ATLANTA – With a healthy shoulder and more experience than any other quarterback in the SEC, there are no more excuses for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.
That means the Bo Wallace who showed up in the first half of Ole Miss’ ugly 35-13 victory over Boise State just won’t cut it this fall. There were some brutal moments in his first two seasons, but he was learning the speed of the SEC, he had a lingering shoulder injury and Ole Miss was under new management.
None of that is the case now, so three first-half interceptions and some ugly overthrows that could have easily lost the opener for the Rebels just can’t happen anymore if Wallace wants his Rebels to compete for an SEC West title.
“I have things to work on,” Wallace said shortly after the Rebels’ opener. “I was lucky to be able to bounce back in the second half.
“I don’t know what that was, but I have to get back and make sure I come out better next week.”
Wallace admitted after the game that he felt some jitters before the Boise State game, something he said he’s never dealt with before games. So maybe he pressed a little because of that. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell added that he thought the offense was trying to do too much too quickly in the first half. So maybe Wallace was trying to dig that dagger into the Broncos just a little too early inside the Georgia Dome.
The stumbling offense we saw for the better part of three quarters vanished in the fourth when Wallace took charge and slowed down. In that quarter alone, Wallace threw three touchdowns – on consecutive throws – and 175 yards on 6-of-7 passing.
So what happened before that?
“Obviously two of the three interceptions just were a bit unbelievable to us because they weren’t even in his progression on the route, and he’ll be the first to tell you that, and he knows that,” Freeze said last Thursday. “So it was a bit amazing.”
Wallace definitely rebounded, which fueled the offense, but you could tell after the game that he was frustrated with his play. And that’s good. He knows he had some bad moments. He tried to stay in it mentally, but the passes that got away from him weighed on him once the game was over.
“The whole time my mindset was still the same [throughout the game],” Wallace said. “I didn’t get too low, obviously didn’t get too high in the second half. I was even-keeled. All the players coming up to me [saying], ‘You’re good, you’re good.’ I know I’m good, just get away from me, let me collect my thoughts and let’s go out and put a drive together.”
The Jekyll-and-Hyde persona that has tortured Wallace in the past isn't going to win games for the Rebels this year. The Ole Miss offense just can’t take it.
When Wallace has been good, he’s been really good. He’s thrown for 6,727 yards and 44 touchdowns. He’s also run for 758 yards and 14 touchdowns. He can kill you with the zone-read at times and is an excellent leader.
He’s marched into Austin and slayed Texas. He’s gone pass-for-pass with Johnny Football -- twice. He’s slayed No. 6 LSU. And has two bowl victories.
But his bad has led to drives ending prematurely and 30 career interceptions.
Wallace is no slouch, but his schizophrenic play raises fans’ blood pressure and puts his team in precarious situations.
It’s time for Wallace to truly step up, or Ole Miss will step aside.
Maybe the opener was a hiccup, and maybe nerves really did get to Wallace. But going forward, Wallace can’t afford to start games like that. His opponents are going to get stronger.
The pressure will only increase, which means Wallace has to keep his cool.
“I’m going out and playing football,” Wallace said. “I’m trying to take this team back to Atlanta. That’s really all I’m worried about.”