“It’s been a very difficult stretch of road games,” Freeze said of his 3-2 team that has lost its last two games after a 3-0 start. “I’m disappointed in the outcome but extremely proud of the fight in battle that our young men showed. That stretch of road games has been tough.”
It’s arguably the most difficult stretch of games for any team in the country, and it’s a schedule that isn’t what you’d usually find for any team at any level of football.
“We’re thrilled to be back home,” Freeze said. “It doesn’t get much easier with A&M and LSU coming in here back to back weeks, two top ten teams. To not be on the road in hostile environments and you can change some of your communications stuff and get back to normal. And at the same time get more rest, not getting here at 4 a.m. Sunday mornings and get back up ready to go on Sunday. I think it will do us all a lot of good to get back home.”
Now there are six straight games at home, with an open date after the third one. Ole Miss, by virtue of a Thanksgiving night game at Mississippi State, doesn’t leave the state again this regular season.
Freeze said there has been some wear and tear, at least mentally, on some of the players, specifically the newcomers.
“I think the young kids have definitely woken up and said ‘This college grind of a season is difficult.’ You see the young kids in particular having to go through all the study hall and tutoring and classes, and then everything we ask them to go through. Getting back home with some of the late trips we’ve had. Then be back here Sunday for a pretty thorough day. They really wish, as all of us do, we could stay at home a day and watch NASCAR or The President’s Cup. That’s probably human nature.
“I don’t know if it affects us physically, because I believe we have a good plan. But mentally I think it’s stressed them a bit. Being at home will help us get into some normalcy. Because (four of the first five games on the road) is not a typical season.”
Freeze said although everyone associated with Ole Miss football wishes for a better record at this point, progress has been made.
“Obviously we're not happy where we are, but thank God we’re not where we used to be,” he said. “The journey continues.”
* On Texas A&M: They are certainly worthy of their ranking. Kevin Sumlin’s done a tremendous job in the short time he’s been there. And of course, Johnny Manziel makes them very difficult to defend. They know who they are and what they want to do. He makes what they do very special. They have a lot of good players. I think their strength is their O-Line and has been both years, along with Johnny and the receiving corps. And their running backs are well above average. There are no weaknesses on the offensive side. Defensively they’re a bit younger than they were last year but have improved each game.
* On UM-A&M game last year: You have to be multiple. You can't just give them one thing. There are no bad coaches in this league, and they have tremendous players. They’ll make adjustments. I thought we did have a good plan, and we contained (Johnny) for the better part of three quarters. But the fourth quarter he showed why he won the Heisman Trophy. We’ll look at last year very closely, use what we think was very good, mix in some new stuff. We were able to create a few turnovers last year, which I thought was big. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that performance and give us a chance to be in it late in the game.
* On Manziel this season: You notice he doesn’t mind standing in the pocket longer. I thought he was a good thrower last year, too. You were hoping he wasn’t, but when you faced him live you realize he was. He's developed even more as a complete quarterback. But he certainly doesn’t mind standing in the pocket longer this year, and I think they’ve probably worked on that to minimize some of the hits he takes and him developing more as a complete quarterback.”
* On C.J. Johnson: He’s day to day. Same as last week. Last week we waited until Thursday. This week we’ll take him out of the boot Tuesday and try to do some things. Maybe we'll have an earlier projection for Saturday.
* On the Rebels’ running game: We work on it every week. We want our offense to be balanced. I think our stats prove that over the course of time. Teams are taking certain things away from us that are trying to make us do different things maybe we’re not as gifted at. We’ve got to continue to work on those. We’ll work hard on doing some things. We had a good package we really liked, particularly with Barry (Brunetti) in the game. But we got behind and didn’t feel we could be as balanced doing certain things.
* On fourth down aggressiveness: I'm aggressive by nature, but it's also we're at a point in our program we want to prove to the kids we're not there to be close. We want to win. I felt like the ones late in the (Auburn) game were reasonable chances. We needed to score touchdowns, because you knew at any point they could put points on the board. But I am aggressive by nature.
* On short-yardage inside power running: The times we used it, it was good with Barry in the game. There were different things we could do there. I think (I’Tavius Mathers) is improving and getting healthy and helping us do that better. But is that our strength? In this league, if you’re going to run inside power, any kind of gap schemes, you’d better have...their ends are 270-280, and you need a guy a little more built for that. What we inherited, we lost all our tight ends in one year. The Ferbia Allens of the world that were 250-260 pounds you felt you could do something with. Then injuries to Carlton Martin, C.J. Johnson. Then we had to flip a guy back over to the other side we were trying to get ready for, and hopefully we can do that at some point.
* On the health of the team: We sure hope we get Carlton back. Didn’t have him. That hurt us. Had to play Issac and Woody too many snaps in there. Carlos Thompson got hurt in first quarter and probably won't be available this week. That’s another hit to the defensive line. Evan Swindall has a toe issue but will likely go and not miss anything. Donte (Moncrief) practiced yesterday and is probably fine. We’ll limit his contact Tuesday and Wednesday. Jeff Scott has a thigh bruise but won't be affected by that.
* On the sacks against your offense: There were six sacks. Four were 1 on 1 losses. Two of them I would say the quarterback should have read the right side and got rid of the ball. But four of them, they beat us in 1 on 1s. I don't want to sound like I'm beating up the offensive line, but when you get in third and long situations in this league, the O-Line is going to have a hard time winning. Not just at Ole Miss. The defensive lines in this league...Auburn has had something like seven or so top ten recruiting classes. It's not like they don't have great players there. Gus is doing a phenomenal job with them. They're playing hard this year and have chemistry and have bought in and their quarterback is athletic. That defense some players on it. You're not going win in third and 10.