SEC: Jeff Scott

Here's a good way to survive the dog days of summer -- relive the glory of last year's best college football games.

ESPNU will count down the top 25 games and air all but four of them July 21-Aug. 3. Of course the SEC is well-represented. Game Nos. 6-25 have already been determined. Here's a look.

No. 23 -- Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42
Re-airdate: July 22, 7 p.m. ET
This Week 3 contest was a much-anticipated grudge match after Johnny Manziel and the upstart Aggies had upset the mighty Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2012. The return engagement had fireworks from the start, as A&M's 628 yards were the most given up in Alabama's history.

No. 20 -- Georgia 44, LSU 41
Re-airdate: July 23, 10 p.m. ET
Two teams ranked in the top 10 slugged it out to the tune of nearly 1,000 combined yards, as the quarterback performances by Georgia's Aaron Murray and former teammate Zach Mettenberger were among the best of their careers.

[+] EnlargeMelvin Ray
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsNick Marshall & Co. were involved in four of the season's top 25 games, including three within the top 4.
No. 17 -- Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41
Re-airdate: July 25, 7 p.m. ET
Looking back, this huge upset on the road might have fueled Auburn's amazing season. One year after being beaten 63-21 by the Aggies, the Tigers roared back to national prominence behind QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason. The Auburn defense gave up more than 500 yards to Manziel but came through in the end to preserve the win.
No. 15 -- Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT)
Re-airdate: July 28, 7 p.m. ET
Just think of how differently we would have viewed UT's season had the Vols pulled off this upset. Georgia withstood injuries and a determined Tennessee team, and rallied to tie the game with five seconds left when Murray found Rantavious Wooten for a touchdown. UT's Alton Howard fumbled a sure touchdown in overtime, which set up UGA's game-winning field goal.
No. 11 -- Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35
Re-airdate: July 29, 10 p.m. ET
The opening game of the season set a clear tone for high-scoring offense and thrilling late-game heroics. Vandy raced to a 21-10 halftime lead and then gave up 29 points, including a back-breaking 75-yard touchdown run by Jeff Scott with just over a minute to play.
No. 7 -- South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (OT)
Re-airdate: July 31, 10 p.m. ET
Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw came off the bench to score 17 fourth-quarter points to send this one into overtime, where the teams traded touchdowns before USC won it with a kick. Missouri was slapped with its first loss of the season, but the Tigers won the rest of their games and the SEC East crown.

Now we need your help choosing a top five, and again the SEC is prominent with four choices available. Voting ends Monday. If you need help deciding, here's how I would rank 'em.

No. 5 -- Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
Manziel penned a memorable swan song in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Aggies and Blue Devils piled up more than 1,200 yards of offense. Manziel passed for 382 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 73 yards and one TD, and led his team back from a 21-point halftime deficit.

No. 4 -- Florida State 34, Auburn 31
The Tigers' miracle season came crashing down when FSU rallied from an 18-point deficit, the largest ever overcome in a BCS championship game. A thrilling fourth quarter closed with Heisman winner Jameis Winston leading the Noles 80 yards in 66 seconds for the win.

No. 2 -- Auburn 43, Georgia 38
Any time a game evokes a nickname it has also earned a place in college football lore. This game got two of them -- "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare" and "The Immaculate Deflection" -- thanks to a 73-yard Hail Mary touchdown that Bulldogs safety Josh Harvey-Clemons tipped to Auburn's Ricardo Louis.

No. 1 -- Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Is there any doubt which game transcended the 2013 season into the history books? With his improbable, last-second, missed field-goal return, Chris Davis' 109-yard touchdown run -- the "Kick Six" -- was forever branded on the sport's collective consciousness.



Most important game: Vanderbilt

June, 23, 2014
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We're kicking off a new series today looking at the most important game for each SEC team in 2014. These are the games that will have the biggest impact on the league race or hold special meaning for one of the teams involved. We start in reverse alphabetical order with Vanderbilt.

Most important game: Sept. 6 vs. Ole Miss

Key players: The biggest change at Vanderbilt is at head coach where former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason was brought in after James Franklin bolted for Penn State. With the departure of senior starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, the Commodores will also be breaking in a new signal-caller. Sophomore Patton Robinette started three games last season, including the BBVA Compass Bowl. Stephen Rivers, the younger brother of San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers, transferred from LSU in the offseason and is immediately eligible to compete for the job. Vanderbilt junior running back Jerron Seymour made eight starts in 2013 and tied Zac Stacy's school record with 14 rushing touchdowns. The Commodores have a large hole to fill at receiver where they graduated Jordan Matthews, the SEC's all-time leading receiver with 262 receptions. Mason has a lot of work to do with Vandy's defense, especially after losing Andre Hal, Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall -- three of the team's top-four tacklers -- from the secondary. The strength of Mason's defense, as it moves from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base, will be the linebackers. Darreon Herring (84 tackles), Jake Sealand (45 tackles) return in the middle, while Kyle Woestmann (six sacks) and Caleb Azubike (four sacks) move from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Why it matters: The second game of the season won't have postseason implications for either team, but it means everything in terms of Mason's first impression in the SEC. Taking over for the best coach in a school's history isn't easy. After three bowl games in a row and back-to-back 9-4 seasons, the bar is now set high at Vanderbilt. Mason will be looking to prove he can continue Franklin's success without much of a transition. His players, meanwhile, should have even bigger chips on their shoulders. They want the SEC to know their recent run wasn't all about Franklin. They'll also be looking for some revenge against Ole Miss for a season-opening 39-35 loss last year. Vanderbilt-Ole Miss isn't one of the SEC's highest profile rivalries, but it is one of the oldest. This will be the second time in two years that these two teams meet in Nashville, Tennessee. The Commodores played host to the Rebels in a highly entertaining back-and-forth game last season. There were four lead changes, culminating with a 75-yard touchdown run by Mississippi RB Jeff Scott with just over a minute left in the game. The loss didn't dampen Vandy's enthusiasm much, though, as the Commodores went on to beat Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. They'll need the same kind of mental resolve to make Mason's debut in 2014 a success.

Ranking the SEC kick returners

June, 20, 2014
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Projecting a top 10 among kick returners from the SEC is difficult at this point, as many of those jobs will be up for grabs once preseason practice opens in August.

For instance, who will replace All-American Odell Beckham at LSU? It’s too early to know for sure, but you can bet he will probably be good enough to include on this list once the season gets rolling.

We do, however, know the identities of some of the SEC’s top return men -- starting with the ridiculously talented Christion Jones, Andre Debose and Marcus Murphy. We’ll take an educated guess at some of the other spots in today’s SEC kick return rankings.

[+] EnlargeChristion Jones
Paul Abell/USA TODAY SportsElectric return man Christion Jones can be a game-changer for the Crimson Tide.
1. Christion Jones, Alabama: How good is Jones? The SEC’s career leader in kickoff return touchdowns (Debose) is on this list and we’re ranking Jones ahead of him. It’s just plain scary to kick the ball in Jones’ direction as his ranking second in the SEC in both kickoff returns (28.7 yards per return) and punt returns (14.0 ypr), plus his three return touchdowns last season, would indicate.

2. Andre Debose, Florida: Debose would have been a candidate for the top spot, but we’re not sure what kind of player he will be when he returns from a torn ACL suffered during preseason camp last season. If his speed and mobility come back, we’re talking about one of the most electric kick returners in SEC history.

3. Marcus Murphy, Missouri: A 2012 All-SEC pick who is capable of garnering All-America attention, particularly because of his skills as a punt returner, Murphy is one of the key returnees for a Tigers club that lost a lot of firepower. He scored 10 touchdowns on offense last season, but didn’t notch a TD on special teams a season after he found the end zone four times on returns. Murphy will compete for the starting tailback job, but thus far his biggest impact at Mizzou has come while serving as an excellent return man.

4. Devrin Young, Tennessee: A breakout candidate for the Vols before a broken hand cost him nearly half of the 2013 season, Young could be a huge difference maker for Tennessee this fall. He’s already fifth in Tennessee history with 1,575 career total kick and punt return yards. If he stays healthy, Young will move up that list in the fall.

5. Trey Williams, Texas A&M: His primary objective is probably to claim the starting running back job, but Williams is also scary as a return specialist. The shifty and lightning-quick junior ranked fifth in the SEC with an average of 25.2 ypr on kickoffs last season, a season after earning SEC All-Freshman team honors as a return man.

6. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: It looks like both the kick and punt return jobs belong to Cooper after he handled those duties much of the time in 2013. He was a solid kickoff return man (22.4 ypr) and averaged 4.4 yards on nine punt returns. Cooper looks like a Bruce Ellington clone, possessing the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways -- particularly as a return specialist.

[+] EnlargeCorey Grant
Greg McWilliams/Icon SMICorey Grant could have a big season for the Tigers.
7. Corey Grant, Auburn: Grant hasn’t won this job yet, but he seems like a good choice to take over for Tre Mason. He averaged 10.0 yards per carry out of the backfield and 32.0 ypr in just five kickoff returns -- one of which went 90 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee. He has breakaway speed that Auburn’s coaches have to like in this role.

8. Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss: Another guy competing for a 2014 starting running back job, the diminutive Walton was impressive as a return man last season. In addition to his 523 rushing yards as a backfield mate for Jeff Scott and I’Tavius Mathers, he contributed 25 kickoff returns for 515 yards, good for a team-best average of 20.6 ypr.

9. De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M: A solid if unspectacular performer, Harris ranked sixth in the SEC with an average of 6.7 yards per punt return a season ago. He broke the Aggies’ season-long punt return in a win over SMU, snapping off a 30-yard runback.

10. Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State: Let’s make a speculative pick here. Holloway has nowhere near as much experience as Jameon Lewis as a return man, but he made some noise in limited action last season. As a full-time returner, he could become a star – although his hopes of becoming the Bulldogs’ running back might interfere. Holloway averaged 37.7 ypr on three kickoff returns, thanks in large part to a 95-yard runback against Alcorn State, and also had a 23-yard punt return in the Egg Bowl and a 13-yard return in the bowl win over Rice.
Today, our SEC position-by-position rankings move to an area that will see plenty of turnover throughout the league: special teams.

There are a ton of SEC heavyweights who lost key special teamers, like league champ Auburn -- which lost punter Steven Clark, kicker Cody Parkey, now-legendary return man Chris Davis and kickoff returner/tailback Tre Mason -- LSU (All-American Odell Beckham) and Alabama (punter Cody Mandell and kicker Cade Foster). That’s just a start.

The league is full of dynamic playmakers who can become stars in the return game, but as of right now, many SEC teams have questions to answer on special teams. That’s why teams that have returning veterans at those positions sit high in our rankings.

Special teams position rankings

1. Texas A&M: There aren’t many SEC teams that can make this claim, but the Aggies have a clean sweep of returning specialists. Leading the way is an All-American and Ruy Guy Award finalist at punter, Drew Kaser, who broke the school record with a 47.4-yard average last season. Texas A&M also has kicker Josh Lambo (8-for-10 on field goals in 2013), kickoff returner Trey Williams (25.2 yards per return, fifth in the SEC) and punt returner De’Vante Harris (6.7 yards per return, sixth in the SEC) back this fall. That’s a solid collection of talent that should help an Aggies team that certainly has some questions to answer on offense and defense.

2. Missouri: This is another squad that returns the key figures from a season ago, led by versatile return man Marcus Murphy. Murphy was fifth in the SEC in punt returns (7.0) and 11th in kickoff returns (22.2) while also contributing to the Tigers’ solid running game. Andrew Baggett (18-for-25 on field goals, 8.6 points per game) was the SEC’s second-leading scorer among kickers, and he returns along with punter Christian Brinser (41.0 yards per punt).

3. Georgia: Truth be told, Georgia was frequently terrible on special teams last season. The Bulldogs struggled to generate much of anything in the return game and experienced some issues with blocked punts. Coach Mark Richt changed the way the coaching staff will address special teams during the offseason, and perhaps that will make a difference. The individual specialists are actually pretty good -- particularly kicker Marshall Morgan, who should generate some All-America attention himself. Morgan was 22-for-24 (91.7 percent) and led all SEC kickers with an average of 10.3 points per game, truly one of the best seasons by a kicker in school history. Punters Collin Barber and Adam Erickson were mostly average, which is more than can be said for the Bulldogs’ return men. Keep an eye on freshman Isaiah McKenzie in August to see if he has a chance to contribute in the return game.

4. LSU: The return game will certainly suffer a blow without electric All-American Beckham -- the winner of last season’s Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player -- but LSU has no shortage of athletic players (running back Terrence Magee is one option) whom the coaches can plug into Beckham’s old spots. The Tigers are solid at kicker with Colby Delahoussaye, who led the SEC by making 92.9 percent of his field goals (13 of 14). They held a competition for the punting job during the spring between hot-and-cold Jamie Keehn (41.0 ypp) and walk-on Trent Domingue.

5. South Carolina: Here’s another one where experience helps, although the Gamecocks have much to improve upon this season. Punter Tyler Hull (37.8 ypp) is back, but South Carolina ranked last in the SEC with an average of 34.1 net yards per punt. They were mediocre both returning and covering kickoffs and at returning punts, although Pharoh Cooper (22.4 ypr on kickoffs and 4.4 ypr on punts) might be a breakout candidate for the Gamecocks this fall. Elliott Fry was a solid performer (15-for-18 on field goals, fourth in the SEC with 7.6 ppg) at place-kicker in 2013.

6. Alabama: The Crimson Tide should rank higher on this list by season’s end. After all, they have arguably the SEC’s top return man in Christion Jones (second in the league with 28.7 ypr on kickoffs and second with 14.0 ypr on punts). But they also lost a dynamic punter in Mandell and a place-kicker, Foster, who was solid last season before melting down in the Iron Bowl. Perhaps Adam Griffith (1-for-3 on field goals) will take over the kicking job, but Alabama also has high hopes for signee J.K. Scott, who is capable of kicking or punting in college.

7. Arkansas: The rankings start getting murky around the middle of the pack. Arkansas has a phenomenal punter back in ambidextrous Australian Sam Irwin-Hill (44.3 ypp, fifth in the SEC), but the Razorbacks also lost kicker Zach Hocker (13-for-15 on field goals) and punt returner Javontee Herndon. Kickoff returner Korliss Marshall (22.2 ypr, 10th in the SEC) is back. It would be huge for Arkansas if signee Cole Hedlund, USA Today’s first-team All-USA kicker for the Class of 2014, can come in and take over Hocker’s job.

8. Florida: We’re speculating here that Andre Debose comes back healthy and reclaims his job as the Gators’ kickoff return man. That would be a big deal since Debose is tied for the SEC’s career lead with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. Now-departed Solomon Patton did a great job in his place last season, averaging 29.2 ypr. The Gators also lost punt returner Marcus Roberson (9.2 ypr). The big issue, though, is at kicker, where former top kicking prospect Austin Hardin (4-for-12 on field goals) was awful last season and eventually gave way to Francisco Velez (6-for-8). Likewise, Johnny Townsend (42.0 ypp) took over at punter for former Groza finalist Kyle Christy (39.6) because of a slump, although both are back.

9. Kentucky: Although the Wildcats lost a solid kicker in Joe Mansour (12-for-14 on field goals), they still have several solid players returning. They include punt returner Demarco Robinson (10.4 ypr), kickoff returner Javess Blue (20.4 ypr) and punter Landon Foster (41.3 ypp). Austin MacGinnis, one of the nation’s better kicking prospects in 2013, claimed the place-kicking job during spring practice.

10. Auburn: As with Alabama, we expect Auburn to move up this list during the season. They have the No. 1 kicking prospect from 2013, redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson, taking over for Parkey at place-kicker. They have speedster Corey Grant as an option at kickoff return. And they have another talented redshirt freshman, Jimmy Hutchinson, inheriting the reliable Clark’s spot at punter. Quan Bray might be the man who takes over at punt returner for Davis, who averaged 18.7 ypr (which doesn’t include his 109-yard field goal return to beat Alabama), but he could face a challenge from candidates like Trovon Reed, Marcus Davis or Johnathan Ford.

11. Tennessee: Considering how the Volunteers lost punter/kicker Michael Palardy (third in SEC with 44.5 yards per punt and 14-for-17 on field goals), it’s a good thing that they signed top kicking prospect and Under Armour All-American Aaron Medley. Tennessee has return man Devrin Young (25.9 ypr on kickoffs and 7.9 on punts) and backup punt return man Jacob Carter (9.3 ypr) back, as well.

12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return most everyone from last season (minus punter Baker Swedenburg, who averaged 42.5 ypp), but it remains to be determined whether that’s a good thing. They were mediocre or worse in most special teams departments in 2013 – especially at place-kicker, where Devon Bell (6-for-14 on field goals) and Evan Sobiesk (3-for-6) were hardly reliable. Bell (41.2 ypp) was a decent punter, but could face a challenge from signee Logan Cooke on kickoffs and punts. Return man Jameon Lewis (23.5 ypr on kickoffs and 2.3 on punts) is back, as is speedster Brandon Holloway (37.7 ypr on three kickoffs and 18.0 ypr on two punts), who is trying to crack the starting lineup at running back, but could become a dynamic return man if given the opportunity.

13. Ole Miss: By losing punter Tyler Campbell (44.4 ypp, fourth in the SEC), kicker Andrew Ritter (16-for-24 on field goals) and punt returner Jeff Scott (12.7 ypr), Ole Miss has plenty of holes to fill. They have kickoff returner Jaylen Walton (20.6 ypr) back and also signed the No. 2 kicking prospect for 2014, Gary Wunderlich, who is capable of becoming a standout performer as both a kicker and punter.

14. Vanderbilt: New coach Derek Mason didn’t seem particularly enthused about his special teams units after spring practice. The Commodores lost kicker Carey Spear (15-for-19 on field goals) and potential replacement Tommy Openshaw struggled during spring scrimmages, potentially opening the door for a walk-on. Punter Taylor Hudson (42.9 ypp, seventh in the SEC) is back, but he and competitor Colby Cooke were apparently not very consistent this spring, either. Vandy lost punt returner Jonathan Krause (3.6 ypr) and returns leading kickoff return man Darrius Sims (22.8 ypr, eighth in the SEC).

SEC Week 13: Did you know?

November, 22, 2013
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With SEC rivalry week on deck next week, this might feel like the calm before the storm. But there are still a few games on Saturday that carry major bowl implications -- including Missouri-Ole Miss, LSU-Texas A&M and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

As we prepare to enter the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, here are a few interesting tidbits from our friends at ESPN Stats and Information concerning this weekend's games.
  • Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel posted eye-popping numbers last season, but he remains on pace to match -- if not surpass -- those stats this season. Through 10 games last fall, he had an 89.5 Opponent-Adjusted Total QBR, while he has an 89.6 this year. His average of 392.4 total yards per game is up from 379.4 last year. And he leads the FBS with an average of 39 touchdowns rushing or passing, which is up from his 33 at this point last season. Entering Saturday's game at LSU, Manziel remains unbeaten in his career away from home. He's 9-0 away from Kyle Field with an opponent-adjusted QBR of at least 85 in every game -- the longest streak for any player in the last 10 seasons.
  • Missouri's James Franklin returns to the starting lineup against Ole Miss for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Georgia in Week 7. He was averaging 6.9 yards per play and boasted an 80.7 QBR when injured. Freshman Maty Mauk did an admirable job in Franklin's absence. He led the Tigers to a 3-1 record, although his average of 6.7 yards per play and 68.7 QBR both trail the totals for Franklin.
  • LSU held Texas A&M to 19 points last season in College Station in the Tigers' 24-19 win. That was the only game in Manziel's career that he did not account for a touchdown. His opponent-adjusted QBR that day was 51.2, the lowest single-game mark of his career by 21.3 points.
  • Chattanooga might as well not even bother blitzing Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron on Saturday. When opponents have sent five or more pass rushers, McCarron has thrown an SEC-high 14 touchdowns against just one interception. Meanwhile, Alabama's pass rush has been consistent, blitz or no blitz. The Crimson Tide has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 26 percent of their dropbacks, the highest percentage in the SEC.
  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill averages an SEC-high 8.0 yards per carry on rushes between the tackles (min. 50 carries). On such runs, Hill had season lows in yards (23) and yards per carry (3.8) in the Tigers' last game, a loss to Alabama.
  • Missouri's pass rush has also been effective without needing to blitz. The Tigers have sent four or fewer pass rushers on 88 percent of opponent dropbacks -- the highest percentage of any AQ defense. Nonetheless, the Tigers have an AQ-high 29 sacks and are tied for the national lead with 81 pressures (hurries plus knockdowns). Michael Sam leads the SEC with 10 sacks and Kony Ealy leads the league with 25 pressures. Sam has 23, which is tied for second with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Georgia's Leonard Floyd.
  • Entering Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina, South Carolina running back Mike Davis has 477 rushing yards after contact this season. Only Auburn's Tre Mason and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon have more among SEC ball carriers.
  • The combination of Jeff Scott's combination of breakaway speed and some good blocking by the Ole Miss offensive line allowed Scott to make it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 45 percent of his carries. That's the highest percentage of any AQ running back who has at least 50 carries.
  • South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is dangerous as a runner, but he has been lethal when passing from the pocket this season. He is completing 67 percent of his pocket passes with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions this season. On throws outside the pocket, Shaw is completing 37.2 percent with five touchdowns and one pick.
  • Texas A&M's defense has allowed an AQ-high 57 runs on which the opponent gained 5 yards or more after first contact. The Aggies are also allowing an SEC-high 5.7 yards per carry on designed runs.
  • LSU is tied for sixth in the FBS with 70 offensive plays that covered 20 yards or more this season. The Tigers had just 59 such plays in all of 2012.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's completion percentage is nearly 10 percentage points higher at home (69.2) than on the road (59.6). The Rebels are 5-1 in Oxford versus 2-2 anywhere else, and Wallace has tossed 13 touchdowns against three interceptions at home versus his 4-2 split on the road.


OXFORD, Miss. -- Even though Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze isn’t one to make excuses, he had plenty of room to do so this week. The Rebels, who had lost three consecutive games, were without five starters on defense and the team’s leading rusher when they hosted No. 6 LSU on Saturday.

Turns out Freeze and the Rebels didn’t need any excuses as they stunned the Tigers, 27-24.

“I couldn’t be more proud of that staff and those kids to go through what they’ve been through, with the injuries and the outside world having their opinion of things,” Freeze said. “In the back of your mind, you always wonder as a coach if you can get a team ready to do those things like this when you’re shorthanded and coming off an extremely disappointing loss.”

The Rebels were in a similar situation last week when Texas A&M came to town. The game was tied with three minutes left, and it was up to quarterback Bo Wallace and the offense to drive down the field and win the game. Instead, they went three-and-out, punted the ball and watched as the Aggies drove down and kicked the game-winning field goal.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Ritter
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Ritter drilled a 41-yard, game-winning field goal with 2 seconds remaining that gave the short-handed Rebels a stunning win over LSU.
“For A&M to beat us the way they did, I wasn’t letting that happen to us again,” Wallace said. “Ja-Mes [Logan] made a huge catch in the same situation that he had last week. He took a shot and hung onto it. Everybody just came together and fought hard on that last drive.”

It was Ole Miss who kicked the game-winning field goal this week, but it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for a number of players who stepped up when called upon.

The defense lost four starters due to injury against Texas A&M, and Freeze told his team Friday that starting cornerback Senquez Golson would be suspended for the visit from LSU. Four more Rebels defenders went down during Saturday's game, and yet, they forced three turnovers in the first half and held on for the upset.

“I think it was a God thing,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “We sat in there on Sunday and said, ‘We got 14 players, not starters, 14 players for seven spots between the defensive line and the linebackers. We tried to make D.T. [Shackelford] do two different things, and he was able to do that. Fortunately, Tony Conner made a big difference because we were able to teach him some linebacker stuff. The kids are warriors. We needed that for our program.”

On offense, running backs Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers more than made up the absence of starter Jeff Scott. Walton finished with 106 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Mathers added 51 yards on 12 carries.

“We ran the football against a really good defense,” Freeze said. “Our offensive line played against a good defensive front. I have great confidence in Jaylen and I’Tavius. Jaylen has quick acceleration. He did really well tonight and protected the ball.”

It was a crushing loss for Les Miles and his LSU team, who lost any chance they had to play in the BCS National Championship, but the victory shouldn’t be understated for Ole Miss. The Rebels were down, but they showed they’re not out.

“We really needed a win,” Walton said. “We came close last week where we should’ve won, but this week, we got the W and now we can keep moving forward with wins.”

SEC Week 8 primer

October, 19, 2013
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It looked like it could be a Saturday full of upsets last weekend when Missouri stunned Georgia to start the day. The Tigers' road victory shook up the SEC East and put them squarely in the driver’s seat for a trip to Atlanta. Ole Miss nearly followed suit in the nightcap until Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M back in the final minutes. Will the Aggies luck run out this weekend against Auburn? Will there be another upset? We shall see.

[+] EnlargeMauk
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsCan redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk, making his first career start, keep the ball rolling for Mizzou?
Everybody is still a little surprised that Missouri is one of two undefeated teams left in the SEC at the midway point -- the other being the two-time defending champ Alabama. But the Tigers have won back-to-back conference road games, they’re ranked No. 14, and they’re finally starting to earn some respect. However, they will be without quarterback James Franklin for the next three to five weeks because of a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will start in Franklin’s place Saturday when Missouri welcomes a Florida team that ranks first in the FBS in QBR defense. The Gators lost their quarterback earlier this year, too, but the defense has kept them in contention for the SEC East. A loss Saturday could cripple Florida’s chances.

Georgia and South Carolina are also in the mix for the East, and both play on the road this Saturday. The injury-riddled Bulldogs will look to bounce back with a trip to Vanderbilt. They have won the last six meetings against the Commodores and 17 of the last 18. Quarterback Aaron Murray should pass Tim Tebow for the top spot in total offense in SEC history, as he needs just 30 yards to do so. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are coming off an impressive victory at Arkansas and will travel to Tennessee this weekend. The Volunteers had the week off after nearly upsetting Georgia their last time out. Neyland Stadium has become a home away from home for Steve Spurrier, who will be coaching his 13th game inside the historic venue.

In the West, the game of the day will be down in College Station, Texas, between a pair of ranked teams -- No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 24 Auburn. It might be 'the first one to score 50 wins' as the game features two of the top offenses in the SEC. The Aggies have Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who was brilliant last week against Ole Miss, while the Tigers boast the No. 1 rushing attack in the conference. Auburn will also welcome back quarterback Nick Marshall, who missed the last game because of a knee injury. The junior college transfer rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Ole Miss his last time out. When these two teams met a year ago, Texas A&M rolled, 63-21.

The other game to keep an eye on in the West is LSU and Ole Miss. The Tigers had to score a late touchdown last year to survive Hugh Freeze’s upstart team, but will it come down to the wire again this year? The Rebels are pretty banged up after the Texas A&M game. They lost four starters on defense, and running back Jeff Scott is not expected to play because of a thigh bruise he suffered against the Aggies. They’re also catching LSU at the wrong time. The Tigers’ defense played its best game of the season last week in a 17-6 win over Florida. It could spell trouble for Ole Miss, which has been owned by LSU in recent years.

And how can we forget Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team? The Crimson Tide keep chugging along, and they’re heavy favorites again this week at home against Arkansas. The biggest storyline from this game will be the return of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. On Friday, it was announced that Clinton-Dix had been reinstated from his two-game suspension after being notified by the NCAA that he is again eligible to play. The question is how much will he play against the Razorbacks? Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s games:

  • Georgia at Vanderbilt, Noon ET, CBS
  • South Carolina at Tennessee, Noon ET, ESPN
  • Florida at Missouri, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
  • Auburn at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
  • LSU at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Arkansas at Alabama, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN


OXFORD, Miss. -- You'll have to forgive Hugh Freeze if he strayed from healthy eating this week. It's been a long couple of weeks for Ole Miss' head coach.

That explains the scene of him standing outside his office Wednesday morning, clutching a plate with a half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza in his left hand and a Coke Zero in his right. He then juggles nibbling and sipping as he makes it to his desk, where a plate of spaghetti is waiting for him, completing an unorthodox late breakfast.

"It's never too early around here," he says with a laugh.

Freeze needs all the energy he can get. He has seen recent road trips end at three and four in the morning and has stressed over an unsettling off-field incident that has thrust the entire football program into an embarrassing light.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesHugh Freeze has had a full plate of late, and it doesn't get easier with Texas A&M coming to town.
The last five days have provided Freeze with a temporary escape from the last two weeks, but Saturday brings a new challenge when Johnny Manziel and his high-flying Texas A&M offense visit the Grove.

For the first time in more than a month, the Rebels will play at home, ending three weeks of travel that has physically and mentally drained players and coaches. Now, they have to be energized for Johnny Football and an offense registering 586.4 yards and 49.2 points per game.

It doesn't help that Manziel has become that much more dangerous with improved passing skills (297.8 yards per game and 14 touchdowns). He's sitting in the pocket longer, looking for second options and reading defenses before running.

"He's just one of those players that you're not going to stop," safety Cody Prewitt said. "He makes plays consistently, no matter the situation. The best we're going to do is try to contain him.

"He's going to find a way to make a play, no matter what."

The Rebels' defense has played well to this point, giving up just 361.4 yards per game, and A&M's defense is currently the worst in the SEC, but can Ole Miss keep pace with the Aggies?

"I don't know if you can," Freeze said with a laugh. "Where we are right now with our program, I'm not sure. We're going to certainly give it our best effort.

"It's about as difficult as it gets."

Defensively, it's all about trying to contain Manziel. Easier said than done, but that's where discipline comes into play. Defensive backs have to stick to their receivers, and the front seven can't over pursue. Then, you just hope.

On offense, Freeze wants to reestablish the run. During the first three wins, Ole Miss averaged 250 rushing yards and had 10 touchdowns on the ground. In the Rebels' two losses to Alabama and Auburn, they've averaged 85, gaining just 46 their shutout loss to Alabama.

Freeze said his team was spoiled by early defensive schemes. During the first three games, teams usually played with a two-high shell over receiver Donte Moncrief's side to take away the deep ball, leaving the middle of the field open for the Rebels to run.

Alabama took its chances inside with the two-high and out-muscled Ole Miss' offense, while Auburn played the run game straight up, stacking the box. In the last two games, Jeff Scott was held to 94 total rushing yards.

Against the Aggies, who are giving up an SEC-high 214.8 rushing yards a game, Freeze wants his running game to chew some clock to keep the ball away from Manziel.

"We go fast, but going fast and throwing it is not going smart fast against this team," Freeze said. "But we're gonna have to throw it some too. We're not built to just line up and pound it like Alabama and Arkansas did."

The back-to-back losses have some Ole Miss believers inching closer to the ledge, but Freeze says he's fine. His 3-2 record is the least of his worries. He understands that fans will point to the scoreboard, but with just one full recruiting class on campus in his second season, Freeze says this program is far from clinging to results each week.

"Man, I don't think you're ever going to be able to build a consistent program if you're going to be up and down with what people define as your expectations," he said. "That stuff does not bother me at all. Does it bother me to lose? Of course it does. It bothers me to look at plays that we screwed up that could have had an impact on the game; you better believe it does.

"After you've had four recruiting classes, then the results do matter to you. It's way too early for us to start and try to define somebody by one or two games, or even four games, or even the whole season."

What to watch in the SEC: Week 7

October, 10, 2013
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1. Will Clowney play?: There have been a lot of rumors flying around about South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and his last-minute decision to sit out against Kentucky. It didn’t go over well with coach Steve Spurrier based on the postgame comments. However, Spurrier defended his star player this week. Once again, Clowney is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Arkansas with a muscle strain near his rib area. He returned to practice on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Getty ImagesJames Franklin and Missouri can prove they're legit SEC contenders with a win at Georgia on Saturday.
2. Health concerns at UGA: The Bulldogs survived a scare in Knoxville last weekend, but they didn’t come out unscathed. They lost both running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ending injuries while fellow wide receiver Michael Bennett will miss an extended period of time with a knee injury. Georgia will have to bounce back quickly with No. 25 Missouri coming to town on Saturday.

3. Mizzou a legitimate contender? It’s safe to say nobody had Missouri as one of the two unbeaten teams in the SEC heading into Week 7. But after an impressive road win at Vanderbilt, the Tigers are 5-0 and finally starting to gain some respect around the league. The next three weeks will be telling, though, as they play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

4. LSU’s WRs versus Florida’s CBs: It’s a dream matchup for NFL scouts. LSU features what many consider to be the top wide receiver tandem in college football with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy is arguably the top cornerback in the SEC, and playing opposite of him is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who already has three interceptions. The Gators are also expecting the return of corner Marcus Roberson, another one who could soon be playing on Sundays.

5. Tyler Murphy in Death Valley: Since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback, Murphy has exceeded expectations for the Gators. In three games, he has thrown for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s progressively gotten better. However, the junior signal-caller is in for his toughest assignment yet when Florida travels to LSU this weekend. How will he perform in a hostile atmosphere?

6. The return of Cooper: When will we see the real Amari Cooper, the one who had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman for Alabama? The star wide receiver has been slowed by nagging injuries all season, but he expects to play Saturday against Kentucky. Will he be 100 percent? Quarterback AJ McCarron would love to have him back sooner rather than later.

7. Aggies without Ennis: As if Texas A&M’s rush defense wasn’t bad enough, the Aggies lost Kirby Ennis, one of their top interior linemen, for the season with a torn ACL. The injury comes at a bad time for the Aggies, who have to visit Ole Miss this weekend and deal with Rebels running back Jeff Scott, not to mention quarterback Bo Wallace. The staff will turn to freshman Isaiah Golden, who is expected to start alongside Alonzo Williams in the middle.

8. Shootout in Oxford: The SEC has featured its fair share of shootouts early in the college football season, and Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M could be right up there. Both teams feature an up-tempo offense, and neither one likes to waste much time between plays. It could be a long day for both defenses.

9. Big game for Bielema: After a 3-0 start, Arkansas has quickly fallen back to .500 with three consecutive losses. However, first-year coach Brett Bielema has a chance to notch his first signature victory with the Razorbacks this Saturday when they host No. 14 South Carolina. The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks and could be prime for an upset. It’s likely a must-win scenario for Arkansas if the Hogs want to reach a bowl game.

10. Auburn’s quarterback: Who will start for the Tigers against Western Carolina? Starter Nick Marshall injured his knee last weekend against Ole Miss, and although he’s expected to play, coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other. If Marshall can’t go, Auburn will either turn to returning starter Jonathan Wallace or true freshman Jeremy Johnson.

SEC lunchtime links

September, 26, 2013
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We're a little closer to game day in the SEC. With several notable conference matchups on tap, here's look at some of the storylines, news and notes from around the league:

Victory at Texas shows Rebels' growth

September, 17, 2013
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Hours after running Bevo out of the Lone Star State, the Ole Miss football team received an early-morning surprise.

As the team bus pulled up to the football complex around 4 a.m., the Rebels were welcomed home from their 44-23 win over Texas by a few fans reveling in their arrival. For players who have seen some truly dark days in Ole Miss' program, Sunday's reception was an odd, yet comforting sight.

"It was pretty cool. It felt good," senior running back Jeff Scott said.

"They showed how dedicated they are to this program."

Jeff Scott
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyOle Miss has come a long way since Jeff Scott arrived on campus.
During Scott's four years with the program, that dedication has been on and off. Ole Miss won a combined six games in his first two years, with just one of those games an SEC victory. The Rebels lost 16 SEC games in a row from 2010-2012.

Scott watched Houston Nutt get fired and was there when the school brought Hugh Freeze back. The former Ole Miss assistant arrived with more questions than excitement. But after a return to the postseason, seven victories and a monster recruiting class in his first season, Freeze brought some hope.

That hope turned into inflated expectations entering the 2013 season, but after a 3-0 start and a Texas-sized victory heading into a bye week, the Rebels have gone from forgotten to formidable.

"It's huge," quarterback Bo Wallace said of the win at Texas. "You have to look at how far we've come. Last year at this time, we were really soul-searching this weekend after the Texas game, trying to find ourselves.

"Anytime you can win a game that people say you aren't supposed to win, you can turn some heads. That's what we have to do: Turn some heads and get people excited about our program and keep climbing in the polls and keep winning games."

Considering the depth issues the Rebels had last year, a victory like this didn't seem possible. On Saturday, Ole Miss was down key players such Aaron Morris, Denzel Nkemdiche and Vince Sanders, yet blew out the Longhorns on the road. Thanks to a stacked freshman class, the Rebels' depth has promise.

"The sky is the limit for this team when we have all hands on deck," Scott said. "It's crazy what this team can do because the potential is there."

Last year, the Rebels were hurting after a 66-31 thumping served up by the Longhorns inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The same place they were greeted by a devoted group of fans early Sunday morning was the same place Texas nearly laid them to rest a year earlier.

It's a different time at Ole Miss. The Rebels are ranked No. 21 in The Associated Press poll. They own the SEC's No. 4 offense (490 yards per game) and defense (332.7). Next weekend, this team will travel to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama in a game that will bring major attention and could have major SEC West implications.

All these positive vibes have the Rebels beaming, but they also understand that they have to move on from Saturday's win. As Freeze says, they have to "throw it in the trash" and prepare for what's next. This team is far from perfect and feeling too good about this victory could cause the Rebels to lose sight of a season that is still very long.

"We definitely have some confidence, but at the same time we can't let ourselves be too overconfident," Wallace said. "But we have a mature team, and I don't think we'll have any problems with that."

For Freeze, Saturday's victory was special because of where he saw the program upon his arrival. Academic and discipline issues rocked a team full of potential. Now, the distractions have dissipated, the discipline has increased and players are producing.

"It' definitely a big step in the right direction," Freeze said. "If you were to tell me on my first day on the job that we would have gone to a place like Texas and pull off a win at their place, it probably would have been difficult for me to believe at that point. So I do think that it is a sign that we're moving in the right direction."

Player of the Week: SEC

September, 16, 2013
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Either of the quarterbacks from Saturday's Alabama-Texas A&M could make a compelling argument to be named the SEC's top performer of the week. After all, Alabama's AJ McCarron threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-42 win, while Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel was as electric as ever in compiling 562 total yards and five scores.

But let's go a different direction with this week's pick: Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott, who helped the Rebels get off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1989.

Ole Miss hammered reeling Texas 44-23 -- in Austin no less -- with the speedy back dominating on the ground and dealing the Longhorns a crushing blow by returning a punt 73 yards for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter.

The Rebels earned an enormous program-building victory by outscoring Texas 27-0 in the second half, and Scott's running ability was a key factor. The 5-foot-7 speedster took handoff after handoff on speed option running plays that Texas had no answer for, with Scott compiling 164 rushing yards, one touchdown and averaging 8.6 yards per carry.

The biggest play of the night was probably Scott's punt return, however. It was still a one-score game at 31-23 late in the third quarter when Scott caught an Anthony Fera punt at his own 27 and immediately slithered away from a pack of four Longhorns to break into the open field. Similar to his game-winning 75-yard touchdown run late in Week 1 against Vanderbilt, Scott managed to slip multiple tackle attempts and then turned on his impressive speed to turn in a highlight-reel touchdown.

Ole Miss' victory garnered only a fraction of the attention that Alabama's win in College Station received, but it's as big a win as the Rebels have earned in years -- and Scott was one of the leading factors in his team's toppling one of the traditional powers in the sport.

SEC players of the week

September, 16, 2013
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Here are the SEC players of the week as announced by the league Monday:

OFFENSIVE: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
  • Completed 20 of 29 passes for a career-high 334 yards with four touchdowns, which tied a career-best for McCarron. His 5-yard pass to Jalston Fowler with 2:28 to play put Alabama up 49-35 and proved to be game-winner.
  • He had touchdown passes of 22, 44 and 51 yards.
  • He's now second all time at Alabama for passing yardage (passing Brodie Croyle) with 6,400 yards.
DEFENSIVE: Ego Ferguson, DE, LSU
  • Led LSU with eight tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, in the 45-13 win over Kent State. The eight tackles set a career-high for the first-year starter.
  • Anchored an LSU defense that held Kent State to just 58 rushing yards and 248 total yards.
  • LSU held Kent State to 4 of 14 on third-down conversions and just 1.8 yards per rush.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jeff Scott, PR/RB, Ole Miss
  • Returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown in Ole Miss' 44-23 victory at Texas.
  • Finished with a career-high 243 all-purpose yards, including a career-high 164 rushing yards and another touchdown.
  • The punt return score marked the second of his career.
  • He moved into fourth on the school’s all-purpose yardage list with 3,421 yards.
FRESHMAN: Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
  • Rushed 25 times for 115 yards and one touchdown in 24-3 win over Southern Miss.
  • First freshman in SEC history and first true freshman in NCAA since Adrian Peterson in 2004 to begin career with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
  • His touchdown capped a 14-play, 81-yard drive in the fourth quarter that featured eight rushes for 38 yards, an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
  • He leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally with 418 rushing yards this season, and his average of 139.9 rushing yards per game is second in the SEC and eighth nationally.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Clayton Stadnik, C, South Carolina
  • Making his second consecutive start for the injured Cody Waldrop, Stadnik graded out at 82 percent, playing all 87 snaps at center in the 35-25 win over Vanderbilt.
  • The Gamecock offensive line did not give up a quarterback sack or quarterback hurry while rolling up 579 yards of offense, the second-highest total in the Steve Spurrier era.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
  • Recorded career-high three sacks as part of five-tackle performance with two quarterback hurries in Arkansas' win over Southern Miss.
  • Had two sacks on Southern Miss’ final drive of the second quarter with Golden Eagles at midfield to preserve a seven-point Arkansas lead going into halftime.
  • His three sacks tied for highest single-game output this season.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
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With another Saturday in the books, it's time to check out the best of the best from the day that was in the SEC:

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: So much for being a game manager. When Texas A&M forced Alabama to throw the ball early, McCarron had no problem slinging the ball around, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. McCarron had no issue throwing downfield in the second half, either, as he finished the game with 334 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing in Alabama's 49-42 win over the Aggies. He orchestrated some superb drives late, and his beautiful play-action touchdown pass to Jalston Fowler proved to be the game winner.

Alex Collins/Jonathan Williams, RBs, Arkansas: For the third straight game, each rushed for more than 100 yards. Williams ran for a game-high 116 yards and Collins followed with 115 in the 24-3 win over Southern Miss. It marked the first time in school history the Razorbacks had multiple 100-yard rushers in the first three games of the season. Each also scored a touchdown. Collins became the first freshman in SEC history to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career games and the first true freshman in the NCAA since Adrian Peterson in 2004.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Sure, the Aggies lost a thriller at home, but Evans made Alabama's secondary look silly all day. He outmuscled guys for passes and showed some good speed on his 95-yard touchdown catch-and-run, which was the longest offensive play against Alabama in 10 years. Evans finished the game with seven catches for a school-record 279 yards and a touchdown.

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: He grew up right in front of our eyes Saturday night, throwing for a career-high 339 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The newcomer had some shaky moments, but he looked like a veteran leading the Tigers on their last-minute, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Down 20-17 to Mississippi State, coach Gus Malzahn put the game in Marshall's hands and asked him to drive 88 yards with less than two minutes remaining. Marshall completed six of his eight passes for 66 yards, including the 11-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left. He also scrambled 11 yards for the first down on a third-and-10 at the Bulldogs' 25-yard line. It was the first SEC win for Auburn in its past 11 tries.

Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss: Scott rushed for a career-high 164 yards and had a touchdown against Texas. He also sealed the Rebels' 44-23 win with a 73-yard punt return that went for a touchdown late in the third quarter to give Ole Miss a 37-23 lead. This was the ninth career 100-yard rushing game and the second of the season for Scott.

Rebels notch signature win for Freeze

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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AUSTIN, Texas – Before the final seconds ticked off, the chants came raining down.

“S-E-C! S-E-C!”

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBo Wallace and Ole Miss diced up the Texas defense to give Rebels coach Hugh Freeze a signature victory.
When the game did end, the Ole Miss players sprinted to the southeast corner of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium where their fans waited. Together, they bellowed out "Hotty Toddy" so loud they nearly drowned out Smokey’s nearby cannon fire.

Coach Hugh Freeze had been waiting for that signature win to pin his program’s ascent upon. Saturday night, he got it, as Ole Miss repaid the Longhorns by hammering them on their home field, 44-23.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Freeze, who pointed to this game a measuring stick after losing to Texas by five touchdowns last season. “We didn’t take six steps tonight. We just took one.”

But what a step it was.

Until Saturday, Ole Miss’ biggest victory under Freeze had been a 17-point win over reeling Mississippi State in last year’s Egg Bowl.

Sure, the Longhorns are a team in turmoil. Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz earlier in the week and was forced to play backup quarterback Case McCoy with starter David Ash ailing with head and shoulder injuries.

But beating Texas in Austin still counts for something. And not only did the Rebels beat the Longhorns, they beat them up. In the second half, it was Ole Miss delivering the hits, and Texas taking them.

All told, the Rebels racked up 272 yards on the ground and shut down the Longhorns’ running game after halftime to pull away.

“At half, we just said, ‘Hey, I know we’re young, but let’s go out and play our base defense and see if our kids can compete,’” Freeze said. “Just line up and play base.”

Ole Miss didn’t do anything special offensively, either. Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace simply operated the zone reads to perfection, and tailback Jeff Scott dashed through Texas defenders around the edge.

Behind superb blocking from the Ole Miss offensive line and wideouts, Scott piled up 164 yards on 19 carries, then returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to send Texas fans scurrying through the exits for Sixth Street.

“I think we had a great game plan,” Wallace said. “Our coaches studied it and knew we had a great game plan. It was on us to execute it.”

Wallace executed the game plan with unyielding precision. He rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown out of the zone read, finishing off the TD with a nifty spin move. Wallace also completed 17 of 25 passes for 177 and two touchdowns without an interception.

Wallace’s trust with hotshot true freshman wideout Laquon Treadwell only grew as the game wore on, too. With Ole Miss clinging to a 24-23 lead in the third quarter, Wallace found Treadwell 11 yards downfield to convert a third-and-6. Two plays later, Wallace connected with Treadwell for an 18-yard completion on the other side of the field, setting up an Ole Miss touchdown to give the Rebels the momentum back for good.

“We never got it back,” Brown said.

While the Longhorns are having to lower their expectations by the week, the undefeated Rebels are raising theirs.

“No doubt,” Wallace said. “Seven, eight wins, I don’t think that’s good enough. We’re talented enough to win more games.”

Such talk underscores which direction this Ole Miss program is heading. Since 1971, the Rebels have reached double-digit wins just once, when Eli Manning quarterbacked them in ’03.

But even in the rugged SEC West, these Rebels have their sights set high. And during postgame interviews, the conversation quickly changed from beating Texas to challenging top-ranked Alabama on the road in two weeks.

“It’s huge,” Wallace said. “’Bama will be hostile and fun. But those are the kind of games we want to play in.”

First, Ole Miss and its fans will enjoy this one. Until Freeze arrived, wins like this had been few and far between. But the way the Rebels played in Austin, many more appear to be on the way.

“For some of the times that our fans have gone through,” Freeze said, “and now to be in these games and them leaving the stadium very happy – it’s a great satisfaction.”

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