October 1, 2012 11:10:37 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's a new week for the University of Mississippi football team.
After a 33-14 loss to the University of Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Rebels (3-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) will face the SEC Western Division's newest member, Texas A&M University, Saturday in Oxford. Both teams will try for their first SEC win. And while Ole Miss didn't get that first league victory Saturday against the nation's top-ranked team, it showed the Crimson Tide are vulnerable.
"I couldn't be more proud of the effort from our kids," first-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told them that in the locker room. They laid it on the line against a very talented team, a very physical football team. We were short-handed at some spots and I couldn't be more pleased from the effort that was given from our young men tonight that represented Rebel nation and our great university very well. The disappointing thing was that we didn't do some of the little things to get our kids to have a chance later in the game.
"Our special teams were atrocious and we turned the football over, and we didn't have a good third-down plan on defense. We've got to go evaluate all of that because our kids deserved a little better outcome tonight from the way that they played."
Statistically, the game wasn't as lopsided as the final score would suggest. Ole Miss had 16 first downs, one shy of Alabama's 17. The Crimson Tide gained 305 yards on offense, compared to the 218 yards by Ole Miss.
Freeze alternated three quarterbacks, with Bo Wallace leading the team with 123 yards. But Wallace threw three interceptions and Randall Mackey had one interception. The turnovers proved costly.
"We had that plan," Freeze said. "We wanted to get into that Mackey stuff a little earlier, and we thought we had some good stuff. There at the end, we popped a good run with him. With Bo's shoulder, the way it was, we wanted to be careful not to do certain things with him and try and get him totally healthy. ... Barry (Brunetti) threw some nice balls at the end. I'm disappointed because I feel like we should have been in it in the fourth quarter. For whatever reason, we can go through all of them, we didn't get there, so the next step in this journey is to get there. ... I don't know if we'll win it or not, but it sure would feel good to play as a hard they're playing and get in one."
Wallace, a sophomore quarterback who led the East Mississippi Community College to the junior college national title last season, also said the turnovers were too much to overcome.
"They kill you," Wallace said. "They put our defense in a bad spot. I don't really have much else to say about it. I just killed my defense."
Alabama coach Nick Saban also praised Ole Miss after the game, implying his team may have underestimated the Rebels.
"It was a hard-fought win for us, and we are happy for our team to be able to get a win," Saban said. "I don't think the people give Ole Miss enough credit. They are really playing well. They play hard. They are very physical, a complete turnaround. Their offense is difficult to defend with the no huddle situation and the perimeter speed that they have. We knew this would be a tough game. You have to give Ole Miss a lot of credit. They played hard and with a lot of toughness. We had a lot of respect for their team coming into this, but nobody really listens to me until after the fact, and they say, 'Yeah, you were right.' "
Alabama (5-0, 2-0) will have a bye week before it travels to Columbia, Mo., to face the University of Missouri.