OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI Sports) – The expectations were higher than they had been in a while this summer in Oxford. Head coach Hugh Freeze showed what his Rebels were capable of in 2012, winning the Egg Bowl and getting to a bowl game.
This season young talent was a talking point with freshmen like defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, wideout Laquon Treadwell and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. And despite the younger Nkemdiche being injured, they didn’t disappoint.
Neither did junior quarterback Bo Wallace, and a lot was on his shoulders, which weren’t 100% healthy.
Vanderbilt was test number one. Jeff Scott had a memorable, go-ahead touchdown run. The Rebels handled Southeast Missouri next before beginning a four-week road stretch.
First, at Texas, the Rebels were nationally ranked in the top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season. Jeff Scott led the way with over 200 total yards.
The first blemish came in Tuscaloosa. No team handled the Rebels’ offense like No. 1 Alabama did.
In October, the nation didn’t know how good Auburn was going to be. It was a bit of a surprise when the Tigers took down Ole Miss on the Plains. It also knocked the Rebels out of the national rankings. Injuries, particularly defensively, were taking their toll on Ole Miss.
A scare for Johnny Football and Texas A&M in Oxford but the upset came on Oct. 19. LSU entered ranked sixth in the nation. Ole Miss wasn’t phased.
Idaho, Arkansas and Troy fell at the hands of the Rebels in succession. The Rebels broke a school total yards record and notched their seventh win of the year.
The end to the regular season, though, wasn’t what the Rebels had hoped for. Missouri entered ranked eighth in the country, the second surprise SEC team to beat Ole Miss.
The Egg Bowl was a defensive struggle, a Thanksgiving dessert with little offensive flair. Bo Wallace was held in check and threw three interceptions. The Rebels defensive played well but not well enough to stop an overtime drive led by Dak Prescott. In the end it’s a Wallace fumble that seals the Rebels’ fate and returns the Golden Egg to Starkville.
But a chance for win number eight in the Music City Bowl, a trip to Nashville to play Georgia Tech. It wasn’t pretty, but a strong outing from Wallace and a great defensive performance helped the Rebels keep the nation’s longest bowl win streak alive.
There’s more promise for 2014. With so many young guys seeing playing time, it appears the high hopes won’t be lowered in Oxford come August.