Eggcellent

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had already begun his postgame press conference after the Rebels beat Mississippi State 31-17 Saturday in Oxford. Then a staffer brought the Golden Egg in to sit on the table next to the head coach. He kept right on talking, answering questions from 30 or more media assembled.

Freeze is 2-1 in these Battles for the Golden Egg. Both wins have come in Oxford. Hugh Freeze was born in Oxford and has been the head coach at Ole Miss for three seasons, leading a revival of a program that had gone 6-18 in the two previous season before his arrival. Only a week before he took the job at Ole Miss, the Rebels had finished 2-10, their worst season since 1946.

“To claim this prize of the Golden Egg is a priority for this program that we have every year,” Freeze said. “To get that done tonight facing some adversity with some injuries we’ve had, and then to go through some of the ups and downs and the ebbs and flows of college football, I’m just so proud of our team, throwing everything in the trash and preparing for this one with clear hearts and minds and eyes. And I’m extremely proud for our seniors.”

Freeze is now 24-14 in three seasons with a major bowl game upcoming in a month or so. There’s a decent chance that bowl game will be played in Florida.

Freeze was asked about some other schools having interest in his services as the head coach of their programs, namely the University of Florida. He answered it this way.

“It’s amazing to me how so many things that are put on the internet are now believable,” he said. “I have not heard from any university except the one I am fortunate enough to be the head coach. Like I said earlier this week, I don’t comment on job statuses. I don’t comment on anybody’s job status, particularly mine, whether it’s good or bad.

“I am blessed to be the head football coach at The University of Mississippi, my home. And I work for great people in Ross (Bjork) and Chancellor (Dan) Jones.”

Then it was back to talking about the game. Dak Prescott, the MSU junior quarterback so heralded much of this season, was effective in this game. But not effective nor productive enough.

Freeze’s vaunted Rebel defenders held the powerful MSU offense to 445 yards and 17 points. The Rebels defense was ready for war on this day.

“Man, we gave them some big third-down conversions, though,” Freeze said. “Dave (Wommack) had some great calls, and we just didn’t execute. I know twice on third and ten, our underneath guy just didn’t get underneath (the receiver). I thought our front four was active. We actually missed some tackles in the backfield. But we made some big ones there at the very end.”

Freeze was also asked had he ever been through a situation where any of his teams at any level were ranked so highly and had accomplished so much, then to go through the adversity this one had with injuries, close losses and the blowout loss at Arkansas last weekend.

And then to come back and play a game like this, of this magnitude, and win it.

“I would say last year against LSU here, maybe in worse shape than we were tonight, and we won that game,” he said. “But certainly we were facing some challenges. When you rise to those expectations and you’re 7-0, then we didn’t play our best at LSU but we played pretty dang good against Auburn here. That was a weird way to end, losing a leader of your offense. It took some adjustment. We lost our edge a little bit.

“Everybody was kind of looking around like ‘Who’s leading this?’ I tried as hard as I could that Arkansas week to get that edge back. But (this past) Sunday I lit into them pretty good. I spent all night last Saturday night not knowing if I was going to hug and love ‘em or kick ‘em in the tails.

“I’m not going to tell you which one I did.”

Other Notes from Freeze:

* On the senior class that has had three bowl seasons under him: “To see all the seniors taking selfies in the locker room with the Golden Egg and rejoicing would be considered in year three a solid year that we accomplished some good things in building this program back up. It’s a great night for The University of Mississippi.”

* On Chancellor Dan Jones: “I hope our Chancellor is smiling because he’s in a battle for himself with his health. I’m glad we could deliver the Egg Bowl back to him.”

* On when exactly he sensed a turnaround for his team after the lopsided loss at Arkansas: “On the flight home (from Fayetteville). It’s the Egg Bowl. It’s one of the main things you come here for. We’re pretty good about putting things in the trash. Football in this conference? You better strap it on every week. We did some things on Sunday to remind them how important this was. I don’t know if we needed to do that but we did. Each day. Every day. Without fail.”

* On Bo Wallace’s ankle and how Bo handled that: “I thought he was a little rusty at times, early on at times. He couldn’t practice any this week. I told everyone you would have to chain him down for him to not play. They taped it tight. They gave him pain medicine. He never complained about it. We had some boot legs and roll outs, and the only thing he said was ‘Let’s don’t do that anymore. That bothers me.’ For all the stuff he gets talked about, I would hope this seals his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback that helped us restore pride and returned this program to relevancy, two Egg Bowl (victories), three bowl games. I hope this cements his legacy here in a very positive light, because he deserves that.”

On if this game meant more to Bo after the loss last year in Starkville: “I would say there was a little more there. I think he wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 360-something days or whatever it’s been. He prepared, he spent a lot of time in the film room, he felt good about the things we were going to call, and he was locked in.”

On the number of different offensive plays, trick plays, etc., in this one: “That’s what this game means. I was willing to throw everything out there. We had more if we needed it. We had more stuff to throw at them. We’d have tried almost anything. I thought the reverse was a big play in the game. Gave us a first down when we were backed up there and ate up some more clock.”


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