Last Sunday morning, Dan Werner said he knew Ole Miss was going to be ready to play Texas A&M.
"A lot of head coaches would have come in Sunday after the kind of game we played in Memphis yelling and screaming and threatening our jobs," said Werner. "Coach Freeze did not do that. He came in to the staff meeting and said we were going to spend the day finding positive things about each other and about our players and we were going to build off that.
"He sensed we all were doubting some things - coaches, players, everyone - and he was determined to help us find good things to draw from and move forward with. He's the best I've ever been around with handling adversity. He's the calm in the storm."
So Werner and his offensive staff and Wommack and his defensive staff went back to the drawing board with a tough Texas A&M team looming and their own troops licking some deep wounds.
"People thought I was crazy last week when I said we were not running the ball enough," Werner began, "but if you run the ball just decently, it opens everything up. Now, you can throw to run or run to throw or you can do like we do and have an option to throw or run on most all of our plays depending on postsnap reads, but when we saw that A&M was going to play two high safeties, the read was to run and we were able to effectively rush the ball."
Indeed. The Rebs ran for 230 yards on 52 carries.
"Obviously, getting Laremy Tunsil back helped the cause. Being able to put Fahn Cooper back at right tackle helped stabilize things as well, but the main thing was that we sold our kids that we were going to run the ball this week and we gave them the reason why - we were going to outnumber them and run over them," Dan stated. "It also helped that our defense played unbelievably well, which takes all kinds of pressure off the offense. We knew as the game got going and seeing how the defense was playing that we didn't have to take a lot of chances. It was OK to punt and live to fight another day."
The difference between second and five or less and second and 10 or more is huge, said Dan.
"You can do anything with second and four or five or less," he noted. "We can take shots downfield, we can play action, we can run the ball - we can keep the defense guessing. You can't when it's second and 10 or 11. Workable down and distances make my job so much easier, I can't even describe it. I didn't think we'd run for that many yards and not have but one sack against that defensive front, but again, when you have manageable down and distances, you will usually have success."
Here's another sidebar on the offense, another thing most head coaches would not do in a time of crisis.
Freeze was not happy with some things he saw on offense last week and wanted to shake up his part in the deal as well.
The Freeze-Werner deal has always been a play-calling collaboration, but usually more Freeze than Werner. In this game, Freeze flipped things - Werner called roughly two-thirds of the 93 plays and Freeze the other third.
"Everything needed shaking up, everything," Hugh said simply, preferring not to elaborate too much.
So the offense rolled for 471 yards and probably should have scored another TD or two. The game was not as close as the score.
It was all about the plan and giving the players the belief to execute it.
Yes, the offense was good, but the defense was dominant.
Holding A&M to three points and 192 meaningles, non-threatening yards from a team that had been averaging 36-plus points a game is domination.
"To hold them like that was about as good as it gets," said Dave. "I knew we were going to play a lot better but I can't say I was expecting that. That type of performance was exactly what we needed."
Wommack got some bad news early Saturday morning. DT Robert Nkemdiche would not play due to lingering issues with the concussion he sustained in the Memphis game, but Dave - while concerned - did not let that bother him too much.
"With or without Robert, we were going to try some diferent things to give our guys a spark, to give them a shot in the arm. We moved Fadol Brown inside when we found out about Robert.That helped us. We were able to hone in on their run game and effectively stop it, which also gave us some confidence. We also used more press coverage with our corners, which was a gamble the way we have been playing, but we needed to shake them up and challenge them.They responded," he explained.
But it was the early preparation that really did the trick, in Dave's mind.
"We have not been hitting much since last spring, but this week we knew we had to get in some physical work. We had to fix our tackling. The preparation and decision to be more physical in practice really helped us tonight," he added. "I think the more physical practices gave us a little confidence going in and then when things started clicking for us, the confidence just grew and grew.
"Our guys were playing so fast. We had not played that fast all year, in reality. In reality, we beat Alabama, but didn't play that great. We had spurts and moments since then, but had not put together any full games. We did tonight. It was the best we had played this year, by far. I was just proud to see our guys get their passion back, fly to the ball and play 60 minutes. Hopefully, we can carry that through the rest of the season."