Ole Miss vs. Arkansas: Two Straight SEC Wins Huge Boost of Confidence for Rebels
Bryson Rose’s 31-yard field goal as time expired in the Rebels’ Week 9 game against Arkansas was more than just a game-winning kick.
Yes, Rose’s successful boot sealed Ole Miss’ first road win over the Razorbacks since 2008, and when coupled with last week’s win over Auburn, it marks the Rebels’ first back-to-back SEC wins since 2009.
Furthermore, before Saturday’s win over the Hogs, Ole Miss hadn’t knocked off two SEC West foes in consecutive weeks since a similar two-win combination over Arkansas and Auburn in 2008.
And this is all an even huger deal when you remember that coming into 2012 the Rebels hadn’t won a conference game since besting Kentucky 42-35 in Oxford way back on Oct. 2, 2010.
If you’re wondering when the last time Ole Miss took down an SEC West foe, how about Nov. 21 2009 when it edged LSU in a narrow 25-23 decision.
And finally, the last time the Rebels knocked off an SEC foe on the road? Oct. 3, 2009 when they beat Vandy 23-7 in Nashville.
All this makes it crystal clear that Rose’s Week 9 kick sealed not just a 30-27 win over Arkansas, it signaled a new era for both Ole Miss enthusiasts and their beloved program that carries with it the shame of a 6-18 record from 2010-11.
Yes, now Rebel fans can come out from the hazy shadows of the Houston Nutt era, donning their spirit beads, and begin to fall back in love with the sport that did them so wrong in 2011.
Additional reason for celebration is found by looking at the stats that lie delicately beneath Ole Miss’ 5-3 overall record and their 2-2 mark thus far in SEC play.
And these numbers are especially striking when you stack them up against the Rebels statistical resume from just a year ago.
To illustrate, what was the No. 116 scoring offense from 2011 has morphed into the No. 44 ranked unit this year. To further quantify, Ole Miss averaged 16.1 points per game last season and are scoring, on average, 32.7 in 2012.
On the other side of the ball, we find that what in 2011 was the No. 96 ranked scoring D in the FBS is ranked No. 64 through eight games in 2012. Breaking this down further, we’re looking at a team that gave up 32.1 points per game in 2011 and has allowed 26.6 this season.
This is truly a team and a program transformed not by a fresh shot in the arm of new recruits or a new stadium—this is a squad under a full blown football revival orchestrated by a new coaching staff led by Hugh Freeze.
Though there were no doubt sexier choices for the opening at SEC based Ole Miss this past offseason, Freeze cashed in on a 20-5 mark over two years at NAIA Lambuth and a 10-2 record in 2011 at Arkansas State (a Sun Belt member) for a shot at the big time.
And thus far, he’s wasted nary a moment of his big opportunity.
Freeze’s very early success at Ole Miss, a job that is among the most challenging in BCS ball, makes you wonder about one of the age-old controversies in team sports.
This specific debate is all about whether it’s better to hire a proven, big-name coach or instead take your chances on an up-and-comer who doesn’t have any big-time wins/losses on his resume.
It’s the choice between guys like Charlie Weis or Tommy Tuberville vs. unknowns like Brady Hoke and Dana Holgorsen.
Though it will be the long-term success of the Rebels that will ultimately deem Freeze’s hiring as the “right” choice, you can’t deny the success of his short-term revival project in Oxford.
And this is all underscored by a seemingly insignificant 31-yard field goal for a Week 9 win in Little Rock, Ark.
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