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October 1, 2012
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze looks back at Alabama, ahead to Texas A&M
OXFORD, Miss. -- Bo Wallace said Monday he's never taken the starting quarterback position for granted.
After two more interceptions in Saturday's 33-14 loss at No. 1 Alabama, Wallace knows he's going to have to win the job all over again this week.
"I think as close as the race was the whole time, I've always thought Barry (Brunetti) was right on my back," Wallace said. "It's just the same week for me."
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels' offensive staff will work hard this week to "find out who prepares the best, who feels the most confident with the offensive gameplan and then who can go out and hopefully take our football team and move us down the field or at least not put our defense in bad positions time and time again.
"Interceptions are part of the game, and as a quarterback, you've got to have a short memory and you've got to forget about them and you've got to move on and all of that, but if it's a reoccurring pattern on bad decisions or bad throws, then I think we as coaches have got to explore other avenues."
Wallace has completed 70 of 112 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. However, Wallace has thrown six interceptions, five of which have come in losses to Texas and Alabama.
"The thing that's most frustrating is I think I'm playing solid," Wallace said. "It's just the one or two mistakes that I'm making are crucial and are just absolutely killing us. It's not like I'm missing open guys or anything like that. The mistakes I'm making are turning the ball over, which ends up getting us beat."
Both of Wallace's interceptions in Tuscaloosa came in the second quarter, helping Alabama turn a 7-6 deficit into a 27-7 halftime lead.
"I got greedy on one and then I was trying to make a play on third-and-15 when you're probably not going to get a third-and-15 conversion against Alabama anyway," Wallace said. "So just burn it and punt the ball. I think my problem right now is coaches say punting is a good thing, which in my head right now the last couple of games, it hasn't been, 'Punting is a good thing.' I'm just trying to do too much."
Freeze said there will be "more competition this week, absolutely," leading up to Saturday's 6 p.m. home date with Texas A&M.
Freeze obviously broke that news to Wallace Sunday when the Rebels began preparations for the Aggies. Brunetti, who lost the race for the starting job in August, is 19-for-27 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
"No one feels worse about it than (Wallace) does, but at the same time, in our meetings yesterday, he understands it's got to stop," Freeze said.
Wallace admitted Monday that he must start focusing more in practice on "burning" the football in critical situations, meaning throwing it away or taking a loss when there's no open receiver as opposed to trying to force a positive play when there isn't one to be had.
"It's very hard," Wallace said. "It's very tough for me. Last year (at East Mississippi Community College), it'd be third-and-20 and we'd end up getting that conversion. I guess we'd out-athlete guys and things like that. Here, you can't really do that. This is big-boy ball and I just have to burn them."
AGGIES PRESENT 'TOTALLY DIFFERENT CHALLENGE': Texas A&M (3-1 overall, 1-1 in the SEC) operates a much different type of offense than the one the Rebels faced in Tuscaloosa.
"This is a whole different beast this week," Freeze said. "They're going to try to spread you and put you on an island and expose that they're better athletes than you, and they've had great success at doing that. It's two totally different animals and two totally different systems. For us, it's very concerning."
MIRROR IMAGES: Texas A&M operates a scheme that is quite similar to the one Ole Miss operates under Freeze.
"We can make ours look exactly like theirs," Freeze said. "Kevin (Sumlin) and I are friends. I don't like playing friends particularly, but you've got to do it. He'll want to beat us badly, and we'll want to get our win also. We do a lot of the same stuff. We probably do a little more stuff than he does because I feel like we have to, but if you get athletes that you have confidence can win a lot of one-on-ones and a quarterback (freshman Johnny Manziel) like he's got, you really don't have to do a lot more than they do. They do what they do and they do it very, very well, but we're very similar."
The Aggies are No. 1 in the SEC in scoring offense (48.2 points per game), No. 2 in total offense (525.8 yards per game) and passing offense (315.2 yards per game) and fifth in rushing offense (210.5 yards per game).
Manziel's ability to extend plays, Freeze said, is most impressive on film.
"He's got great speed and all of those things, but at the end of the day, the guy finds a way to extend play after play after play," Freeze said. "It ends up being a dagger to you. He extends it and scores touchdowns. That's the most concerning thing."
NKEMDICHE HONORED: After a stellar performance against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, Ole Miss redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week by the league office Monday. He shared the honor with Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings.
Nkemdiche racked up a career-high 11 tackles against the Crimson Tide. Three of those tackles were for a loss, including a quarterback sack that set the Tide back 10 yards. He also forced two Alabama fumbles.
The Loganville, Ga., native led a Rebel defense that limited the Tide to season lows in points and yards, holding them 120 yards below their season average heading into the game. The Rebels allowed just six points after halftime.
Nkemdiche leads Ole Miss and all SEC freshmen with 6.0 TFLs and also tops the team in tackles and sacks. It was the first SEC weekly honor of his career.
QUOTEWORTHY: "I think our confidence is up. We know we can play with anybody on our schedule that we have on the rest of our schedule. It's about going out there, taking care of the football and making plays." - Wallace, on the Rebels' confidence in the wake of the loss at Alabama.
QUOTEWORTHY, PART II: "Nah, I think I'm still sewed up at running back." -- Randall Mackey, on whether he would be involved in the competition for the quarterback job this week.
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Freeze said he had heard from several commitments on Sunday, all essentially saying the same thing in the wake of the loss at Alabama. "They were pleased," Freeze said. "They feel like everything you're telling them we can get done here, now they're starting to see some evidence that if we can add some quality depth to us, the journey gets much faster. It's been a very good response thus far." Kickoff for Ole Miss' Oct. 13 homecoming game against the Auburn Tigers has been set for 11:21 a.m. CT, the SEC announced Monday. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
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