Wallace believes Rebels need to regain attack mode

photo Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace passes during the first half against LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace entered his senior season with a knack for being consistently inconsistent.

That reputation still lingers as the seventh-ranked Rebels prepare to host No. 4 Auburn this Saturday night.

Wallace racked up 342 total yards and was the MVP of last December's Music City Bowl win over Georgia Tech, but that performance followed a four-turnover game in a loss to Mississippi State. In this year's opener against Boise State in Atlanta, he threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns but was intercepted three times as the Rebels struggled for three quarters before breaking free for a 35-13 triumph.

The hot-and-cold nature of the 6-foot-4, 217-pounder from Pulaski, Tenn., led to the creation of "Good Bo" and "Bad Bo" labels. It was nearly impossible to watch a television segment on the program's resurgence under third-year coach Hugh Freeze without a mention of "Good Bo" and "Bad Bo," which Wallace addressed with reporters Oct. 4 after throwing for three second-half touchdowns in a 23-17 upset of No. 2 Alabama.

"That thing is the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said.

Funeral services were all but set for the "Bad Bo" moniker last week, when the Rebels had their first 7-0 start since 1962. After all, Wallace had not thrown any interceptions against the Southeastern Conference quartet of Vanderbilt, Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

Freeze even read last rites for "Bad Bo" a week ago.

"I've been very clear with Bo that he's our guy and that he's the one we've got confidence in," Freeze said. "For whatever reason, some media chose to use that, and it's just like everything else -- no one gets to define who we are other than the people within these walls. He's been very resilient and good, and you would like to see the same people who chose to talk about him now say that he hasn't turned the ball over in an SEC game this year."

Then came Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Trailing LSU 10-7 and facing a third-and-7 at the Tigers' 30-yard line, Wallace eschewed a safe play with a throw down the left sideline to Cody Core. Not only did Core have tight company, but Tigers safety Ronald Martin read the play and easily reeled in Wallace's first league interception with two seconds remaining.

"I'm not going to talk about it," Wallace told reporters afterward. "One-on-one, threw it up -- done."

Freeze provided more detail about the confusing conclusion in his news conference after the game.

"I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal," Freeze said. "He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. I wish I could do that over, for sure."

Wallace ranks fourth among SEC quarterbacks in efficiency, having completed 151 of 242 passes (62.4 percent) for 2,075 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but Freeze has altered how he has used him this season.

"With our defense playing so well this year, I've been trying to manage the game a little differently," Freeze said, "and Bo has understood that and accepted that. He's made the plays when he had to make them, and I definitely think he is much more mature and understands now that we don't have to score now on every possession."

On several occasions this season, Wallace has echoed Freeze, saying that this year's defense has provided an assurance that wasn't there before. Yet Wallace believes the past two games against Tennessee and LSU have been different from the first six.

Wallace completed just 14 of 33 passes at LSU and 13 of 28 against Tennessee.

"A lot of times when we're throwing the ball right now, it's third down," Wallace said in a news conference Monday. "It's easy when you know it's coming on third-and-9 and third-and-long. People get in their third-down defense, and it's hard to convert.

"We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did in the first half of the season."

Back when "Bad Bo" was fading into oblivion.

Contact David Paschall at [email protected] or 423-757-6524.