"We can put points on them. I think we can put points on anybody.”
Those were the words of Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace prior to last year’s Alabama game. The only problem was the Rebels didn’t score any points, not a one. They were shut out by the Crimson Tide to the tune of 25-0.
It wasn’t all on Wallace, who finished 17 of 31 for 159 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Ole Miss failed to convert twice on fourth down in Alabama’s red zone, and then there was the lack of a rushing attack. The Rebels only rushed for 46 yards, mustering a measly 1.8 yards per carry.
But none of that mattered after the game. The loss and the shutout came back on Wallace because of the “guarantee” he made beforehand. He took a lot of heat, and it didn’t help that the Rebels proceeded to lose their next two games to Auburn and Texas A&M. It was a difficult stretch for Ole Miss and Wallace.
The senior quarterback has grown up since then. He’s a different player, both on and off the field, as he heads into Saturday’s rematch with No. 3 Alabama.
“I’ve come a long ways,” Wallace said. “I never felt great at all last year, and this year I feel good. Obviously I made a bad decision last week, but other than that, I feel good. I’m confident going into this game. I’m confident in our guys, and we know it’s going to be a big test for us.”
The proof is in the numbers through the first four games. Since a first half against Boise State he’d rather forget, Wallace has thrown for 1,123 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s completing 71 percent of his passes, and he’s third in the SEC in passing yards.
Impressive stats, but Ole Miss hasn’t played anybody nearly as talented as Alabama. How will Wallace fare against the team that shut down him just a year ago?
“Honestly, I’m just going into it like any other week,” he said. “I’ve been here for two years. I’ve played against top-10 teams -- never with the opportunity that we have right now and being undefeated -- but I can’t think about that too much, especially being the quarterback. I have to be the one that’s even-keeled the whole time and when guys get riled up, settle them down.”
That’s the new-found maturity talking. Instead of running his mouth about how many points Ole Miss is going to score Saturday, Wallace is more concerned with keeping his team focused.
A big part of that comes with experience. The former junior college transfer is now in his third season with the Rebels, and he’s made more starts than any other quarterback in the SEC. He’ll be starting his 31st game this weekend, whereas his counterpart, Blake Sims, will be making only his fifth start for Alabama.
“I just think the experience is something that you can’t instill,” UA coach Nick Saban said when asked about Wallace this week. “It’s something that you have to go through and learn, and it’s a tremendous advantage.”
Wallace has accomplished a lot in his time at Ole Miss. He’s led the Rebels to back-to-back bowl games. He’s won the Egg Bowl against rival Mississippi State. He’s knocked off a top-10 team. But there’s one thing he’s yet to do, and that’s beat Alabama.
The last Ole Miss quarterback to accomplish that feat was Eli Manning in 2003, but Wallace is hoping to join that list this Saturday. It’s a chance to put last year’s game behind him.
“Those that know Bo, his mindset really never changes,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “He’ll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday’s game. He’s always that way. It’s a really good quality about him. He’s very resilient. He’ll be looking forward to this game.”