Hugh Freeze was hired at Ole Miss not for his defensive wizardry.
It was his offense.
There was noticeable improvement at the beginning of the 2012 season largely because of scheme and opposition. Soon personnel played into that improvement also.
Ultimately Ole Miss showed an offense that overcame a lull in the running game — three straight games with less than 100 yards — to play its best ball at the end of the season.
Now the Rebels open with a 39-35 win over Vanderbilt in which they totaled 489 yards.
Dating back to last year’s LSU game, a 41-35 loss in Baton Rouge, the Rebels are 3-1 with three straight wins. Here’s a look at the offensive averages over the last four games for Ole Miss:
Total Yards: 466.5
Rushing Yards: 202.5
Passing Yards: 264.0
Passing Touchdowns: 10
Rushing Touchdowns: 10
Fumbles Lost: 2
The Rebels rushed for 206 yards against Vanderbilt, 75 of them on Jeff Scott’s winning run. The run game, lacking I’Tavius Mathers who Freeze says boosts the inside running effort, was effective in spurts in Nashville.
Without his 75-yard run Scott had 11 carries for 63 yards, an average of 5.72 yards per carry.
Bo Wallace was the team’s second-leading rusher — as he was in the final stats in 2012 — with 18 carries for 70 gross rushing yards. After 48 lost yards on four sacks was added, Wallace had 48 net rushing yards.
It’s important to break it down that way, because on 18 plays Wallace was going forward to the tune of almost 4 yards a carry. Two of those plays resulted in short touchdown runs.
The other four plays are the reason the Rebels trailed 21-10 at halftime.
Offensive production, on the up tick lately, likely won’t go down this week against Southeast Missouri State.
It should be a confident group that goes to Texas on Sept. 14 to face a Longhorns team that won easily on opening night, defeating New Mexico State 56-7, but gave up 346 yards in the process.