By John Davis, Sports Editor
Ole Miss stopped its bleeding last week with a home win over Texas A&M. Now, it's time to see if the No. 19 Rebels can use the confidence gained against the Aggies to their advantage against Auburn on the road.
The Rebels (6-2 overall, 3-1 in the SEC) showed a lot of promise for the final stretch with the way they played against the Aggies. As coach Hugh Freeze said, it was the most complete win of the season considering the quality of opponent.
“Every game is a must win. We just wanted to fight as hard as we could for 60 minutes and we did that and we got the win,” quarterback Chad Kelly said about the A&M victory. “That win can only build confidence. We have to correct the mistakes that we made in this game and get better and get rid of the turnovers. I had three interceptions that I wish I had back. We got the win and that's all that matters.”
Wins and losses are the only two things that matter for the Rebels the rest of the way. They are still in control of their down destiny in that they 1) still play undefeated LSU at home and 2) have the head-to-head over Alabama, which hosts LSU on Nov. 7. Of course, the Rebels can't lose at Auburn, or against Arkansas for any of that to really matter.
“All of that is great, but let's just win one at a time,” Freeze said. “I know that is in the back our kids' minds. Hope is a great thing in life. You have to maintain that hope, whether you are going to end up on top or in the middle. I like to take it one week at a time. We got our team ready to play very well at times, and sometimes we haven't. The challenge that I always look at is how do I get them ready to play at Auburn on Saturday to give us the best chance to win."
Ole Miss is a better frame of mind following the victory over the Aggies because of the way the defense played. For the first time since the season opener, the Rebels didn't allow a touchdown. The Rebels clamped down A&M quarterback Kyle Allen, and held him to just 88 total yards, a season low.
“They turned up. That was the Land Shark D that we've known and seen in practice every day,” Kelly said. “Their enthusiasm and intensity was great this past week in practice and it carried over to the game. Everybody was focused and locked in and ready to go.”
Safety Trae Elston and defensive end Marquis Haynes were both honored by the SEC for their performances against the Aggies. Elston was the Defensive Player of the Week for knocking down five passes, while Haynes was named Defensive Lineman of the Week for finishing with two sacks.
Outside of two plays to have big gains, Freeze felt his defenders were in the right place to stop the Aggies. He added that things were simplified in the secondary, which allowed the defense to miss fewer tackles and create turnovers.
“We basically ran four things instead of 14. We made sure our kids were going to play hard and be in the right spot. Sometimes it just clicks in the game plan,” Freeze said. “There will be a point in time where C.J. Hampton and the Moore twins, Tony Bridges, and Red (Zedrick Woods) are out there. Red played very well. He's been real unsure of himself and all of a sudden, the other night, he is very confident. Cam (Ordway) was in great position for two fade balls. Hopefully, it just kind of clicks. Again, with one game, it is hard to tell. We picked up the tempo of practice and went good on good which we haven't been doing. Which one of those things was that worked I'm not sure, but we are going to try them out again.”
Auburn is in search of an SEC win in the worst way. The Tigers got close last week before losing to Arkansas in four overtimes. Auburn defeated Ole Miss last season when Laquon Treadwell was pulled down, and injured, just short of the end zone. Since that win, the Tigers have lost seven of their last 12 games. Freeze said the Tigers, who are just 1-3 in the SEC this season, are hungry and would love to give the Rebels a trick rather than a treat on Halloween.
“Knowing Gus (Malzahn) like I know him, he is going to have his kids ready to play,” Freeze said. “They'll have a great plan and be hungry for success at home. There's nothing like returning at home in front of your people to help you get that boost of energy that you need. I expect we'll see the best Auburn team of the entire year.”