“We get to play a great football team with a great staff,” he said. “Being competitors, which I hope our players are and our coaches are, you want to play in those environments. Get to see kind of where we are in the next step of our journey. Hopefully we’ve improved and will handle that atmosphere better than we did the last time we had an opportunity.”
The non-conference portion, record-wise, leaves Ole Miss with at least a shot to get to a bowl game. Anything less would have made things much tougher. Freeze said he likes the fact that his team took care of business in those three games it won.
“We’re thrilled to be heading into SEC play 3-1. Hopefully we’ve matured some since out last experience in primetime play against Texas here. We get another opportunity to do that this week. It’s just another step in our journey.”
Texas was a major step for a program in the rebuilding stage. Ole Miss was ready but Texas was too much.
“There were a lot of dynamics in that game,” Freeze said. “Being an 8:21 (p.m.) kickoff. The atmosphere was incredible. We’re playing so many young kids. For them to go into that, I thought we played poorly at the beginning which got us into a hole. Offensively we settled in and had some success. Defensively we struggled all night. We kept playing hard.”
Freeze said big stage two, this time on the road, is hopefully different in a lot of ways.
“We’re going to change our day up a little bit, because it’s such a long time to be around a hotel, kind of break it up a little bit,” he said of Saturday. “Hopefully our kids will be calm and go out and exexute early to the best of their ability in a difficult environment.”
He did like the way the Rebels bounced back in New Orleans with the 39-0 shutout of the Green Wave.
“I was real pleased after watching the film with the effort of our kids,” said Freeze of the 39-0 win against Tulane. “I was not pleased after the game with the number of balls on the ground. After you watch the film and break it down, I did think our kids had great effort and we got better in a lot of places. I thought the game was our most complete game so far.”
The starting quarterback for the Rebels had a little shoulder problem Saturday. Bo Wallace injured his shoulder in the first quarter of the game and then took a hit on it in the third quarter that ended his day.
Freeze said he believes Wallace will be good to go by Saturday.
“I think he’ll be fine, but you never know when you’re dealing with injuries to quarterbacks. He was moving around yesterday and doing OK. I don’t know if he will be ready (to practice) Tuesday. But I do expect him to go (against Alabama).”
Ole Miss has a stable of running backs that are being effective. The Rebels have four who have carried the ball at least nine times, led by Jeff Scott’s 268 yards and Randall Mackey’s 36 rushes.
“I’m hesitant to talk about depth, because we’re so thin so many places,” Freeze said. “But that is one area where we have some guys that are able to rotate in and feel like the dropoff is not too much. They’ve done well, so we do have some depth at that position.”
Among those playing or mentioned, in addition to Scott and Mackey, are I’Tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton, Devin Thomas, and Nicholas Parker.
“The challenge we have at that spot is not all of them are prepared to do everything we do,” Freeze said. “Sometimes that gets us in trouble because of the way we like to go tempo. You hope at that time the young man can succeed in what we’re trying to do.”
The Rebels lead the Southeastern Conference in rushing, totaling 1,039 yards through four games on 178 attempts, averaging 260 yards per game on the ground.
Freeze said that could be considered a surprise for him.
“Obviously we haven’t played the likes of Alabama on defense yet and many others in this conference,” he said. “But it’s great to be there right now. But we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Before the Tulane game, there were some adjustments in personnel on the defensive side of the ball. A few people moved – namely C.J. Johns and Charles Sawyer – and Trae Elston started after the SEC’s one-game suspension.
“Charles did great, played really sound, really solid,” Freeze said. “Trae did well but still made some mistakes, if they give him some things that are a little different than when we practiced. But played sound. I thought Senquez Golson had his best game. He was real coachable all week last week and is one of our more talented kids. It would be great if he came on and continued to get better. He had his best game, so look for him to see more reps also.
Late Arrival To The Party
Through no doings of their own, Ole Miss has yet to play a Southeastern Conference game in 2012. It’s the way the schedule unfolded.
However all 13 of the other teams in the SEC have played at least one league game this season. Florida at 3-0 has played the most conference games to date.
Ole Miss at 3-1 has played four non-conference games and will be playing SEC contest from here on out.
Freeze said no matter the way the schedule unfolds, he wants his team to be at its best with an opportunity to win.
“It doesn’t matter whether we play in Tuscaloosa or New Orleans, I want to deliver for the Ole Miss people,” he said. “I want to prove what we do can be effective and efficient. You have to have players to do it, great coaches, people buying in. And I do think we’re on our way. Regardless of what happens Saturday night, the journey is still going to continue.
“Certainly I’m motivated to go play (SEC games starting at Alabama). I’m going to work very, very hard to make sure we have a plan that’s sound and solid and in place. Hopefully our kids can go and have some success early, which would breed some confidence for us.”