Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The win against Pittsburgh in Birmingham showed how far Ole Miss has come in a single season. It also shows how far they have to go
There's not a lot Ole Miss fans could find not to like a three-touchdown win against Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Not a lot that any SEC fan could find not to like, come to think of it -- the conference had been 0-2 in its earlier voyages to Birmingham, having trouble winning the bowl game closest to the historic and geographic heart of the conference.
It was, quite simply, a microcosm of the progress that Hugh Freeze has made in his time in Oxford. The 385 yards of total offense might not have been all that impressive overall, but there were plenty of flashy and exciting plays that went into that mark. Bo Wallace was 22-of-32 for 151 yards and three touchdowns, and seven wide receivers had at least one catch.
But there were still plenty of tiny mistakes that show where Freeze still has some work to do. Going down to one knee on a catch close to the goal line, losing 21 yards on a snap that sailed over Barry Brunetti's head, the two interceptions that Wallace also threw. Ole Miss was penalized eight times in this game, sometimes in the most self-destructive fashion. Bryson Rose missed two field goals.
Of course, just getting Ole Miss to a bowl game of any fashion was a big enough accomplishment for the first season. No coach could be expected to take the Rebels from where they were last year to a well-oiled football machine in a little more than 12 months.
Freeze will have to do that if he's going to compete with the Alabamas and LSUs of the SEC West and win bigger bowls than the BBVA Compass. But so far, so good.