Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday to preview the Egg Bowl

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will face off in the annual Egg Bowl rivalry game Saturday. Head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday to preview.

Opening Statement…

“The LSU game tape showed a lot of great things. As after any game, you look for things that you can correct or need to improve on. We had those also. We left some points out there. We could’ve had some more. Part of it was us trying to control the game after we got up three scores, but I am really happy with the plan that we had. I thought our kids executed well. Defensively, we were very, very good for the first 29 minutes, then we blew a coverage right before the half. We lost some momentum there. That can’t happen, especially in this week’s game. Momentum will be  huge in the game. We have to figure out exactly what that is, and get that fixed. We will continue to find ways to improve our coverage. We have had some issues with that this year. We have gotten better and looked really good at times. Then we broke down and gave the quarterbacks some rushing lanes. Against the quarterback we are facing this week, that is something we have to plan for and do better. It was a solid game against a quality opponent in LSU. I know that it means a lot for our Ole Miss family to have bragging rights in the Magnolia Bowl. We are happy for Marquis Haynes and DeMarquis Gates; I think they both got player of the week awards from the SEC. I thought those were very much deserved. DeMarquis has matured some this year, which needed to occur. I think he continues to do that as a player and as a young man. Marquis has just had a really solid year for us. I am just crazy about that kid. Love, love his personality and the energy he adds to this building every time he walks in here. We are really proud of those two guys. I love this week. I love the fact that it is Thanksgiving. Each position group has a project this week to give back to our community in some way. I love being part of that and seeing our kids do that. We have so much to be thankful for. Hopefully we can help others during this time. It is also a great week because we get to play in another Egg Bowl. We are super excited to do that. I know what it means to our fans and Mississippi State’s fans. It is a great competition. We will have to play our best against a really good football team when we go to Starkville Saturday night. Dan Mullen and his staff have done a good job over the seven years he has been there. They continue to build and develop their team. They have one of the most tremendous leaders we have seen in this conference on their team in Dak Prescott. He is a great player, great leader, a winner and he will compete at a high level. He gives that offense a chance to be really successful and special at times. His receiving corps is very talented. They are very similar to us. They are probably as talented of a receiving corps as we have faced. Defensively, they are aggressive and get after it. They have a really big, strong front. Their linebackers really play well. Both of the Brown guys, Beniquez and Richie, play really well together. We have a great task. It is an environment that is difficult to play in. We have to prepare for it and be ready to handle it. It should be a great deal for Mississippi football. For both of us to be in the positions that we are in speaks a lot for our state and for our high school coaches and the kids that come from this state that make up a lot of our team. It is something to be excited about. Our kids, our fans and our staff will be looking forward to it.”

On Fadol Brown and C.J. Hampton injuries…

“Fadol Brown is doubtful for the game. He has a stress fracture, so I am not optimistic that we will have him. C.J. Hampton is going to be in a green jersey again today. It will be day-to-day with him. He had a stinger and he will need to regain strength and mobility in that arm so he is at no further risk.”

On Cam Ordway’s ejection…

“I have been on the phone this morning, and he will have to sit out the first half of the game against Mississippi State after the ejection in the second half of the LSU game. That is the ruling that came down this morning.”

On the weather affecting game plan…

“We are going to practice outdoors if at all possible. I love being outdoors. I am not going to keep them out in lightning or torrential downpours, but we are not going to stop practicing because of a little rain. We will go outdoors. When you are formulating the game plan you are going to put on the play chart what your best chance of being successful is. We are going to take into account rain. Once it starts, you may have to eliminate some things, but we will plan just like we always do.”

On how the win against LSU helps with recruiting…

“Many times, I firmly believe that no one game determines where a recruit will go. Does it help you? Does it get you in a battle that you may have been on the outside? I do think some victories can do that, but I don’t think any one victory is the deciding factor in a kid’s recruitment. It certainly does help your cause, so we are happy for that.  It probably got us stronger in a couple of recruiting battles.”

On the status of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche…

“He continues to be progressing very well. He continues to be under medical supervision. We’re supporting him and his family in any way that we can here. Our athletic director and training staff are doing anything that they can do to help in that process. We are all for it. We are under the doctor’s supervision as to what the next steps are; playing would be up to them. I am not real sure on Monday on where that stands. We’ll lean on the medical staff. Whatever they advise us to do, we’ll do.”

On how young players like DeMarquis Gates are maturing…

“I think any time you sign young kids, there is a measure of maturity that needs to occur. What I have learned this year, because we old guys can learn stuff too, is what I perceive to be maturing may look different these days and times. When I played, you didn’t open your mouth at the pregame meal or on the bus ride there. Because that is what I have done, that is what you should do. I kind of learned that maybe we need to listen to our young men and see how we can help them prepare better. The last few weeks, when we get on the bus on the way to The Grove, Laquon (Treadwell), Evan (Engram) and I lead the offensive bus on a little fun time. I don’t know what that looks like. It is probably a little embarrassing for me, but it seems to be working for us. Our kids seem to be confident and mature. But on maturity, what I won’t bend on is if there is ever a time where you aren’t respecting the game, or the process, or the preparation, your coaches or your teammates, then you have to be honest enough and be mentally tough enough to look at yourself in the mirror and say that. There are a lot of young men that come into programs these days, and we have a system to help with that. I think it shows on the field. I think some of that causes some of our inconsistency. We love to celebrate. We love to watch ourselves on the jumbotron and, all of a sudden, we missed the last call. I am begging out for our guys to give out the call, and now we have two guys that are distracted, and all of a sudden, the ball is snapped. I think all of that is learning how to be mentally tougher and mature. We are getting better at it. We have a lot of young kids right now. Some of that is new for them. It is our job to help them mature. I think DeMarquis (Gates) is making great strides in that.”

On Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and how he has improved as a passer…

“I would say his determination to do that. He strikes me as a guy that has great mental toughness and knows exactly what he wants. He will have a plan on how to go about achieving what he wants. He is throwing the ball extremely well. He takes care of it and uses his legs when he needs too. I’m not around him, but he strikes me as someone that is determined to be the best that he can be, and I’m certain he is putting the work to be the best quarterback that he can be for his team. He shows it on the field.”

On appealing the ruling of Cam Ordway…

“I will not be. I don’t know if that is a part of the process or not. We have a god relationship with our SEC officials. When they give me something that they believe is the right interpretation and the right view of what they saw, I will support it.”

On preparing for Mississippi State’s offense this year versus other years…

“I think they are true to who they think they are. They are throwing the ball with great efficiency and great accuracy. They have really good receivers. They are very similar to a lot of teams that we have played where the quarterback can be the biggest threat to throwing and running it. He’s very talented at both, and they are being very true to who they are. They’ll spread you out from sideline to sideline, and they have a lot of options once the ball is snapped.”

On if he saw punches thrown on the video of the ejection…

“I did not see it on the video that we had. I did not see any punches thrown.”

On how he plans to handle the results of the Iron Bowl…

“The good thing is our kick is at 6:15 p.m. With an hour drive, we will probably leave at around 3 p.m. The game will just have started. We will not turn on any TVs. I can’t control the player’s phones. They probably wouldn’t follow as closely if I had access to a TV. Once we get to the stadium, all the phones will be put away. We won’t have any idea of what is going on with that game. There may be some updates in the stadium. I don’t know. I typically don’t hear those. There will be enough riding on the Egg Bowl regardless of the outcome of that game. We should play with everything that we have.”

On redefining maturity because of a different era that we live in…

“Extremely difficult in some areas, and in some not so much. It is a different world for sure. You have to draw the line on what you think you can’t give any on, and others you may move two inches or a foot. I bounce those things off our staff all the time. Paul Jackson (strength coach) has a great feel for the young men in today’s culture. So do we, I think, but he spends a lot of time with them. He kind of has a good feel for maybe here, we should bend a little, or maybe here we should tighten it up a little more. I moved a foot on the bus ride to the stadium. Most other places, it hasn’t moved much at all.”

On what team he sees is similar to Mississippi State…

“I can’t say that we have played anyone exactly like them. We can make ourselves look like them. We are doing a little more on the run game right now. They can do it if they choose to. Fresno State is probably the closest that I can think of that is really similar (in teams we played).”

On what MSU's version of its offense does different than previous years…

“They can do what they want. In years past, they have run power and counter. I don’t want to get too much into that, but that isn’t what they have done the last few weeks, and they have been very successful, offensively. They really spread it out with perimeter run game, with Dak (Prescott) inside some and throwing it around.”

On how his scheme changes with Dak Prescott running the ball…

“You just have to account for him in the run game, which is difficult. He has talented receivers on the perimeter. You have to fit their perimeter runs with what they can do on the outsides, and you have to know also that they have a big quarterback that looks like a big tailback when he gets the ball and runs.”

On if Laquon Treadwell is the best receiver he has ever coached…

“He’s the best I have ever coached. Donte (Moncrief) was really good. Mike Wallace was good. I think Laquon is probably the most complete. I think Donte was really close. I think if Donte would have stayed his senior year, he would have been up there. It is tit for tat with those two. I’d have to say he is the most talented that I have ever coached.”

On what it means to have NFL caliber quarterbacks on both teams in the Egg Bowl…

“I think it makes for an exciting Egg Bowl. The excitement around is based on the success of both teams. That is directly correlated to the work both teams have put in. It should make for an exciting game Saturday.”

On if his team is playing their best football…

“Offensively, we are for sure. Defensively, we have gotten better. We have had some peaks and some valleys. No one wants to hear it, but we have really struggled with injuries on that side of the ball. It has been difficult dealing with consistency. We played better the other night for sure, and we will have to play better Saturday night. But as a whole, I will have to say yes, we are playing, probably since week three, our best football.”

On the difficulty of getting his players to play at a high emotional level in back-to-back games…

“The Egg Bowl, because of what it is, it won’t be that difficult. We will have emotion, and we will be ready to go.”

On the advantage the home team has had in the Egg Bowl…

“It’s difficult to play on the road in general. Add it to a rivalry game, it adds more fuel to it. And if you add that both teams have been playing good football the last four years, you have an advantage playing at home. It may be one of the advantages that helps in the outcome.”

On the difficulty of playing in Davis-Wade Stadium…

“It’s a home stadium for an SEC football team. I think they are all difficult. If you go to LSU, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, they are all difficult. It’s a home football stadium that is going to have their fan base there, and it makes it difficult.”

On the similarities of both teams…

“This year, we are most similar than any year we have played. I think our defensive fronts are strong. I think our receiving corps are strong. Our quarterbacks are playing well. There are a lot of things that are really similar. We both have given up some back-end passing yardage. There are a lot of similarities for sure.”

On Chad Kelly, and his success in this offense…

“Once we decided that he was the guy, we really felt that he would excel in our system. Everywhere I have coached, our quarterbacks have done well statistically. Some have struggled turning it over at times. But Ryan Apple rewrote the record book at Arkansas State and Bo Wallace (at Ole Miss), and then Chad. I think we have a quarterback-friendly system that if a guy really prepares well and has good arm strength, he can have success in this. Chad has all of those, and he really prepares harder than anyone I have ever coached. I think that helps. It has helped him with his consistency, and it has helped him down the stretch.”

On what it means to have two great quarterbacks playing…

“It speaks a lot for our programs that our quarterbacks are playing as well as anyone in this conference. Hopefully that helps us get the next great one.”

On the improvement of the offensive line…

“We’ve continued to improve there, especially after we got everyone back in their spots. We have been consistent with rushing the ball enough to stay balanced the last few games. I think we had a good plan the other night, and could rush the ball successfully. When you get ahead, you kind of get in a catch-22. They really started loading the box, and you may not want to run it as much because of the negative things that may or may not happen when you throw it, but you want the clock to run. That is kind of what the whole fourth quarter was in my eyes. We probably need to hand it off, but that doesn’t look promising with those extra hats around the box. I was pleased until that point with our rushing game.” 


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