Happy Tuesday, everybody, and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call, your daily sports page for all things Ole Miss sports!
It’s Arkansas week, and if that doesn’t send a ghastly shudder down your spine, then you must not have been watching last November when the Arkansas Razorbacks converted that fourth-and-25 play that led to one of the most hair-pulling, wall-kicking, stuff-throwing, painfully agonizing Ole Miss losses of all time.
Shell-shocked doesn’t begin to describe the way Rebels fans felt after the Razorbacks fled Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with the 53-52 win.
I still remember talking to a friend at church the next day and he offered the only plausible explanation for how that loss happened:
“God didn’t want Ole Miss to win that game,” he said.
If you can stand to watch it:
But this is a new team and a new year
While Ole Miss fans may want revenge for all that pain and suffering, the team said it’s treating the game against the Razorbacks on Saturday (6 p.m. ESPN) like it would any other.
“I just don’t believe it helps you prepare,” Hugh Freeze said at his weekly press conference. “If that is what my focus is on: ‘Hey we got to get ready to beat them because they beat us last year,’ I don’t really buy into that. I buy into, here’s the plan that gives us the best chance to succeed and now we’ve got to make sure we understand and can efficiently do it. That will be our focus.”
Though he admitted that the memory of the loss still lingers, senior tight end Evan Engram echoed his head coach when he spoke with Ole Miss Spirit.
“Definitely no revenge factor going into this week about it,” Engram said. “We just want to go win the game and keep winning. It was tough. It was crazy. But we’re not worried about it.”
Engram said that the Rebels know they are in for a fight from the wounded Razorbacks, who enter the game fresh off a 49-30 thumping by No. 1 Alabama.
“Arkansas, since I’ve been here, is probably the most relentless, sound, fighting football team I’ve played here,” Engram told the Spirit. “They fight for 60 minutes and compete. They want to make big plays, and they’re going to be in the battle for 60 minutes, especially at home. They’re a tough team to beat at home. I’m looking forward to them having a lot of energy and a lot of pep in their step after a loss to Alabama to get back to a winning track.”
While the Rebels seem to have their minds focused on all the right things, the fact is that Arkansas has beaten Ole Miss in consecutive seasons. A third straight loss to Bret Bielema’s team would be just as frustrating this season. Not only are the Rebels 7.5-point favorites, but Ole Miss still has hope alive for an SEC West title and an outside shot at a College Football Playoff berth. A loss to Arkansas would emphatically end those hopes.
Scouting the Razorbacks
Arkansas is 4-2 (0-2 SEC) with losses to Texas A&M (45-24) and a 49-30 loss to Alabama on Saturday. Its best win was a 41-38 double-overtime thriller over TCU. The Razorbacks are led by quarterback Austin Allen, who passed for 400 yards in the loss to the Crimson Tide. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Allen’s older brother, Brandon, was the quarterback for Arkansas last year, passing for 442 yards and 6 touchdowns against the Rebels. The younger Allen, who is currently second in the SEC in passing yards (1632 yards), is also good at throwing the football.
“I feel like I am watching the same guy,” Freeze said. “I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses. The ball goes to the right spot, it’s accurate. Just a really good player.”
That will leave a mark
Alabama pressured or sacked Arkansas QB Austin Allen on 39 of his 58 drops Saturday.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 9, 2016
There’s a theory that’s been floated that Alabama puts such a physical beating on its opponents that they are still suffering the next week. If that’s true, then Arkansas should be the perfect test subject. Allen got absolutely pounded on Saturday night. This story from Arkansas Online makes it sound like Allen is one sore quarterback:
Austin Allen quarterbacked Arkansas to 30 points despite becoming Alabama’s personal pinata. Officially the Tide sacked him six times.
Unofficially it seemed Allen got hit upon launching nearly every pass. He launched 48. The Hogs fell behind too fast to establish the running game that Alabama forbid them.
The pressure put on Allen resulted in a fumble recovered and returned for an Alabama touchdown. He threw three interceptions, all to cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The last one Fitzpatrick transported end zone to end zone.
Allen took a hit on that one, too. He was the last man blocked on Fitzpatrick’s 100-yard return.
A quarterback’s nightmare game, yet an admirable one. Allen completed 25, mostly under jolting duress, for 400 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ole Miss LandShark defense will be watching film from that Arkansas-Alabama game all week, and what it’ll see is that Alabama pressure created 3 interceptions. Turnovers are what this Ole Miss defense craves. Allen can count on plenty of blitzes from the Rebels this weekend.
Rebels rise in polls
Without even playing a game, Ole Miss climbed up two spots to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 and one spot to No. 13 in the Coaches Poll. After entering the season ranked 11th in the AP’s Preseason Top 25, Ole Miss is almost back where it started. With seven games to play, the Rebels have plenty of time to ascend much higher as long as they can keep winning.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 10, 2016
Still No. 1
It’s one thing for a tight end to lead his SEC position group in receiving yards per game, it’s quite another for a tight end to lead all receivers in yards per game. Engram still is No. 1 after the bye week.
Receiving YPG: #SEC
Evan Engram 96
Antonio Callaway 93
J'Mon Moore 90
Jared Cornelius 82
Josh Reynolds 81
Calvin Ridley 69
Tony Stevens 68
— SEC Country (@SECcountry) October 10, 2016
Rebels land big-time basketball commit
Ole Miss received a commitment from Devontae Shuler on Monday night. Shuler is rated as a 4-star prospect and the 24th-best shooting guard by 247Sports Composite Index and No. 100 in the 247Sports Top 100. He is the second Rebels commit for the Class of 2017, joining Union County (Tenn.) guard Parker Stewart. Shuler chose the Rebels over South Carolina, Oklahoma State and Miami.
Here’s his announcement:
I will be attending… pic.twitter.com/b1pCrkgAYP
— Devontae Shuler (@Devontae_Shuler) October 10, 2016
Shuler is the kind of high-profile recruit Ole Miss had in mind when it invested $96.5 million into it’s still brand-spanking-new state of the art basketball arena known as The Pavilion at Ole Miss. For years, Ole Miss suffered in basketball due to a reputation of loving football and treating basketball like a stepchild. The archaic and sometime leaky Tad Smith Coliseum made the reputation seem accurate. So, when Ole Miss built The Pavilion, it put it right next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The two facilities sit side by side, squarely adjacent to one another as a testament to the importance of basketball. It’s a beautiful facility, and Shuler is one of the first fruits of that big investment.
It’s Saturday night in Death Valley
Ole Miss and LSU will kick off at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. The game will be televised by ESPN. It’ll be the second consecutive week for Ole Miss to play during prime time on the ESPN Network’s flagship station.
Ole Miss in the news
- Despite the national narrative, Hugh Freeze didn’t build Ole Miss overnight.
- Evan Engram discussed his decision to stay at Ole Miss on the SEC Network.
- Watch Hugh Freeze’s weekly press conference.
- Chad Kelly is lethal with the deep ball.
- Kelly regrets running onto the field at his brother’s high school football game.