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Freeze pleased with season opener, looks ahead to UTEP

Hugh Freeze took the podium on Monday to talk about his team’s 49-27 win against Central Arkansas on Saturday. Freeze was happy with the effort his team gave, but he knows they have a lot to improve before welcoming the UTEP Miners to Oxford on Saturday.
Thomas Granning/The Daily Mississippian

 
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference, and the first-year head coach was pleased with his team’s effort Saturday but knows there were some mistakes that have to be fixed before next Saturday rolls around. 
 
“Thrilled to see our kids excited the other night with a victory,” Freeze said. “It’s been a while since some of them experienced that, and it was a very fun locker room to be a part of.
 
“It was a great atmosphere last Saturday night. It’s a memory for a lifetime for me, and it’s one that I’ll treasure forever.” 
 
The Rebels practiced Sunday, and Freeze said that it was a productive practice and that the players seemed to “enjoy the day.”
 
“Hopefully we corrected some mistakes we needed to correct going to this week’s game,” Freeze said. 
 
Defensive line better than it appeared
 
Ole Miss struggled to contain the Central Arkansas running game during the first half Saturday, and it appeared that the defensive line was getting pushed back and beaten by the Bears’ offensive linemen. 
 
After watching the tape from Saturday, Freeze said that wasn’t the case. 
 
“They were really doing a good job in the first half even though it didn’t seem like it,” Freeze said. “I thought they played extremely well after looking at the film and getting the grades.”
 
Three of the players Freeze singled out for playing well on the line were defensive ends C.J. Johnson, Cameron Whigham, and Jason Jones. The defensive tackles “were about the same,” Freeze said. 
 
The Rebels rotated in a large number of defensive linemen Saturday, and while that’ll be cut down eventually, Freeze expects that to continue against UTEP. 
 
“We played six interior guys and six defensive ends, so (we) played a lot of guys up front,” Freeze said. “We can’t always play 12 guys, but I anticipate it being the same this week.”
 
Looking ahead to UTEP
 
As Ole Miss was polishing off a 49-27 victory over Central Arkansas, UTEP was hanging in with the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners Saturday night in El Paso, Texas. The Miners hung close with Oklahoma before the Sooners pulled away late for a 24-7 win. 
 
“I was hopeful I would put on the film and see a team that maybe isn’t playing with great passion, but that could be farther from the truth,” Freeze said. “Coach (Mike) Price has got those guys playing with a lot of passion and heart, and they got after one of the best teams in our country last weekend.”
 
The Miners recorded three sacks and ran for 207 yards against Oklahoma.
 
“We’ve got our hands full with them, particularly with their defensive line and their skill positions,” Freeze said. “They’ve got a tremendous tailback, and their defensive line is very, very talented. It’s going to be great a challenge.”
 
The tailback that Freeze referred to is Nathan Jeffrey, who was named Conference-USA Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 177 yards against Oklahoma and returning a blocked punt for a touchdown. 
 
C.J. Johnson earns SEC weekly honor
 
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - After a strong season-opening performance against Central Arkansas, Ole Miss sophomore C.J. Johnson was honored as the Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week by the league office Monday. 
 
The defensive end from Philadelphia, Miss., notched six tackles and a sack in helping the Rebels defeat the Bears 49-27. 
 
With Ole Miss up just one score in the fourth quarter, Johnson’s sack ended a UCA drive and provided momentum that resulted in three straight Rebel touchdown drives to seal the win. He led an Ole Miss defense that limited UCA to just one second-half score. 
 
It is the first SEC weekly honor of Johnson’s career and the first for a Rebel since Bobby Massie was named Offensive Lineman of the Week after the Louisiana-Lafayette game in 2010.
 
Injury notes
 
Freshman defensive tackle Issac Gross – who missed most of the game after getting “kneed in the calf,” according to Freeze – was back at workouts on Sunday. Senior running back Randall Mackey battled an illness during Saturday’s game and is feeling better after receiving medicine on Sunday. 
 
Junior running back Jeff Scott, who missed Saturday’s opener with a lower back injury, is still not pain free but should be “ready to go” on Saturday, according to Freeze. 
 
Sophomore wide receiver Collins Moore -- who is trying to play through a torn labrum -- “will be let loose” during practice this week to see how he responds. A decision on whether he needs surgery will come no later than after next weekend’s game against Texas. 
 
Ole Miss Sports Information contributed to this report.
 
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