“I hope our fans understand the importance of this game,” he said as his 5-4 Ole Miss Rebels, 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play, host the 5-4 Commodores, who are 3-3 in SEC action, “and that they’ll be here ready to cheer very, very loudly in the Vaught Saturday night for our kids.”
Ole Miss hasn’t been home since a 41-20 win against Auburn on Oct. 13. There was an open date followed by a 30-27 win at Arkansas. Then came a lopsided loss this past Saturday at Georgia 37-10. The Rebels led 10-0 early. Things unraveled after that.
Freeze said the effort was there, but a few key plays went against the Rebels that led to some unsettling moments and others that followed.
“I was really disappointed with the outcome, but I felt the outcome turned on about four plays that took its toll on us and drained us somewhat emotionally,” he said. “I expected to watch the film and be able to say some kids didn’t play real hard. But watching it, particularly from the defensive side, our kids played extremely hard all the way throughout the game.”
Freeze then began to break down some numbers.
“Georgia had 76 (offensive) plays,” he said. “Eight of the 76 accounted for 278 yards. Obviously they made the plays, but we certainly didn’t have great eyes at some positions at times, kind of did our own thing. Sort of like the Texas game (a 66-31 UM loss on Sept. 15). They made you pay. Good teams will.
“But if you look at the other 68 plays, I thought our defense played outstanding. Against a good team like Georgia, you can’t have those eight plays we gave up.”
On the flip side, Freeze said offensively the Rebels had a tough time of it as well.
“It’s the first game (any team) has really manhandled and beat us up front,” he said. “They played a cover two base, and we couldn’t block them. I tried to be hard on us as coaches and tried to find out was the plan sound. In previous games, some of those plays had been very good to us against those kind of looks. They’re just a very talented team.
“We didn’t play with an edge offensively, and we take that personally as coaches. Hopefully we can get that edge back and that swagger back this week against Vandy.”
The Commodores are coming off a 40-0 win at Kentucky to set themselves up for a run toward a bowl bid. Games remain against Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Wake Forest.
Freeze said Vanderbilt appears to be a confident, well-coached team coming to Oxford.
“I’m very impressed with the job they do,” he said. “They’re only giving up 316 yards a game. In our league that’s very good. They rank high in all the defensive stats. Coach (James) Franklin and his staff have done a marvelous job. His kids play extremely hard. They know exactly who they are and who they want to be. They’re going to try to formation you and make you align in a way that gives them an advantage with unbalanced sets and different things. All of those present a great challenge. I think they’ve done a great job.”
Freeze said his Rebels aren’t as healthy as he’d like for them to be heading down the November stretch, but they’ll do the best they can with who is available.
“We’re beat up. We’ve got quite a few kids that are day to day,” he said. “Hopefully we can get them all back. We’re banged up and beat up. We went into the (Georgia) game beat up at some positions, and I think that showed also with Senquez (Golson) and Wesley (Pendleton) and Aaron (Garbutt) not making the trip.”
Freeze said Garbutt is the most likely to miss the Vandy game. He is still in the hospital and won’t be released until Tuesday or Wednesday. Pendlteon may or may not be ready. He does expect Golson to play.
“But when you’re dealing with concussion symptoms, you’re never quite sure,” he said of Golson's situation. “But he seemed to be doing well yesterday and hopefully will pass that last battery of tests today and tomorrow and be ready to go.”
One of the two teams will leave Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field late Saturday night with the valued sixth win. Freeze is looking forward to his team having that opportunity but knows it will be another tough challenge.
“We divided our season into four quarters, and this is the fourth quarter,” he said. “It’s about finishing, and we’ve got three very tough opponents left. We’d better bring our ‘A’ game, because I know they will.”