Mississippi's heartbreaking loss to Auburn last weekend didn't just have a psychological effect on the Rebels. It also left them having to replace arguably the team's best offensive playmaker.
Sophomore receiver Laquon Treadwell is out for the season after breaking his left leg and dislocating his ankle in the final minutes of the Ole Miss' 35-31 loss to Auburn. Now the 12th-ranked Rebels (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) are trying to find a new lead receiver as they try to salvage their season.
The most obvious candidate is Vince Sanders, who has quietly had a very productive fall.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior is second on the team with 33 catches for 536 yards and four touchdowns and leads the team with 16.2 yards per catch. The Rebels host Presbyterian (5-4), a team that plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, on Saturday.
"Every time we've needed Vince to make a play he's made it, so I have confidence in our receivers," Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said. "I know they are going to make plays for me. It's going to hurt not having Laquon, but we still have a lot to play for this season."
Freeze said Sanders will be ready for his new role and that during Sunday's team meeting he had "some good things to say."
"Vince — like we've talked about many times — he's one of the more underrated players in this conference," Freeze said.
The Rebels have a few weeks to get over their emotional loss to Auburn before stepping back into SEC play. Their game against Presbyterian doesn't figure to provide much of a challenge, and then the Rebels have an off week before travelling to face Arkansas on Nov. 22.
Freeze acknowledged that the Auburn loss took an emotional toll on the team, but it would not be discouraged even though the Rebels no longer control their own destiny in the SEC's Western Division.
"Don't blink — we play the next play," Freeze said. "We keep pressing on. We've lost two games by a total of seven points to one of the hotter teams in the country right now at their place and then to one of the top two or three in the country. Had a ball bounced our way we're sitting in that position. I'm a big-picture guy. I'll continue to talk about our journey. It's still young, in my opinion. I'm excited we're still relevant again in a short time."
The Rebels also hope a healthy Laremy Tunsil can return before the Arkansas game. The team's starting left tackle suffered a partially torn bicep against LSU on Oct. 25 and couldn't play against Auburn.
Wallace says the Rebels will recover from the Auburn loss and still have plenty to play for in November.
"Obviously we don't control our destiny anymore, but crazy things can happen in the SEC," Wallace said. "A lot of people still have to play each other, so we're hopeful good things can happen for us, but we can win all our games down the stretch. We have to come in and prepare and come out and have good showings in every game."
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