Ole Miss Football: 2015 Offensive Juggernaut

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Rebel Offense Shatters School Records in Hugh Freeze's Fourth Season

By Adam Kuffner, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

When Hugh Freeze was hired as the 37th head coach in Ole Miss football history Dec. 5, 2011, then-Chancellor Dan Jones along with coaching search committee co-chairs Archie Manning and Mike Glenn knew they were getting one of the best offensive minds in football. Just four years into the Freeze era in Oxford, the Rebels have built a new normal of expectations for Ole Miss Football.

Last year, it was the Landshark defense that led the Rebels to an inaugural New Year's Six Bowl with the nation's best scoring defense. Fast forward to 2015, it's the offense that has reached record-breaking heights to pace the Rebels through another nine-win season (back-to-back 9+ regular-season wins for the first time since 1961-62).

Ole Miss started off 2015 on a torrid pace, becoming the first SEC team to score 73 or more points in back-to-back games. The 76-3 win over UT Martin in the season opener was the most points in a game since 1935. With that hot start to the season, it was evident that the 12 year-old school scoring record (442 in 2003) was going to be broken. That vision came to fruition in the 11th game of the season as the Rebels dominated rival LSU, 38-17, in the Magnolia Bowl. One week later, Ole Miss scored 38 points in Starkville for the first time in 34 years to win the Egg Bowl and enter the postseason scoring a school-record 483 points.

Ole Miss is averaging 40.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the nation. The Rebels eclipsed the 50-point plateau four times this season; in the previous 122 years of Ole Miss Football prior to 2015, just five times the Rebels managed to score 50+ points more than once throughout a season.

To score points, you need to find the end zone. The Rebels did that plenty of times throughout the 2015 campaign, scoring a program-record 62 touchdowns. In order to get to the end zone, you need to accumulate yards and drive down the field. How does 6,177 total yards sound? That's how many Ole Miss racked up through 12 games this season, the most in the SEC and 11th-most nationally. Again, the Rebels have themselves another school record.  

Freeze likes to spread the ball out, and the passing game has become the Rebels' bread and butter since his arrival. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace was the starting signal caller for Freeze's first three years at Ole Miss. In 2014, Wallace, along with multiple offensive weapons around him, helped Ole Miss earn a bid to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. This year, junior Chad Kelly took the reins of Freeze's playbook and added his name to the list of great quarterbacks at Ole Miss.

After a position battle throughout fall camp, Freeze decided to give Kelly the start in the first two games, although Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade saw playing time as well. It was in that second contest that Kelly emerged as the clear starter due to his strong, accurate arm accompanied with moving the offense down the field like a well-oiled machine. The Buffalo, New York, native continued to do that the following week, leading the Rebels to another victory over No. 2 Alabama in the first road test of his Ole Miss career. Beating Alabama in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, Ole Miss made noise throughout the country, once again becoming relevant.

Kelly continued to impress throughout the rest of the season, putting up better numbers than any other quarterback in Ole Miss history, including Archie and Eli Manning. He's tallied 3,740 yards through the air and is responsible for 37 touchdowns, both school records that were once held by the two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli. Kelly's seven 300-yard passing games is also the most by a Rebel quarterback. Speaking of Manning, Kelly was named a finalist for the Manning Award, which is presented annually to the nation's best quarterback. His statistics that lead all SEC quarterbacks and rank among the nation's elite have earned Kelly that recognition.

Along with his school-record passing mark, Kelly has also rushed for 427 yards on the ground. His program-best 4,167 total yards of offense is the sixth-most for an individual's season in SEC history. It's all impressive for someone who is a first-year Rebel.

Of course, Kelly's individual records and the team's offensive records would not have been reached without a plethora of talent around the quarterback. Let's start with Laquon Treadwell, who bounced back from his devastating injury last season. This year, he's been better than ever as a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Treadwell has caught 76 passes for 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns, including six 100-yard receiving games which is another school record. The Crete, Illinois, native went through a stretch where he was nearly impossible to stop, catching a touchdown pass in six straight games and going over 100 yards receiving in five of them; both achievements had never been accomplished before at Ole Miss.

Alongside Treadwell, Kelly distributes the ball at an incredible rate. Ole Miss is one of four teams in the nation with seven or more players who have caught at least 20 passes this season. Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore'ea Stringfellow have combined for 12 touchdown receptions, while Cody Core has added 553 receiving yards in his final season as a Rebel. Kelly is one of the leading rushers on the team, but the running back trio of Jaylen Walton, Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins has produced 1,433 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Of course, the skill players wouldn't have success without the help of the offensive line. Providing protection for Kelly has been a veteran group led by Preseason All-America left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Kent Hull Trophy winner Fahn Cooper. Seniors Justin Bell, Aaron Morris and Ben Still are the elder lettermen that are spending their final year at Ole Miss as part of the most prolific offense in school history. Even freshmen Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings have provided plenty of playing time, including starts, to assist in the effort.

Football is certainly a team game. The defense and special teams unit need to play well; however, as Ole Miss awaits its bowl fate, the high-powered offense paved the way for a possible berth to the Sugar Bowl. If the season ended today, New Orleans would be the Rebels' bowl destination. Ole Miss hasn't played in the Sugar Bowl since 1970, spanning almost half a century. But with Alabama in position to make the College Football Playoff, the Rebels would earn the bid as the second-highest ranked SEC team.

Wouldn't that be sweet?

Record-Breaking Rebels_Dec.jpg

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    Jack1492 said:

    Great year. I am proud of you all.
    Jack

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    Hunter Comstock said:

    Strange things happen to Ole Miss football teams in games played on Halloween. I don't know if I can bear to watch this one or not.

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    Hunter Comstock said:

    Boy, I surely hope the Rebels don't have anymore nail biters like the Bama game. My nerves won't take it.

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    Joe Snaidauf said:

    Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!!

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    Jamie laverty said:

    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

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    Rhonda said:

    Coach Freeze is a genuine coach and our players and fans adore him!!

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Gary Vaughn said:

    It's great to be a Rebel fan. Coach Freeze
    Has brought back the excitement
    Competitiveness we all so desire. The
    fan base and even our doubters are
    Paying attention. Even the whole country
    Sport tLk shows ect. Are taking notice.
    After we upset Alabama this weekend
    38-27 we will bolt to a top 12 or better
    Ranking. Go Rebels

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Tom said:

    I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing.

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year