team that defeated LSU 41-7 earlier this month.
The Tigers are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC and coming off a home win against South Carolina 42-35.
It won’t be easy, and that goes for either team. But no challenge in the SEC Western Division is.
“Obviously it was disappointing to not get it done on the road at LSU,” said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. “Anytime a game is that close and that competitive, you watch film in a game that close, everything is magnified. We did not play our best game, and that's taking nothing away from LSU. They played with great passion and were physical. But from watching film we did not play our best game.
“The great thing is we have an opportunity to bounce back this week at home and get our kids ready for another very difficult task in Auburn. They’re as good if not better on the interior defensively as anyone we’ve seen. No one has rushed the ball on them other than one team for more than 150 yards. They’re very athletic on the back end, and offensively their receiver cops is one of the tops in the nation. The quarterbacks and running backs do an excellent job. Their offensive line is solid.”
Freeze said it’s all hands on deck time, and that goes for the health of his team and the home team fans.
“We’ve got our hands full. We’ve got to hopefully get healthy and get ready to play at home. We need our crowd here. We'll need their energy. The stretch we’re having is a difficult stretch. We can’t control that, but we can control being ready to play Saturday. It’s our job and we’ll have them ready.”
More From Freeze:
On team handling adversity of a loss: “They've responded very well. It's still early in the week. They were not pleased with the way they performed, and they're hungry. I think they'll respond the right way.”
On Bo: “On the entire team, not just Bo. I thought our demeanor was a bit different in that environment. I thought we let things get to us that have not bothered us early in the season. It seemed to rattle us (UM players) a little bit. Bo missed some open guys and also made some really good throws. I've seen no mechanical things that are different. He had some pressure on him.”
On injuries: “Ben Still is out of his brace. He will start moving around. Day to day. Laremy (Tunsil) day to day. Cody Prewitt day to day. Robert (Nkemdiche) day to day. Denzel (Nkemdiche) out for the year. He had surgery yesterday on his broken ankle. We hate to lose him. I think they'll all give it a go. Ben is probably the biggest concern. The others are a pain tolerance issue. None of them are dealing with your feet and legs, so they can run. It’s just a pain tolerance and what it’s like.”
On being more conservative on offense, has that perhaps contributed to the slowdown of the offense? Do you have to change that at all?: “It could contribute to it. I still think it comes down to you have to make plays, whether it’s tempo or not. We have to call the right stuff and get them in the right looks. So it’s probably a combination of things.”
On gameplan vs. LSU: “The plan we had gave us a chance to win. We had two touchdowns called back. We had other chances. We didn't make the right calls, or we didn't execute at the right times, or LSU made the plays. We had a chance to win in a hostile environment against a very good football team that’s playing really well right now, had we made better calls, better plays, at certain times.”
On Ryan Aplin: “After he left, we changed everything. But it’s still a concern because he was with me for so long and on staff here. It’s a concern, and we knew that when he left. We’ve taken every precaution we can. But he still will probably contribute something to the staff that would be helpful for them. I don’t know that he can within the course of a game because we’ve changed everything. But preparing for it, I think he would be helpful.”
On defensive rotation: “Defensively we're playing 32 kids a game. When I get the grade sheets, very few people with the exception of Cody and Robert, are playing significant snaps more than others. A lot of guys are getting 20-25 snaps a game. I've been pleased that it's been able to keep us fresh, that we're not totally fatigued in a lot of spots.”
On Auburn's QB Nick Marshall: “Got to tackle him. Have your assignments down and be in the right spots. He's talented and we'll have to tackle extremely well.”
On his offensive philosophy vs. Gus Malzahn’s: “Gus and I can be identical if we chose to within the game plan. We can also look quite different. I think we’re extremely similar in run game. Pass game probably more different that the run game but could make them look very, very similar.”
On South Carolina's offensive success vs. Auburn: “They went for it quite a few times on fourth down. They threw it. They didn't have any success running. They went in to win a shootout. They did throw and catch it well.”
On Gary Wunderlich's range: “50-52 yards, he’s got the leg for it. Anything plus 40, he prefers the left hash. That's what we were trying to get done the other night for him. His leg strength is plenty from 50-52.”
On the final play on film: “I've got to communicate better to (Bo). We didn't get done on that play what we hoped to get done obviously. That’s something in critical moments that we’ve got to get done. I've got to coach him better and communicate with him better, and make sure there's no doubt in his mind what we're trying to accomplish.”
On his team’s running game struggles: “A number of factors.We’ve had several decent games where we rush well. It is a challenge and continues to be. Losing one on one battles. Or they (other team) have the right call at right time. We have a bad call at the wrong time. We've had some negative plays. We're playing some really good rush defenses the last few weeks. We've got to continue to work at it.”
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