ventured on a brave and dangerous raid into Rebel country emailed the fine folks at SB Nation's fine Ole Miss blog, RedCupRebellion, to get insight from the locals on what we can expect in War Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Enjoy.
1. Razorback fans can rattle off the particulars of your former coach, but our knowledge of current Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze can be summed up with a couple of snide remarks about Arkansas State and The Blind Side. Give us some insight, if you can. Background, philosophy, catch phrase?
Background – Freeze was coaching women’s basketball and football at Briarcrest Christian High School in the Memphis area. While there, he coached Michael Oher, landing him a job at Ole Miss as a recruiting something or other. He was eventually promoted to an assistant coach and had a chance to call plays in one game during Orgeron’s final season at Ole Miss. IN that game, the terrible Rebel offense put up over 400 yards of offense against an incredible LSU defense, the first team all year to hit 400. When Orgeron was fired, Nutt opted to let Freeze go as well. Freeze got a job as head coach of Lambuth, where he led two ten win seasons. After noticing his offensive success, San Jose State hired him to be their offensive coordinator, but he wouldn’t coach a down in San Jose. Arkansas State, and with it family, came calling instead. He took over as the offensive coordinator there and set several offensive records despite the team going just 5-7. The head coach was fired, and Freeze was promoted. In his first season as head coach of an FBS school, he led the Red Wolves to a 10-3 season and was hired away by us.
Philosophy – Freeze runs a no-huddle fast-paced offense. It relies heavily on the read-option and getting the ball to mismatches in space. His mantra has been that he can handle plays that gain no yardage. He wants to limit plays that lose yards and limit turnovers. When we’ve done that, we’ve won. Defensively, he lets Dave Wommack (a hire everyone hated but now kinda likes) do his thing. Wommack has come up with separate gameplans for each team we’ve faced this season, and most of them have been successful (Texas L). More than anything, the defensive coaches appear to be teaching our players how to play assignment football and not get caught up in what the offense wants you to think is happening.
Catch phrase – I guess his catch phrase is "Win the Day" but it isn’t as pervasive as say, Houston Nutt catch phrases were. That guy was batshit crazy.
2. Arkansas opened the week as a six-point favorite over the Rebels, which comes as a surprise to many Hog fans who have yet to completely get past a September that saw the Razorbacks perform just about as poorly against the spread as a team possibly can. Have Rebel fans reacted negatively to being cast as underdogs against a team that lost to a Sun Belt team earlier this season?
I’m sure some of our more dimwitted fans were shocked at the spread, but what people don’t realize is…. We’re Ole Miss. We went 2-10 last season. Expecting outsiders to think we’re good is asking a lot. We haven’t even beaten any good teams this season. If we manage to beat you, then I think our fortunes for the rest of the year could be better. If not, we’re not going bowling.
3. Donte Moncrief made a huge impact against Arkansas in 2011, catching five passes with two scores among them. Razorback fans are quite familiar with outstanding receivers, and Moncrief certainly looks the part. How is his 2012 shaping up? Any sophomore slump, or is Moncrief still trending upward?
It’s tough to say. He’s certainly an excellent receiver, but now that everyone knows that and is double teaming him, he isn’t able to beat the double teams very regularly. Against Texas, he made their NFL corners look silly. Since then, he has been pedestrian in that regard. He is a fantastic blocker though, which is obviously helpful to a spread running attack. I think we won’t really see what Moncrief is capable of until the other receivers prove they should be taken seriously. If he’s getting bracket coverage every down, he can’t beat that very often yet.
4. Who is the current Ole Miss quarterback? What school did he transfer in from, and what bullshit degree is he currently pursuing? More importantly, how does he throw the football? Arkansas' secondary has been horrendous this season.
Bo Wallace is our quarterback. He was originally with Freeze at Arkansas State during a redshirt year. After redshirting, he transferred to a junior college where he passed for a bajillion yards and won the national championship. As a redshirt sophomore at Ole Miss, he has certainly been a pleasant surprise. Wallace is a talented quarterback who just struggles to read SEC defenses at this point in his career. He can sling it and has good accuracy, but he makes too many mistakes for Freeze to rely on him much. The recent approach has been to have him facilitate the offense but not try anything risky. That worked against Auburn. I don’t think it will be enough against Arkansas. We’re going to have to open it up, and I’m worried what that means for ball security.
5. Colonel Reb was spotted on the sidelines with Rebel cheerleaders during the Alabama game. What's the story with that? Is the Rebel Black Bear on the brink of extinction?
Nah. He’s here to stay. A significant minority of our fan base is still clinging to Colonel Reb, but that ship has sailed. Most people are down with the black bear at this point, and the rallies for Colonel Reb are just getting sad. They’re small, and the few attendees at the events are either freshmen from out of state or old people who didn’t attend Ole Miss. At this point, Colonel Reb isn’t all that popular on campus aside from students who aren’t from the South but want to be.
6. As an outsider, the seeming compulsion that Ole Miss fans have to divide themselves over ridiculous issues is fascinating. As an Arkansas fan, it's somewhat comforting that we don't hold a monopoly on crazy. Tell us a little bit about "TSWRA", what it means, who's arguing about it, and how big of a deal it is.
I don’t even want to talk about it. Idiots decided to say "The South Will Rise Again" instead of "His Truth is Marching On" at the end of From Dixie With Love. That cost us the song being played at games.
7. What does the Ole Miss defense look like this season? Six forced turnovers against Texas A&M has certainly raised eyebrows among Razorback followers familiar with Arkansas' struggles to keep the football this season. Who are the big hitters? Run stuffers? Ball hounds?
The big hitters are sophomore safety Cody Prewitt, freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, freshman defensive tackl Isaac Gross, and freshman safety Trae Elston (who was suspended by the SEC for too heavy of a hit). Yeah… they’re young and hit hard. That first adjective isn’t good, but the second is. We’ll be good in a year or two, but right now our defensive talent is just way too young. Just to not for a second on Gross, he weighs 254 pounds and starts at defensive tackle. Yeah. It’s weird. He just gets absurd penetration on nearly every snap. Watch for him. #94. He’ll be an All-SEC candidate by the time he leaves Ole Miss.
The secondary isn’t great, but they’ve been in position a lot and just haven’t made the plays they need to. Junior Charles Sawyer is easily our best corner, and I wouldn’t think you’ll test him that much. You may not need to. After him, we’re suspect, but our players show flashes. Sophomore Senquez Golson is a great athlete who just hasn’t wrapped his mind around what to do when the ball is in the air yet. He’s very fast though and has made several great plays.
8. After beating Auburn to get off of a 16-game SEC schneid, the Rebels most certainly have their sights set on a bowl game for the first time since the 2009 season. Which road trip would Ole Miss fans be most excited by? Which seems most likely?
I think that Ole Miss fans want to see us go anywhere but the Liberty Bowl. Unfortunately, if we’re fortunate enough to go bowling, it will almost certainly be the Liberty Bowl. I’m fine with that though. I just want to play a 13th game.
9. What has been the biggest surprise overall of the 2012 season to date for Ole Miss? The biggest disappointment?
The biggest surprise and biggest disappointment are from the same game. It was shocking that we led A&M by ten with six minutes left in the game. It was horribly disappointing when we didn’t beat them.
10. Finally, how do you see the game Saturday playing out? Razorback followers have seen it all this season, so a little preparation for what's in store would be nice. Blowout? Shootout? Comedy of errors? A bold prediction or two, if you don't mind.
I certainly don’t think it will be a 10-7 game or anything like that. I’d expect both offenses will score a good bit. It likely will come down to a couple of turnovers.
1. We run for more than 250 yards.
2. We turn the ball over three times
3. Your offense only allows two sacks
Arkansas 37 – Ole Miss 28