Freeze: 'I take credit for that'

ATLANTA, Ga. – Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech may have collectively been one thing when Ole Miss played them the past two bowl games. TCU, apparently, was a different animal altogether. So, obviously, were Birmingham’s Compass Bowl and Nashville’s Music City.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, not taking anything away from one of the nation’s best teams in TCU, said it was on him for not having his team more ready for Wednesday's New Year’s Six Bowl.

“I take credit for that. It’s my responsibility. I did not have our kids prepared to play at a level they deserved to be able to compete and play at today,” said Freeze, his team 9-4 following a 42-3 loss to the Horned Frogs in the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

“But I’m extremely proud of our kids and how they’ve turned this program, in a short three years, to be relevant and competitive. Just sick that it wasn’t that way for them today. We all are partial to our kids, and we believe they deserve to give an adequate representation. I feel like I let them down in getting ready for it.”

Freeze said his players, especially the seniors, were in the state of mind one would expect following such a loss.

“Obviously a very disappointing day,” he said. “I got to go around that locker room and see every single senior. To see them hurt like they’re hurting today is not much fun. It’s not enjoyable at all.”

Freeze made mention, and emphasized it, just how important this group of players, especially those seniors, have been these past three years.

“It’s hard for me to put into words to them how much they’ve meant to this program in turning it around to make this program relevant again,” he said, inheriting one that was 2-10 the year before he arrived and 6-18 collectively the prior two seasons. “They’re human and they can’t feel that right now. They feel disappointed. We obviously did not perform well today. TCU did.”

How did the Horned Frogs do it?

“They won a bunch of one on ones,” Freeze said, specifically referring to the TCU defense. “They didn’t bring a lot of pressure. There wasn’t anything I could sit here and say that they drew up great. Their kids played with phenomenal effort, just like we knew they would.”

Ole Miss couldn’t establish much offensively throughout the contest. The Rebels, already thin, lost two offensive linemen during the game.

“We’ve obviously been beat up some in the offensive line,” Freeze said. “We played some young kids. We made a few mistakes in protections with their movement. And of course we lost Laremy (Tunsil) and Robert Conyers (during the game). Even before that we were struggling with depth there and playing people a bit out of position. Even before that happened, they were getting pressure on us. Certainly they had a good plan. We’ve got to go back and make ourselves better in a lot of ways in making sure...they had a good scheme for us. And I felt like they knew when we were passing and when we weren’t. They won a bunch of one on ones.”

Freeze said the Horned Frogs are all they were advertised to be.

“TCU is a very good team,” he said. “They deserved every mention they got this year to be in the hunt for one of the (final) four. They certainly rightfully deserved to be in it with the others. That’s a tough deal. I’m glad I’m not on that committee. To pick the four is a very difficult task. They certainly can compete with any of those in it.”

Freeze said it’s back to work for his program to build on yet another successful season. The Rebels have gone 7-6, 8-5, and now 9-4 under him and his staff.

“The only thing I know to fix that is recruiting. We’ve got to go and build some depth there and talent,” he said. “There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from today in the way we prepared. We’ve got to go back and look at all of that and the things I need to do differently to make sure our kids put forth their best on a day like today.”

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