Hugh Freeze shared secrets at his regular press conference Monday.
His Ole Miss teams have beaten Alabama the last two years. It’s such a rarity for a Nick Saban-coached team to lose to anyone back-to-back that many have asked why?
Freeze will try to become the first SEC coach to beat Saban three straight years when No. 1 Alabama and No. 19 Ole Miss meet Saturday afternoon at 2:30 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Last fall Freeze joined LSU’s Les Miles and Florida’s Steve Spurrier as SEC coaches to have beaten Saban in consecutive seasons.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
Timing and confidence have been the two most important elements in recent success, Freeze said.
“We all know their depth is better than a lot of people’s including ours,” Freeze said, “so playing them early is an advantage. We typically are as healthy as you can be. This year is a little different.”
The Rebels lost a starting cornerback and key running back reserve in Week 1. Last week they lost freshman wide receiver DK Metcalf, who had quickly become the top red zone threat.
The Rebels may be able to absorb the injuries, but depth has taken a hit in the process.
Ole Miss won a fairly low-scoring home game against Alabama in 2014, 23-17, and sealed it with a defensive play on former Pascagoula standout Senquez Golson’s interception. They Rebels won 43-37 in Tuscaloosa last year.
In both games they forced key turnovers.
The wheels of confidence against Alabama were set in motion in 2012, Freeze’s first season. Alabama won 33-14 in Tuscaloosa, but Freeze thought the Rebels delivered some big licks.
“We played a very physical game. We matched them blow-for-blow, not on the scoreboard, but blow-for-blow with physical play,” Freeze said. “That was something we had to do to compete, and our kids really drew a lot of confidence from that.”
Injury Update: There were two injuries of note in the Rebels’ 38-13 win over Wofford. Metcalf sustained a broken foot and is most likely out of the year.
Reserve defensive end Victor Evans sustained a concussion. He’ll play Saturday if he successfully completes the steps of “concussion protocol.” He already passed his first test.
Conner’s Anniversary: Senior nickel back Tony Conner was a projected late first-round draft pick when he sustained a torn meniscus against Alabama in Week 3 last season.
Conner struggled in pass coverage against Florida State and goes into the weekend with four tackles in two games.
He says he expects to get back up to speed as he gets more game action.
Facing the Giants: The last time Ole Miss faced a team ranked No. 1 in one of the major polls was 2014 against Alabama, a 23-17 Rebels victory.
The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 2 when the teams met in Tuscaloosa last year.
With Freeze as coach Ole Miss is 10-13 against ranked teams, 4-9 against top 10 teams and 3-4 against top five teams.
Who: Alabama at Ole Miss
When: 2:30 p.m.