Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks Arkansas loss, Tony Conner and more

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media for his weekly press conference on Monday.

Opening Statement: 

I’ve never quite experienced an ending like we experienced Saturday. Certainly after watching the film … the effort that was given by both teams. I couldn't find issues with effort. It certainly was one of those days where the offenses had their way on both sides.

It was a very difficult ending. You think you'd won it a couple of times. Obviously a game is never just decided on those plays, but they are part of it. It's difficult. A difficult loss, but there were a lot of positives, maybe the most efficient offensive game since I've been here.

I thought Chad played extremely well. The offensive line played well. The running backs, receivers … Chuck Wanda's calling you. There were a lot of positives in the game. I thought we controlled the run game against a very good running team. Obviously that was the plan, to stop the run. We unfortunately did not have answers in their pass game. That is something that we will have to address.

Looking forward to an open week, getting some people healed up, healthier, getting us digging in on our stuff to make sure we're evaluating exactly what we're asking our kids to do and hopefully making it simple for them to execute at the highest level they can. As a coach that's what you always have to do, make sure you're asking your kids to do what they're capable of doing and giving them the best tools to do that. This gives us an opportunity this week to dig in on an lot of individual practice where you're not having to game plan the entire practice, that I think is needed right now for all of us. Coaches and players. I'm excited about this week. Anxious to get back on the field. That's the only way you get some of these feelings out of your gut. We'll build on the positives and hopefully make corrections to the issues that we have.”

On the defensive effort against Arkansas:

“A combination is always the answer. Sometimes the call. They had the perfect call like we did offensively to them. Sometimes the offensive guy has the right call. Sometimes you lose one-on-ones which we did a good bit. Is it the best call for our defensive staff to put them in those situations? That's what we have to evaluate. I'm certain there were some calls at times that we would love to have back. It was a combination of things. They present an issue to you when you watch their tape. Whether it's real or not, this year for them, they're a little different, but in your mind you really look at it, and there are a lot of gaps they create in the run game and have a really quality offensive line and tight ends, running backs … you certainly want to be able to stop the run, which I thought we did fairly well.

The negative to that is when you're having to put people to account for the gaps they create, their tight ends and receivers are going to be in a lot of one-on-one situations, and they won a large, large percentage of those. So schematically, we probably should have done some things differently and tried to play the run differently. Honestly, in individual one-on-ones we've got to find a way to win more.”

On Mike Hilton at cornerback:

“Well, getting Tony (Conner) back and trying to get your best 11 out there and to rotate those corners to keep them fresher was part of it. Mike is such a solid tackler and football player for us. When they were in certain personnel and you want to get your best guys out there you've got to figure Mike Hilton is one of those. And Tony Conner.”

On lessons learned from Alabama’s win over LSU:

“There's always something to learn from other games. Obviously players are different and in every scenario players fit different schemes. Alabama is built to stop runs inside the tackles. That's what they do. IT didn't surprise me. They're going to stop that type of run game more times than not. There are certainly things we can learn from. We will look at all that and try to fit it to our personnel of course.

As far as the game, the lateral to bounce right over CJ's head to a lineman that tips it and it bounces into their fastest guys hands. One of those things … the longer you're in the game and coach some of those bounces go our way. We've had a few go our way. Then we stop them on the 2-point conversion and have a flag on the ground. It was totally unintentional by our kid to touch the facemask, but it was just a difficult ending for sure.”

On the health of Tony Conner:

“It did swell. He’ll be in this afternoon, they’ll drain it. That’s been the plan all along is try to get him through the last few games. So they’ll drain it and see how he feels tomorrow, and we’ll kind of judge what we do with him this week based on that.”

Surprising the success of both offenses?

“I was not surprised by the effort. I think in this league, most of the time effort is there. You’re somewhat surprised sometimes because both defenses have been very good in certain areas for the last few weeks. You’re a bit surprised both offenses had their way. We worked extremely hard on our plan and had a really good (offensive) plan. Based on last year there was some motivation for that. I thought Chad really executed at a high level, as did the rest of our guys. And their quarterback did the same thing. Not surprised at the effort. Surprised that both offenses had their way against defenses that have played really well the last few weeks.”

Snaps for Conner? More surgery?

“We’ve always known there was an issue he was going to have to get corrected after the season’s over. It’s still there. He got 30 snaps, I believe, and we just have to monitor it. It’s still the same plan that we had. We know there’s going to have to be a surgery after the season to completely fix it.”

On his decision to go for it on fourth down late?

“It’s funny to me. There’s a lot of people that want to take issue with those things. We’re 20 yards from kicking a game-winning field goal with the wind. Feeling pretty good that we can get the six yards at midfield. They had to have a field goal, and they had to kick it into the wind. They haven’t had a field goal all year, I believe, longer than 30 yards. Obviously you can be criticized either way. With the game going like it was and not knowing who would win the toss in overtime and we have a chance to possibly end it there, it’s the same scenario at the end of the first half. We hit one pass, we still have a timeout. Based on what they’ve done this year and their field goal until into the wind, they’d have to have a pretty big play to get that accomplished. I felt at that point, the best thing for us to do is try to win the game.”

On Christian Morris:

“The doctors came to campus from Jackson this weekend and had a conversation with him while we were in pregame. I really haven’t had a sit-down conversation with him yet. He’ll be a medical scholarship guy who will complete his degree and life will go on. It’s disappointing for him, and I’m sure hurtful. We hate it for him. But, man, it’s just like coaching in these games. You get gut-punches in life, and how you handle those will determine how you have life. We’ll support him and love him. He’s a mature young man. We had a conversation last week knowing that could be a possibility. While he was hurt about it, had a good perspective. We’ll make him a student assistant, and he can help other kids that have the opportunities he may not now.”

On his interpretation of the rulebook on the lateral, fourth-and-25 play:

“The interpretation is based on whether or not it was a lateral or a fumble. Their interpretation, and I would agree, it was a lateral, it was a backwards pass. That is the differentiating thing. The one I had the question about is about the end-of-the-play fumble because I know the rule on that one is very clear and the thing that worked out for them is he was beyond the line to gain. The ironic thing, another bad break that we had in the game, if we’re not trying to pull his arms down, he’s trying to lateral it. He wasn’t sure where he was, I guess. We probably would’ve had a better chance of getting it had we not had a hold of his arms. That was the one I couldn’t tell exactly where that fumble occurred, but it was beyond the line to gain.”

On the success of the season:

“I wouldn’t say it’s exceptional. I would say that we are relevant again. Anytime you get, we’ve done what we’ve done in a short amount of time here, the expectations grow exponentially. It’s impossible to manage those with some. Most of our people are appreciative that we are competitive and disappointed like we are when we don’t get the job done. We know that’s our responsibility. We have to be accountable. I get all that. Most of our people are happy we’re relevant. We’re battling for the SEC West. A lot of those have expectations when they’re not met, whether they’re realistic or not, it’s tough to handle. That’s life. There’s a mixture of that. But there’s no question, like I’ve said, we’re competitive and relevant in the southeastern conference, which is what the Ole Miss people deserve. That does not guarantee you you’re going to win games in this conference. There is no easy out. There is no way, sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you have great plans, sometimes you don’t. We’ll evaluate everything at the end of the year to make sure we’re giving our kids the best opportunity and continue to recruit at a high level and continue to be relevant. But what that means game to game, it’s very, very difficult.”

On recruiting emphasis:

“We always have needs and some are greater than others at different positions. And then, it’s a combination of we got to evaluate our schemes, too. If you’re asking kids to consistently do something that they’re not being successful in, you probably have to find another avenue to go in. it’s a combination, yes, we’ve said for several years we need to address several things. We need to get longer at certain positions. We’re excited about the recruiting class we have coming in for sure and we’ll address those needs. It’s a combination though. It’s not just addressing needs, but it’s also addressing what we might need to change and mix in some other things and give them more of an advantage.”

On the Missouri situation:

“I really haven’t. I don’t know all the details. I know that anytime you have to choose a side like that, it’s not great for either side. But I don’t know enough about it to really say, but I haven’t really thought about that. This day and time, there’s obviously a lot of things that can arise that you don’t think about that you have to deal with. My heart goes out to him in that situation, whatever that is he’s dealing with.”

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