The Rebels needed a bounce-back game. Something had changed with the football team in the weeks following the Alabama game, and the Rebels needed to regain their footing for a difficult SEC stretch. On Saturday against the no. 15 Texas A&M Aggies, Ole Miss did just that with a 23-3 victory.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids and coaches. During adversity in life you find out a lot about people, everyone, you find out who is really who,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “That is what we challenged our kids with this week. We said if you play out of love and passion for 60 minutes, then that will be good enough at the end of the day for us. We can look each other in the eyes and know we did it the way we were supposed to do it. Luckily the scoreboard validated that tonight. Sometimes it doesn’t, but tonight it did.”
The team had its struggles, but overall, Freeze’s reception of the effort was very positive.
“I’m extremely proud of our coaches and our kids. They had a good game plan, special teams were really good,” Freeze continued. “(Texas A&M) had some good cats that I think we handled very well. We defended the run really well. We did not finish it as clean as we liked to. Chad (Kelly) had some big plays and some he could improve on. We just have to coach him better. (I’m) just extremely happy for our fans and our team.”
The team has had some troubles running the ball recently, forcing them to air it out more and not achieve the level of balance Freeze aspires for in his offense. Against the Aggies, however, Ole Miss had a big day on the ground, rushing 51 times for 230 yards while also passing for 241 yards and reestablishing the balance in the offense. While Freeze said he needed to watch the film to get a better view of junior left tackle Laremy Tunsil’s overall performance, he did see him have an impact on the line’s success in run blocking.
“I can’t tell exactly, but having (Tunsil) back and having everyone in their regular spot that we planned on having them at the start of the year helped our offense rush the ball against a defense that hasn’t given up much this season except their previous game,” Freeze said. “I believe part of that being because of Laremy’s return.”
Coming into the game, a big focus was on how the Rebels could slow down an Aggies offense that had been prolific throughout the season, especially through the air where sophomore quarterback had done a great job getting the ball to the team’s numerous playmakers. The Rebel defense came out and dominated and held Allen to 12 complete of 34 attempted passes for 88 yards and an interception and held the entire offense to just 192 yards on the day.
“I think we just did a good job of being consistent,” senior linebacker C.J. Johnson said. “One thing we try to do every single week is stop the run. I think we were able to stop the run and that put a little more pressure on him to make more plays, and defensively on the back end, we covered people. We were able to make the quarterback hold the ball. We were able to get some pressure on the quarterback.”
Johnson said there has been a difference in the film from this year.
“Either we have a few plays where we’re not getting pressure on the quarterback and guys are covering too long, or guys are not covering and we’re getting quick pressure but they’re getting the ball out fast,” Johnson said. “So to see it all gel together tonight to play good defense tonight was great.”
Johnson saw how big of an impact getting this win could make.
“It was huge. To get this game, understanding we still control everything we want to control,” Johnson said. “Coach Freeze talked about taking it one game at a time. A lot of people needed to hear that. Not only did we win the game, but to win the game the way we won the game was even bigger.”