Not since Oct. 2, 2010, when Ole Miss defeated Kentucky at home 42-35 had the Rebels won a game in the SEC.
That means head coach Hugh Freeze was only a part of two of those losses – the one two weeks ago at Alabama and last week’s heartbreaker to Texas A&M at home. But he admitted he still felt a part of it all anyway. And stopping it, of course, was a priority.
“When you hear about it, you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of it,” said Freeze, an Ole Miss assistant coach from 2005-07, well before the streak began, of course. “I know I really wasn’t (a part of it) for a long period of time. But you can’t help but feel the hurt and anxiety people feel.
“Then we didn’t finish the job last Saturday (against Texas A&M), and so that kind of built some pressure this week. I didn’t talk to our team about it. But I’m very, very relieved today we were able to get the job done.”
He said the players are overjoyed.
“Words really don’t describe the feeling in that locker room and in that stadium,” Freeze said after his team improved to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in league play. “There have been some disappointing times. We were good enough today for four quarters to win an SEC game.”
For the past 16 games that hasn’t been the case for an Ole Miss football program that was at the bottom of an expanded SEC.
The SEC’s longest current losing streak now belongs to the Auburn Tigers, who have lost six games in a row. This season they are 1-5 overall and 0-4 in league play.
It was the worst loss Auburn has suffered at the hands of the Rebels since 1992 when the Tigers fell 45-21 in Oxford in head coach Pat Dye's last season as the AU head coach.
Mike Marry, junior linebacker for Ole Miss who has certainly been through those lean times with the Rebels, made sure this one was all but over when he intercepted a Clint Moseley pass with under five minutes to go and the Rebels already leading 34-20. He returned it 38 yards to the Tigers 31, tried to score, but couldn’t quite make it.
“As soon as I went to him I said, ‘Mike, you looked real athletic on that.’ And he did,” Freeze said, with a big smile. “He caught the ball naturally. My immediate thought was for him to get on the ground, because I could see somebody coming from behind him, you know. Fortunately he took care of (the football).”
Marry said he agrees, taking care of the ball was his main objective – and of course he wanted to score.
“I was focused on them not stripping the ball,” Marry said. “I didn’t want to look back. I just hung on to the ball.”
Marry said he absolutely just happened to be in the right place at the right time for the pick.
Bo Wallace on the receiving end of a touchdown pass
“We were in man coverage, and me and the strong-side linebacker shared the back. He ended up taking him, and that gave me the freedom to roam around. Our safeties and DBs were in coverage, and he had to force it through them. He almost threw it right to me. It should have been one of their interceptions. I just happened to be in the right place.”
Freeze said Marry epitomizes the type person and player he wants in a program.
“It could not happen to a better guy,” Freeze said. “He is what you want in a student-athlete, and I’m proud for him.”
Trifecta For Bo
Bo Wallace became the first Ole Miss football player to throw for a touchdown, run for a touchdown, and catch a touchdown pass in a single game - in school history, that is.
The reception was a 25-yard catch of a Randall Mackey pass as Wallace had flipped the ball to to Mackey, raced in the opposite direction from the flow of the play, and was wide open as he caught it.
It was all but clear sailing to the end zone.
Freeze said Wallace had been through a lot this week, coming off a difficult loss to Texas A&M, then dealing with the auto accident and surgery of his sister in Tennessee.
"Monday night Bo's sister had to be airlifted to Vanderbilt with a broken neck," he said. "Bo's week started out very concerning. Tuesday he was not himself. He was 17 for 22 (Saturday) and protected the football. We talked about him improving things, and I think he is making strides in the right direction."
Jeff Scott, unavailable after the game, had a stellar day, and is certainly one of the reasons this team is above .500 headed toward late October.
“He’s a guy we have to get the football and get touches. He’s proven to be a guy that takes care of the football. I’m real pleased with his game and his maturity.”
On this day, Scott led the Rebels in rushing with 137 yards on 21 carries. He didn’t score a touchdown on the ground.
Through the air, he caught three Bo Wallace passes for 70 yards, one of them for a touchdown. And it was some type of incredible reception and score.
Scott hauled in the pass around midfield, was tackled, or so it appeared, by a group of Tiger defenders around the Auburn 42, then rolled over them without ever touching the ground, and racing to the end zone to put Ole Miss up by two touchdowns with 5:02 to go.
Needless to say it was a big moment and all but put the game away.
“We knew he had a long way to go in a lot of areas,” said Freeze of Scott’s situation he inherited as head coach. “He’s made consistent strides and still has a ways to go. He’s one of my favorites, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he’s performing on the field.”
Certainly in this one, he was sensational.
Taking Good Care
Ole Miss had only three penalties for 15 yards and no turnovers in the game. Teams who perform that well in those areas win football games.
“It’s very important, and again I keep saying the state that we’re in,” Freeze said. “Every possession for us seems so magnified. Every penalty is magnified. The margin for error for us...we’re not going to roll out there and be better than other teams right now. And we understand that. Our margin for error right now is so small that we can’t afford to be penalized heavily or turn the ball over.
“So those things are very important, and for the most part our kids have been pretty penalty free,” he continued. “We understand that. We haven’t taken care of the ball as well, but we did today.”