Ole Miss’ 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl not only gave the Rebels their seventh win and a winning record, it was a perfect way to end head coach Hugh Freeze’s first year at the helm.
When Freeze took over, five wins was a stretch and getting to a bowl game was going to be near impossible. Fast forward to today, and it’s really not that surprising that Ole Miss is where they are.
Saturday’s victory brought everything Freeze has been teaching his kids from day one to fruition.
Throughout the year, Freeze expressed to not play for yourself but for your teammates. He felt if his players bought into that mentality, they could take a step forward.
Luckily for Freeze and the Rebel faithful, they did.
It was easy to see a team playing their hearts out each Saturday, and at the
same time, they were gaining confidence in themselves.
Whether it was competing on the road at Alabama for 60 minutes, losing a game in the final minute three times or snapping a long losing streak with a win at home against Auburn, this Ole Miss team never wavered on the path Freeze put them on. They truly did buy in to what he was telling them, and in the end, it paid off.
That leaves us to where we are today.
Freeze has a team that has a ton of returning players and a ton of young guys ready to take the next step into becoming impact players in the SEC.
The hard part is done.
Now for Freeze and his squad, the focus shifts towards turning the effort into wins. This is where we will see how good of an X’s and O’s guy Freeze really is.
So far, he appears to be well suited for that. Over the next year, Ole Miss should install the rest of the playbook and be close to running the pace Freeze wants of his up-tempo offense.
I don’t know how many wins Ole Miss will get in 2013, and I doubt Freeze does either. But what I do know is that the Rebels will be better. They will be more sound in every phase of the game. They will compete the way they did in 2012. They will learn to finish games instead of letting them slip away. They will do so because Freeze will lead them.
When he was hired, Freeze said they had to get out of the wilderness. Now, they’re looking for an interstate to hop on. Once they find that interstate, a Freeze-led Ole Miss team will be going in full-gear towards Atlanta and a matchup in the SEC Championship.
How long will it be until that happens? No one can know for sure, but with Freeze at the helm, it could come at anytime.