Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack

Retirement announced before Rebels trounced by MSU

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack announced his retirement before the Egg Bowl, but the Rebel defense didn't find inspiration in that pregame revelation, giving up 55 points and 457 rushing yards to a poor Mississippi State squad who came into the game with a 4-7 record.

"I made the decision to retire two years ago after the 2014 season when we led the nation in scoring defense," reflected Wommack, "but we were having so much fun, I said let's keep going with this thing and see where it takes us.

"Last summer, for sure, I knew this would be my last year, but I sure worked hard for it to end differently. For 38 years I have been doing this and I didn't want it to end like this."

'Like this' was a defense that was as porous as cheese cloth and gave up so many yards it took an accounting firm to keep up with the numbers.

That was culminated with lowly Mississippi State running at will over, around and through the Rebels, to the tune of 457 rushing yards. (That is not a typo.)

"We have to do a complete reevaluation of everything we are doing on defense," said Hugh Freeze. "I want to get a tough coach in here, a coach that believes in our core values and will demand excellence from our players in everything they do. I appreciate what Dave has done for me and I know he appreciates what I have done for him, but it was time for change."

Dave was gracious in his see-you-later talk with the media.

"The first time I met Hugh Freeze, I went to see him at Arkansas State. I was between jobs and I thought he was awesome, a great person. This profession needs more people like him to guide the youth of America," Dave noted. "I saw the people he surrounded himself with and I was fortunate to be a part of his staff.

"I have been so excited with the way we have built this program and the success we had the first four years. It is a downer to end my career this way. Tonight's game against Mississippi State was a culmination, really, of the way most of the year has gone."

Wommack said it was the toughest year he can remember.

"Since 1993, I have been a part of one losing season - 2004, so this one was very tough, but I hope I taught these kids some lessons in integrity and character and being steady and fair," he said. "It's a tough question why it didn't work this year - injuries, losing some leadership from last year, not recruiting enough players in the right positions, whatever - as the coach, it's all on me, I know that.

"Ultimately, I can't blame anyone or anything other than the guy in charge - me."

He said he was surprised with the way the Rebel defense, against State, just had no answers whatsoever for MSU's run game.

"We started Tony Conner at Stinger LB in DeMarquis Gates' place, but nothing we tried worked. MSU did a great job of adjusting to the different looks we gave them and I could not dial anything up to slow them down," he stated. "Last spring, I was concerned with our linebacker play, but i was hoping our transfer guys could come in and take up the slack.

"I really had nowhere to turn, but that is my fault for recruiting failures. We also had a lot of youth on back end, which created a perfect storm of not getting it done. If you are in it long enough, I guess you have years like this, but they are sure tough to swallow."

Dave said he is 60 now and says he thinks he deserves some time off.

"I probably look 75 or 80. The demands of coaching are tough, but it was a profession I have loved and given everything to," he said. "This really stings to go out this way, but I will look back at my career in totality and be proud of what I accomplished overall.

"But I will say this - it was time for something new here and I will be the biggest fan of whoever takes my place as there is. I want to thank Ole Miss for everything it has given me and hope I earned whatever I got from her."

OL Coach Matt Luke represented the offense.

"This was a tough loss. I hate that for the seniors, especially for what they have done for this program. They have been fantastic," he began. "We had a couple of bad plays in the second half that killed our momentum and we didn't make some plays we usually make. That was basically it. They made plays and we didn't."

The Rebels have struggled on offense in the second half a lot in 2016.

"We have to improve in every area. Every single area. We have to score points, that's our job, and we didn't do that in the second half a lot of times this year and we didn't really put together many 60-minute games on offense all year," he stated.

On the OL, Matt is excited about the future.

"We get them all back except Robert Conyers, who wasn't able to play mush the second half of the season. We were very young and should be able go to another level with all the reps we will get in spring and how they will get bigger and stronger in the offseason," he closed.

In the meantime, the Rebels will have a long time to lick their wounds, figure out what went wrong this year and go about fixing it.


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