Happy Tuesday and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call, your daily sports page for all things Ole Miss sports.
This hasn’t been the season Ole Miss fans dreamed about. The Rebels are 3-3 and looked mortal in their 34-30 loss to Arkansas on Saturday night. Losing begets uncomfortable questions for head football coaches. At Monday’s weekly news conference one reporter asked Hugh Freeze if he could explain the inconsistent performances Ole Miss has had this season.
“Well, you have looked at the schedule haven’t you?” Freeze asked rhetorically.
The schedule didn’t beat Ole Miss. Florida State, Alabama and Arkansas did, and each did it running roughshod over the Rebels defense.
The schedule is tough
To be fair to Freeze, it isn’t an easy schedule. Campus Insiders rated the Ole Miss schedule as the 3rd toughest in the conference. The high ranking came courtesy of having to play Florida State in addition to the already hard conference slate.
But Arkansas was 0-2 in the SEC before it beat Ole Miss, with previous losses to Texas A&M and Alabama.
“The SEC and the SEC West is just like a whole other world that you live in,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Saturday. “I think everybody’s been in the top 15 that we’ve played. I’m sure Auburn is going to be ranked in the top 20 next week.
“It is what it is. It’s not fun when you lose, but it’s a lot of fun when you win.”
Changes on defense
A shake-up to the defensive coaching staff was announced Monday. Graduate assistant Christian Robinson has been assigned to coach the Mike linebackers, with defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to focus only on the stingers.
“We are going to put another set of eyes on one position and try to help them improve this week, because again, this week it will be vitally important,” Freeze said.
I didn’t have to be clairvoyant in Monday’s Wake-Up Call to note that Ole Miss needed to make changes on defense. Anybody could see that, especially after six straight weeks of Freeze openly griping about his linebackers “not fitting gaps.”
Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III busting loose for 180 yards was the last straw.
Arkansas ran 38 plays on 1st-down vs Ole Miss:
30 of those were rushes that went for 205 yards (6.8 avg) ?
— Matt Wyatt (@RadioWyatt) October 17, 2016
No team can hold up against an opponent averaging nearly 7 yards rushing on first-down plays. It puts the defense in difficult down-and-distance situations on second and third downs.
The Rebels, who allowed Williams to rush for 180 yards, had to do something different, and fast, because they’re facing a healthy LSU star Leonard Fournette this Saturday.
A rare opportunity
The Magnolia Bowl is always circled as one of the most important games on the Ole Miss schedule, and it feels even bigger this year with Ed Orgeron leading the Tigers. The notorious ex-Ole Miss head coach was slapped with the “interim” tag after Les Miles was fired, which means this season is basically one long job interview for the Red Bull-gulping Blindside actor and Hummer spokesman.
And as badly as LSU hates losing to Ole Miss, you know a loss to the Rebels likely will remove Orgeron’s name from consideration for the permanent job.
So, basically Ole Miss has the rare opportunity on Saturday to fire the same head coach twice.
That should be good television.
The Rebels are pumped for LSU
Playing LSU the week after a loss means the players shouldn’t have any trouble getting their minds right to take on the rival Tigers. Playing LSU is usually enough motivation. Adding Orgeron to the mix makes it even bigger
“I think I saw it on social media or whatever where he doesn’t have a whole lot of memories of when he was here,” Ole Miss offensive lineman Sean Rawlings told the Ole Miss Spirit. “Neither do we, so …”
This is what Rawlings likely saw:
O on playing Ole Miss: "I don't have many memories of that place that I want to remember." #LSU
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 16, 2016
“He’s trying to make it a talking point, but I think we’re just ready to play it,” Rawlings said. “We’re always ready for LSU, no matter who’s coaching. That’s a really important game to a lot of us and a lot of the Ole Miss fan base. That’s the thing that motivates us more, not who’s coaching or where he used to coach. This is LSU. This is a big rivalry game.”
But no hard feelings from Freeze
Any angst against Orgeron is limited to the Ole Miss fans and perhaps a few players. Freeze doesn’t have any hard feelings against Orgeron. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It was Orgeron who helped Freeze make the jump from high school to college coaching, giving him an off-field position.
— Michael Logan Dillon (@MichaelLDillon1) September 25, 2016
“I learned a lot from him and I am very indebted for the opportunity and the time I had and the opportunities he gave me,” Freeze said. “I really don’t know my career does what it does without the opportunity that he gave me.”
And Orgeron said that he doesn’t lump Freeze in with his bad memories at Ole Miss.
“I always thought Hugh was a tremendous coach,” Orgeron told the Advocate. “I almost hired him as my offensive coordinator — probably should have.”
Better block this guy
The Ole Miss offensive line wasn’t great against Arkansas, either, but the Rebels better get ready, because the dangerous Arden Key is coming after Chad Kelly.
LSU edge defender Arden Key leads the nation in pass rush productivity, generating 38 QB pressures on 156 pass rush snaps. pic.twitter.com/qvBxwiDVHT
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 17, 2016
And Key is already talking trash.
Arden Key: "feels like I'm supposed to three sacks" against OM.
"Don't see Laremy Tunsil anymore … Will have to catch him later." #LSU
— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) October 17, 2016
Ole Miss vs. Auburn set for 6:15 p.m. CT
The game time for Ole Miss vs. Auburn is set, but ESPN still has to decide which game it wants to feature on the flagship channel. My guess is an Ole Miss win over LSU on Saturday will put the Rebels back on ESPN on Oct. 29.
— SEC (@SEC) October 17, 2016
Ole Miss isn’t looking so great in the SEC standings, but here’s an important reminder: Half a season and five conference games remain. A lot can change between now and late November.
A new leader in the East and a tie atop the West.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 16, 2016
Sad fan faces
It is a twisted pleasure, getting comfort from the emotional devastation of others, but that’s just one of many things we all love about college football. One school’s joy means another’s pain.
You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em
Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his brother, United States Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, made a friendly wager on the game between Ole Miss and LSU on Saturday.
— Elizabeth Crisp (@elizabethcrisp) October 17, 2016
— Jeff Vitter (@UMchancellor) October 17, 2016
Happy birthday to a Rebel great
Fun Fact: Keith Carter and I are almost the same age, and I was sitting courtside as a student reporter on press row during Carter’s glory days at Ole Miss. That was the best basketball experience of my life. Give this clip a listen, and happy birthday, Keith!
— David Kellum (@RebVoice) October 17, 2016