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Rebels take next step

For the first time since 2010, Ole Miss players and fans could celebrate a Southeastern Conference win, as the Rebels snapped a 16-game conference losing streak with a 41-20 win over Auburn. Ole Miss has a bye week before taking on Arkansas in Little Rock.
Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 
It had been 741 days since Ole Miss had the opportunity to celebrate a Southeastern Conference win. A lot has changed since then, most notably a coaching change that saw Hugh Freeze take the reins of the football program. 
 
On Saturday afternoon, Freeze earned the first SEC win of his young coaching career and Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2 SEC) ended a 16-game conference losing streak in a 41-20 win against Auburn (1-5, 0-4 SEC). 
 
“Obviously, words really cannot describe the feeling in that locker room and in the stadium,” Freeze said. “For the better part of two and a half years, the Rebel fans and students and players and administration have had to put up with some disappointing times. 
 
“We’re not there yet, nor do we think we are, but today, we were. We were good enough in four quarters to win an SEC game. We’re sure we sound overly emotional, but one of the things our staff wants so badly to give to the Rebel fans is some good times.”
 
After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M a week earlier, no one really knew how the Rebels would respond.
 
With just over five minutes to go in the first half, Ole Miss had answered those questions, quickly jumping out to an early 14-0 lead when sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace scored his first touchdown of the day when he caught a 25-yard pass from senior running back Randall Mackey on a trick play. Sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson then fell on a ball in the end zone for a touchdown after the Auburn center snapped the ball over the head of junior quarterback Clint Moseley. 
 
“When it was coming down, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to catch this ball,’” Wallace said of his touchdown catch.
 
The Tigers responded with 17 unanswered points, including a pair of touchdowns on the ground from sophomore running back Tre Mason, who scored on runs of one yard and six yards, and a field goal, before Ole Miss tacked on a Bryson Rose field goal of its own to tie things going into halftime. 
 
Ole Miss had the first possession in the second half and took full advantage of it, going 73 yards in four plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Wallace. 
 
Auburn and Ole Mis exchanged a pair of field goals, but the Rebels couldn’t seem to put the Tigers away. The tension in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium kept elevating until Ole Miss got its break.
 
With around five minutes left to play, Wallace found junior running back Jeff Scott on a 55-yard touchdown pass. Scott looked like he was going to be brought to the ground, but he rolled over the Auburn defender and scampered to the end zone for the score.
 
“We’ll just call that touchdown Jesus,” Freeze said. “But that’s what you do. You play until the whistle blows, and that’s what he did. I never feel good about replays, but I had a total peace about that one. I don’t know why. I just felt like ‘this one is going for us,’ and it did.”
 
Scott said he knew the play was important and was just trying to make a play for his team.
 
“I thought about two years ago when Auburn was playing in the National Championship and the same thing happened to Michael Dyer, so when he turned me over I just tried to push up and kept running,” Scott said. “I didn’t hear a whistle, so I just kept running.”
 
Ole Miss secured the victory when junior linebacker Mike Marry intercepted Moseley on the first play of the drive and returned it 38 yards to the Auburn 31-yard line. 
 
“We were in man coverage, and as the strong-side linebacker, I had the running back,” Marry said. “(The running back) went to the other side, so I have the freedom to roam and just the quarterback’s eyes. The safeties and corners had everyone covered, so he had to try to force a play. He threw it almost right to me.”
 
Wallace put the game away with another touchdown run, this time from two yards out, to bring the score to 41-20. 
 
Wallace became the first player in Ole Miss history with a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. He finished 17-of-22 on the day for 226 yards and a touchdown and also carried the ball 15 times for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
 
“He was 17-for-22 and protected the football and also ran a couple of touchdowns,” Freeze said. “We had talked about improving things we were not doing well, and I think he’s making strides in the right direction.”
 
On the ground, the Rebels were once again led by Scott, who carried the ball 21 times for 137 yards. Scott also added three receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
 
“He’s a guy we’ve got to get the football and get touches,” Freeze said. “He’s proven to be a guy who takes care of the football when he is asked to carry it and to be effective in what we do with him. So we are real pleased with his game and his maturity.” 
 
The Rebels enter their bye week and will hit the road to take on SEC foe Arkansas in Little Rock the following week. Freeze is looking forward to hitting the recruiting trail and get some time for his team to rest up and heal after seven grinding weeks to start the season.
 
“I want to go recruit,” Freeze said. “I want to get on the road and go recruiting and see some guys, and I want to see our guys get healthy. This is a good time to have a break. We had some kids play today that are hurting, and I think it comes at a good time right now. Our staff wants to go recruit, and it is a great time to go recruit after winning an SEC game.”
 
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