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VIDEO: Freeze talks ‘testing times’ for Ole Miss

Two losses in four weeks highlighted by repetitive flaws have Ole Miss reeling a bit as the most important stretch of the season looms.

Talk of a berth in the College Football Playoff has all but been muted for the Rebels (5-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) following a 37-24 loss at Memphis that saw the Tigers outscore 30-10 after the opening quarter. Ole Miss’ defense was again on the field too much as Memphis converted 12 of its 20 third downs with some help from the Rebels, who missed a whopping 30 tackles, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Monday during his weekly press conference.

Quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 372 yards to help Ole Miss get back in it after trailing by as many as 17 in the second half, but the ground game again went nowhere. The Rebels finished with 40 yards on 24 carries and went 4 of 13 on third down with a pair of questionable fourth-and-1 calls highlighting Ole Miss’ continuing short-yardage struggles.

Ole Miss now ranks 12th in the Southeastern Conference in pass defense and third-down percentage defense while averaging just 2.6 yards a carry against its first three SEC opponents and Memphis.

“It’s testing times,” Freeze said. “We must show great resolve and leadership moving forward, shut out the negativity and remain true to our core values.”

Despite it all, Ole Miss still controls its fate in SEC West race with five league games in the next six weeks to end the regular season starting Saturday against No. 15 Texas A&M at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. (6 p.m., ESPN). Ole Miss may have to keep scoring to keep up as the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) are bringing the SEC’s second-best passing offense and fourth-highest scoring offense to Oxford.

“They are going to be a really good test for us,” Freeze said. “It’s good that we have them at home.”

On the injury front, Robert Conyers is the latest casualty for the Rebels after tearing the ACL in his right knee Saturday. Robert Nkemdiche, who took a shot to the head while getting tackled on his lone offensive play, Trae Elston and Will Gleeson are going through concussion protocol this week before being cleared to play, Freeze said.

See the video below for part of Freeze’s meeting with the media Monday.

See Tuesday’s edition of the EAGLE for more from Monday’s media session.