University of Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze won’t take a lot from watching the film of the University of Texas’ 40-21 loss to Brigham Young University.
Once a highly regarded preseason top 10 team by some publications, Texas allowed 550 rushing yards and 679 total yards Saturday in a loss to BYU that cost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, a former assistant coach at Mississippi State University, his job.
Freeze expects a much different team when Ole Miss and Texas play at 7 p.m. Saturday (Longhorn Network) in Austin, Texas.
“We’re excited to be 2-0 and to be going to Austin,” Freeze said Monday at his weekly media gathering. “It will be a great atmosphere, and they will have a chip on their shoulder. Texas will be ready to prove that they are better than they performed last week. We understand what we’ll get from them.
“We’ll have to challenge our kids to see if we can raise our game and match their level of intensity.”
Initially, a schedule that featured four of the first five games on the road appeared daunting for Ole Miss. Thanks to a road victory at Vanderbilt University and a 31-13 home victory against Southeast Missouri State University on Saturday, Ole Miss moved into the national rankings — No. 25 in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls.
Ole Miss will try to avenge a 66-31 loss to Texas last year in a nationally televised rout in Oxford.
“This football team has grown up a lot since (the Texas defeat in 2012),” Ole Miss junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. “Our home crowd was great, but the guys really struggled with playing the big-time game. This time will be a lot different because we are ready to play this type of game.”
Ole Miss will be looking for its first 3-0 start since 1989. A year ago, the Rebels were 2-0 before the loss to the Longhorns. Freeze feels his squad doesn’t have an advantage playing a traditional power on the road. However, he believes his second team is better equipped to compete.
“It’s hard to say (where Ole Miss has an advantage),” Freeze said. “We’re deeper at some spots, and mentally I do think we are further along. I think having year and a half with Bo (Wallace) playing is good. After Texas last year, he played some very big games at good places in the league, so I believe that has got to better prepare him for Saturday’s game. We think that the same goes for the rest of our team. I feel confident we’re better prepared. I’m confident we’re better prepared both mentally and physically.”
Ole Miss build a 31-0 halftime lead against Southeast Missouri. The Rebels played reserves for the majority of the second half against the Football Championship Series-member Red Hawks.
“It felt really good to play a home game,” Wallace said. “Our energy level and focus was where it needed to be to start the game. We did a lot of things well but we didn’t finish like we needed to. The important thing is winning the game and learning from the mistakes. Hopefully, we will benefit from that experience and be ready to play four quarters against a very good team Saturday.”
Freeze said defensively his team’s emphasis is on not allowing easy scores.
“We have allowed two (this season) that resonate on my mind,” Freeze said. “We had one of those the other night. Hopefully we can stop the run. That’ll be our goal going in. We were not able to do that last year against them. We’ve got to be able to stop the run and not give up the easy score. They have some weapons and a lot of speed. They can also certainly throw it over the top of you any time. Hopefully we get a couple turnovers and we don’t give up the easy play.”
After playing Texas, Ole Miss has an open date. Freeze feels like this game and the time off will pay huge dividends when Southeastern Conference play resumes with back-to-back games at No. 1 University of Alabama and Auburn University.
“It’ll be a hostile environment, and we have to prepare for several in a row,” Freeze said. “But it’ll be a good experience, and I know our kids and coaches are looking forward to it and we’re ready to go.”
n In other Ole Miss news, defensive back Charles Sawyer was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with DUI and running a stop sign.
Offseason surgery on his rotator cuff had slowed the senior’s progress this season. Sawyer played sparingly against Vanderbilt and was held out of the Southeast Missouri game to have him healthy and ready for Texas.
Freeze said he will meet with Sawyer to discuss his punishment.
“He’s left me a message,” Freeze said. “He is very emotional and disappointed in himself, and we’re disappointed in his decision. Young kids make mistakes. He’s one of the finest kids on our team, but he made a mistake and there will be consequences. We’ll make a decision in house. I’ve never discussed what the consequences are, and I’ll make the decision that’s best for our team and hopefully correct future decisions we all make.”
n In related news, Daje Johnson, a big playmaker for the Texas offense, will miss the game with a sprained left ankle.
Johnson scored two touchdowns in a season-opening victory against New Mexico State University, but he was injured on the third play of a 40-21 loss at Brigham Young University. Johnson’s ankle twisted awkwardly when his leg was pinned under a defender.
Quarterback David Ash, who left the game in the fourth quarter after injuring his right shoulder and taking a knock to the head, is still being evaluated for the game.
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.