November 9, 2014 12:45:13 AM
OXFORD -- Shortly after a pair of heartbreaking losses that tarnished a 7-0 start and a No. 3 ranking in the poll, Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze made a promise to himself and his Rebels.
"I promised to stay the course and not be discouraged," Freeze said, "so I'm happy to have eight wins and be sitting where we are. It's a happy locker room today."
Ole Miss (8-2) appeared to be emotionally healthy Saturday in a 48-0 win against Presbyterian College. The Rebels ran up 640 yards of total offense, highlighted by Bo Wallace, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, exclusively in the first half.
Wallace was 11 for 15 for 140 yards, including scoring strikes of 66 and 23 yards to former Noxubee County High School standout Vincent Sanders and ran for a 9-yard score. Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson rushed for 171 and 128 yards, respectively, accounting for three touchdowns.
"The two that jumped out to everyone were Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson," Freeze said. "Their downhill run was very impressive today. I'm impressed with what we saw, for sure."
Dodson scored on first half runs of 65 and 62 yards. In the second half, Wilkins scored on a 73-yard run and DeVante Kincade threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Jones.
"I felt like we played really well," Wallace said. "I think we got everything accomplished that we wanted to get accomplished."
Safety Ed Britt led Presbyterian (5-5) with 13 tackles and an interception, but it couldn't answer the big plays from Ole Miss. The Blue Hose managed only 156 total yards and didn't cross the Rebels' 38-yard line.
The win, before an announced Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 60,546, snapped a two-game losing streak to LSU and Auburn. In both games, the Rebels had potential game-winning scores wiped out by turnovers on their final offensive series.
The two losses also redefined the depth chart. Eight starters didn't dress out or play, including a handful of postseason honors candidates. The most obvious was wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell, who dislocated an ankle and broke a leg on a fumble as he attempted to score against Auburn.
Ole Miss will have a bye week before closing with division games at Arkansas and No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs at home. A sweep would allow Ole Miss to keep faint hopes alive for an Southeastern Conference West title, an SEC Championship Game berth, and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
"We got to sit a few guys today and with a bye, we hope to be as healthy as we have been in a long time when we travel to Fayetteville," Freeze said. "We've just got to get better physically and work on some things for Arkansas."
Ole Miss must win and would still need an odd set of outcomes involving Auburn, Alabama, and MSU to make those title hopes a reality. But the Rebels remain convinced anything is still possible.
"You can yield to outside sources and pressures and different things when things aren't exactly what everybody wants them to be or you can yield to something bigger than yourself," Freeze said. I thought our kids handled the week very, very well."
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