Petre Thomas

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze previewed Memphis at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday afternoon to preview Memphis and discuss all the latest in Rebel football.

Opening Statement: “Sunday for us is always about the truth how we performed and how we measured up to the expectations that we have set in this program. It was good to share a lot of good things with our kids about the way they performed against a top-15 team like Georgia. There were some really good things, I thought our quarterbacks play was outstanding after watching film. Taking care of the ball, making good decisions, there was one questionable decision that I thought we made. I thought we were efficient running the football, which always helps us. We were on the negative side of the truth; we were not good on third down, but some of that is skewed a little bit by the score and us just managing the game there from the latter part of the third quarter on. We were an efficient offense for sure on Saturday. Defensively, we were very good on third down which was exciting to see. We had a turnover and a pick six which is great to see. I thought we stopped their run game early on in the game; it kind of set the tone and did not allow them to be two-dimensional, and there were some good things there also. We gave up too many rushing yards again for our comfort. We have got to continue to work on our fits in that regard, but didn’t give up explosive plays. There actually wasn’t a single explosive play that we gave up Saturday, which is big for us. We had been susceptible to some of that. This week will test us in that regard again. This team is really explosive on offense. They are kind of like us and take chances to get a lot of explosive plays. Our kicking game was much improved, our punters put the ball where we needed it to be against a very dangerous return guy and our kickoff unit was solid with the exception of one. I thought Nathan (Noble) did a good job of keeping it solid and our punters did a really nice job of keeping it to where our coverage was designed in the punt game. It was our best complete game thus far and we did nothing to give up momentum which I think happened in the two losses we have had, due to turnovers, which I was pleased to see. We celebrate the good times, we learn in the difficult times, we learn in the good times, but it is a lot more fun to learn when you have a win. We’re excited to play Memphis this week. They are a very confident football team that has won a lot of games in the last few years. Justin (Fuente) did a great job there and now Mike (Norvell) has obviously been carrying it on. They put up some crazy numbers offensively and defensively and they are playing very, very good football. It is going to be a great test for us. I am excited to have the first night game in our stadium. I expect it to take it up another level for our fans. We need them desperately to make it difficult for opponents to play here, particularly on a Saturday night. I guess I am challenging our people to make it a very difficult atmosphere here Saturday night when Memphis comes here.”

On the identity of the team: “I think you’ve watched us play, we are who we are. I think we are an explosive offense. I think we are a bend but don’t break defense. I think when we don’t turn the ball over we are very, very good.”

On extra motivation for Memphis on Saturday: “On Sunday’s we do rehab and weights and we have a short corrections period from the game before. We really haven’t moved on. Today is their off day. I will probably get a sense of that as the week goes on. I don’t think anytime you talk about revenge or any of those things they are very helpful so I am not big on that. I am about preparing as good as we can prepare to play a very good Memphis team and I know that the game means a lot to our fan base and their fan base so some emotion comes with that, hopefully for our kids too. We won’t get into talking about we’ve got to do this because of last year; I am not a big fan of that. Hopefully our kids will understand it is an important game and is one that should have our full attention for sure.”

On last year’s game in relation to College Football Playoff appearance: “No. That game certainly didn’t help in regards to the playoffs. I think us not going to Atlanta kept us out of the playoffs. I think at that period in time last year, if we had gone to Atlanta, I think we were playing well enough to win the conference championship. That probably would have been enough to get us in. I think it is hard for a team that has two losses. I think it is hard if you don’t go to Atlanta, I think it would be very hard to get into the playoff. “

On injuries to Montrell Custis and Carlos Davis: “Again, we haven’t done anything yet other than they were both held out yesterday. We anticipate them being back and ready to play.”

On A.J. Moore thus far: “What a wonderful kid. He has played solid, but he can play a lot better. We are going to continue to challenge him and he wants that type of coaching. Even though his stats say he’s doing well, you can put on the film that there are three times that you ask, ‘Where are your eyes, they are bad and that costs you,’ and he knows it and he wants that. We are proud of the good things he has done, but he can still improve more.”

On the young secondary developing thus far: “Myles Hartsfield, Red (Zedrick Woods) and Deontay Anderson, there are a bunch of young ones. I think you just said it, they haven’t played much football and I think Corey (Batoon) and I and Jason (Jones) have worked hard at coaching them the past few weeks to not give up explosive plays, to get their eyes right and to be disciplined on every snap. We still weren’t as disciplined as I would have liked for them to be last week, but it was much better than weeks before. When you are playing that many young kids, it is impossible for us to prepare for a team and cover everything that they could possibly do. They are working this week too on their game plan, to put new things in and bring different looks. For a young kid, we double call a lot of stuff and he’s got so many things running through his mind and all of a sudden, this is a different formation, we haven’t seen this motion and there are a lot of things going on. We kind of got spoiled having Mike Hilton and Trae Elston, those guys back there who had done it for years and years and these guys are just four games into their career, but they are getting better.”

On Evan Engram’s consistency and success: “Every week we are moving him around a good bit. The second part to that is they have other things to worry about than just Evan (Engram). We have some pretty good receivers. If you want to double him inside then there are some people outside that are in one-on-one situations. You’ve got to feel really good about that, when String (Damore’ea Stringfellow) and (DaMarkus) Lodge and Van (Jefferson) and (Markell) Pack and Quincy (Adeboyejo) and those other guys. You’ve got to decide and I think that Evan (Engram) benefits from that. I think it is a combination of us moving him around and the way our receivers are playing.”

On the strides Garrald McDowell has made: “He had his best game (vs. Georgia). Effort wise was really good, and made a few mistakes on some gap control. I think that he improved his status. He and Vic (Victor Evans) had kind of been going back and forth and I think G-Mac (Garrald McDowell) performed pretty well. It will be a battle this week to see who who the second one is between those two. I am glad we’ve got them both, but he definitely helped himselfSaturday.”

On Detric Bing-Dukes’ first start and how he looked: “I think we’ve pretty much made the decision that we are better off with (DeMarquis) Gates at stinger, (Terry) Caldwell at stinger and (Detric) Bing-Dukes, (Rommel) Mageo and Willie (Hibbler) at Mike linebacker. That could change from week to week, but that’s what we felt like was our best answer last week. We haven’t formulated it. Later tonightwe will meet here and go over what we think the plan should be and kind of decide as we go from there. It could be week to week, but last week we were pretty set that was the way we needed to go.”

On the biggest difference in Memphis with the recent coaching change: “It is not a lot really. I have known Mike (Norvell) for a few years; we have kind of traveled in some of the same circles offensively. He is very similar to what you saw last year from them, maybe a few more spread sets. Defensively, similar, probably more multiple this year than they were last year just watching the three games. I am not sure we have a good sample size, because their games haven’t been close and they really don’t have to show a whole lot so there are probably some things that we are not seeing. What we have seen on tape, there are a lot of similarities offensively. Defensively, they are more multiple.”

On the progress of D’Vaughn Pennamon: “He had a good game Saturday. We felt like he ran physical, ran downhill, finished runs, and looked for contact. I was impressed with the way he ran and it will certainly earn him some more snaps.”

On the mentality going into half vs. Georgia with a big lead: “There were no changes. I have said before; everyone wants to make it a lot harder than it is really. Don’t turn the ball over and give momentum away. All I talked to them about at halftime was just finish the job. I was excited that we finally had the ball coming out after half, that was the first time this year that we won the toss and were able to have it coming out. I knew that we had a chance to put a score in that I thought would make it very difficult, and we did. Then we had a three and out and really felt good about the start of the third quarter, and from there we were just to manage the game, just really talked about finishing the job. We have a character trait deal we do every week and last week was about a guy named Benaiah which is a great story, but he finished the job and he didn’t climb out halfway through it, he finished it and that was really all we talked about at half was just finishing the job.”

On the play of Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson: “He has played really well. I don’t know that it would be fair for me to try to asses it to (Paxton) Lynch until I see him live, but on film he is making every throw, he uses his feet, and seemed like a leader and competitive dude so I know they are pleased with him to this point for sure.”

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