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
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?
By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
After a bounce that didn't go their way against Arkansas, the Rebels knew tonight was a must-win situation. No. 22 Ole Miss knocked off rival No. 15 LSU 38-17 in a top-25 matchup to stay in contention to win the SEC West.
Quarterback Chad Kelly continues to play elite football, hitting his receivers and fighting for yards on the ground. The signal caller eclipsed Eli Manning's record for total touchdowns in a single season. Kelly threw for two touchdowns and added a pair on the ground.
"Kelly has done really well all year," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "I think the thing he's done well the last two games is that I do not think he has had a turnover. That is the key. He is a talented kid and we have a good scheme for him that he understands. He works hard to understand it."
"A few weeks ago we started breaking up our play calling a little differently, and I think that has helped us. I think Dan Werner has done a great job and Kelly is one of the hardest working quarterbacks I have coached."
Senior Jaylen Walton scored in his final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and juniors Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell found the end zone too. Walton punched one in early in the first quarter on a two-yard run. Treadwell added an 11-yard scoring grab in the second quarter, and Engram iced the game late in the third quarter on a 36-yard screen pass from Kelly. Engram caught five balls for 58 yards and Treadwell had four catches for 58 yards.
Despite being on the field longer, the defense rose to the occasion. The tenacious Landshark D limited the Tigers to 17 points, forcing two interceptions and two fumbles. They forced pressure all night, sacking the quarterback once and forcing pressure five times. They especially came through in the red zone, only allowing one score on three visits. Mike Hilton led the defense with three pass break-ups and nine tackles, including a tackle for loss.
The seniors continued to shine for the Rebels as linebacker Christian Russel intercepted LSU quarterback Brandon Harris late in the second quarter. The Rebels took advantage, scoring on the first play of the drive on a fade from Kelly to Treadwell.
Ole Miss heads to Starkville Thanksgiving weekend to face in-state rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
"It means everything," said Hilton, another senior team leader. "Everyone knows how important the Egg Bowl is. They're going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. We're going to come in with a chip on our shoulder too. It's going to be a fight."
The Rebels need to beat Mississippi State and need an Auburn win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl next weekend to clinch the SEC West. The Rebels and Bulldogs will face off at 6:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
By Brandon Lee, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Drama in front of a sold-out crowd of 60,680 between the No. 18 Rebels and Arkansas? It was that and a whole lot more in a back-and-forth Saturday night knockdown, drag-out SEC West matchup.
A near 1,200 combined total yards.
Time of possession in which Arkansas dominated 41:03 to Ole Miss' 18:57.
But that's just scratching the surface of what went down in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
A blocked field goal as regulation time expired, and then what looked to be a sure Rebel victory when Arkansas faced a fourth-and-25 from the 40-yard line wasn't enough as the Hogs escaped Oxford and stunned the home-standing Rebels.
"It is an extremely difficult way to end the game," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I hurt for our kids, for our coaches, our fans and our administration. You put so much into this deal and then you lose a game like tonight that comes down to the wire. It is very difficult and gut-wrenching. It will test everything about you."
The two teams combined for 14 drives in the second half and overtime. Ten of them resulted in touchdowns. Arkansas had three drives lasting longer than five minutes and six more that were 3-plus minutes. Ole Miss finished with just one over the three-minute mark, but scored on eight of 12 total drives.
Outside the dramatic ending, that was the name of the game as neither team could defend the opposing offense. In 24 combined drives, each side punted just three times.
Both quarterbacks put up 350-plus passing yards with one rusher over 100 yards on the ground. Both teams were perfect in the red zone (Arkansas 5-of-5, Ole Miss 7-of-7).
Penalties were also limited with six combined for just 42 yards, but the biggest one of the night and potentially all season came in the Hogs' overtime possession. After a touchdown, Bret Bielema elected for the 2-point play. The (first) attempt was no good as Marquis Haynes sacked Brandon Allen, but a facemask penalty gave the Hogs new life and another attempt at the eventual game-winner.
"They were struggling to stop us also," Freeze added. "I haven't seen the film yet, but there was a facemask call that seemed like it was the right call. It was a very difficult way to end the game. It doesn't surprise me, though."
Despite the loss, Ole Miss put together some notes for the record book in the offensive sprint to the finish. The Rebels' 590 yards were the most against an SEC team in the Hugh Freeze era. Chad Kelly, who had three passing TDs and three rushing TDs, extended his single-season school record with his seventh 300-yard passing game. He also threw a touchdown pass in his 10th-straight game, fourth-most in school history.
Laquon Treadwell went for 132 yards and a score, his school-record fifth straight with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. He also posted his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season to take over sole possession of the single-season school record.
Next up, the Rebels take a much-needed bye week to prep for a showdown versus LSU Nov. 21 in Oxford.
By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
It wasn't pretty, but the Rebels got the job done.
No. 23 Ole Miss and No. 15 Texas A&M combined for seven turnovers, but a dominant defense and a balanced offense led to a 23-3 win for the Rebels.
"I'm extremely proud of our kids and coaches," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "During adversity in life, you find out a lot about people, everyone, you find out who is really who. That is what we challenged our kids with this week. We said if you play out of love and passion for 60 minutes, then that will be good enough at the end of the day for us."
It certainly was enough.
Quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns as Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1 SEC) defeated Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) in the only top-25 matchup of the week to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. Kelly's favorite target, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, hauled in five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. This was Treadwell's third consecutive game with at least 100 yards and a touchdown.
Having All-American left tackle Laremy Tunsil back helped establish a rushing attack that was absent last week. Running back Jaylen Walton led the ground game with 97 yards. The Rebels combined for 230 yards rushing. Tunsil continually gave Kelly time in the pocket and was constantly seen 10 yards down the field blocking defenders he engaged with at the line of scrimmage.
"I can't tell exactly, but having him back and having everyone in their regular spot that we planned on having them at the start of the year helped our offense rush against a defense that hasn't given up much this season except their previous game," noted Freeze. "I believe part of that being because of Laremy's return."
Ole Miss took an early lead on a 7-yard pass from Kelly to tight end Evan Engram, who surprisingly scored his first touchdown of the season. Engram broke the school record for receiving yards by a tight end tonight.
"It is a blessing and all glory goes to God, 100 percent," said Engram after the game. "The people he has put me around in this great community is truly a blessing and an honor. So much talent, especially at the tight end position, has come through this university, and I hope they approve of me taking the reins and holding the record."
The Rebels took a 7-0 lead into a very sloppy second quarter. Gary Wunderlich connected on two field goals, from 41 and 30 yards to bring the Rebel lead to 13. Then things started to get entertaining.
It started with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kelly that would get called back due to a personal foul penalty on Ole Miss. The very next play, Aggie defensive end Myles Garrett would tip an intended screen pass to himself and intercept it. The Aggies would take over, but settled for a field goal to make the score 13-3.
On the next drive, Ole Miss would go three-and-out. On the punt, highly touted Aggie freshman Christian Kirk fumbled, and the Rebels would take over on the Aggie 24-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, running back Jordan Wilkins rushed for 9 yards into the red zone, only to fumble on the way down. The Aggies would recover on their own 14-yard line with 1:21 remaining in the half.
Texas A&M's first play, a pass from Allen, was intercepted by Rebel cornerback Kendarius Webster. Ole Miss was unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Wunderlich to take a 16-3 lead as time expired going into the half.
Halfway through the third quarter, Kelly found Treadwell deep for a 58-yard touchdown pass for the final score of the game.
The Rebels head to the Plains to take on Auburn (4-3, 1-3 SEC) next week for a Halloween matchup. The game will kick off at 11:00 a.m. CT and will be broadcasted on ESPN.
It seemed like it was just yesterday that the Ole Miss
football team continued through the motions of fall camp, and we all were just
ready for the season to finally begin. Fast forward with a little Talladega
up-tempo offense and we find ourselves at the halfway point of the Rebels' 2015
regular season. Where has the time gone? Let's take a look at where Ole Miss
has been, where they are now, and where they could be heading down the road.
First Half Review
Coming into the season, there was plenty of hype surrounding
the program. The Landshark defense that led the nation in points allowed per
game last year returned the majority of its unit despite losing All-Americans
Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Bo
Wallace graduated but the Rebels returned nine offensive starters. The biggest
question mark coming into the season was who would replace the three-year
While there were three quarterbacks competing for the
starting job throughout the spring and fall, head coach Hugh Freeze was hoping
one would emerge and separate himself from the other two. All three
quarterbacks saw action in the first two weeks, and the separation occurred in
game two versus Fresno State. Junior quarterback Chad Kelly led the
high-powered Ole Miss offense on seven straight touchdown drives in the Rebels'
73-21 victory. The job was his, and it could not have come at a better time as
the Rebels prepared to head to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Becoming the first team in SEC history to score 73+ points
in consecutive games was an incredible achievement, but many people still
wondered if the Rebels were for real. Heading into the third week of the
season, even the fourth-year head coach was looking for the answer.
"If you ask me if we are ready for SEC play, I really don't
know," said Freeze. "I think we have a confident football team right now that
believes we can win. I believe we can win."
It turned out that the Rebels were in fact ready for SEC
play. Ole Miss took the field with energy and ready to prove that the win over
the Tide in Oxford last season was not a fluke. The special teams unit set the
pace on the opening kickoff, forcing a fumble to give the offense perfect field
position and put the game's first points on the board. It was one of five
turnovers Ole Miss forced throughout the night, leading to 24 points. The
Rebels led the entire game and limited the noise from the capacity crowd of
101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium; when the dust settled, it was Ole Miss who
emerged victorious once again over Alabama, 43-37.
Powder blue helmets and all, the Rebels wore the same
uniform combination from the last time they beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa (1988).
The victory also marked the first time Ole Miss defeated Alabama in
back-to-back seasons. Country music superstar Eric Church even realized the
significance of the victory, and wanting to take part in the celebration, led
the locker room in the Hotty Toddy chant after the game. The win was a big
deal. It proved that the Rebels belonged among the nation's elite. Ole Miss
became the talk of the college football world and rose to No. 3 in the AP poll.
Senior Trae Elston even represented Ole Miss on the cover of Sports
While the victory was a monumental win, it was also just one
game, like all of the rest throughout the season. The Rebels had to get ready
for Vanderbilt and focus on the task at hand. The Commodores proved to be a
feisty bunch, and the Rebels did not put together one of their best
performances of the season. Nonetheless, Ole Miss protected Hollingsworth Field
for a 27-16 win.
Sitting at 5-0 and No. 3 in the country, the Rebels had a
big target on their backs and were getting everyone's best shot. Vanderbilt did
it the week before, so it would be no surprise that Florida would do the same,
especially under the lights of The Swamp. A perfect storm was brewing down in
Gainesville. One week prior, Jim McElwain's Florida team rallied from 13 points
down in the fourth quarter to shock Tennessee and keep the Gators' perfect
season alive. The win seemed to have given Florida some new-found confidence,
and that proved to be the case when UF and Ole Miss took the field. Florida
came out firing on all cylinders; the offense converted on third downs to march
down the field, while the defense kept the high-octane Ole Miss offense in-check
and forced four turnovers. The result was a 38-10 win for Florida, handing the
Rebels their first loss of the season.
The setback proved the difficulty of not only going
undefeated throughout the season, but it also brought out the grind of playing
in the SEC, especially away from home. The Rebels returned to their winning
ways with a 52-3 thumping of New Mexico State Saturday afternoon as part of the
Homecoming festivities. The offense racked up a season-high 665 yards, while the
Landshark defense allowed a season-low 239 total yards.
Where We Stand
After taking a look at the first half of the season, let's bring
things up to the present time. Ole Miss is 5-1 on the 2015 campaign, winning
five of its first six games for the second time since 2003 and also in
back-to-back seasons. The Rebels are 2-1 in SEC play with wins over No. 2
Alabama and Vanderbilt to go along with the loss to No. 23 Florida in The
Swamp. Although the College Football Playoff rankings won't come out for another
three weeks, Ole Miss is No. 12 in the Amway coaches poll No. 13 in the AP
Last season, the Landshark defense led the nation in
surrendering the fewest points per game. While the Landsharks still have their
fins up in 2015, it has been the offense that has shined brighter. Coach Freeze
has developed the Rebel offense into a well-oiled machine in his four seasons
in Oxford. Averaging 46.8 points per game, Ole Miss has scored 281 points this
year, which already surpasses point totals in five seasons this century. That's
a pretty impressive statistic considering we still have at least half of the
Kelly leads the potent offense, and the junior quarterback
stands atop the SEC in multiple categories: passing yards (1,862), yards per
completion (15.39), total offense (331.08 per game) and TD passes (14). A few
of those categories rank among the top 10 in the country. He's thrown for over
300 yards in four of the six games, which already ties Bo Wallace and two-time
Super Bowl champion/MVP Eli Manning for the most in one season. Again, this is
at the HALFWAY point of the season. Finally, Kelly's past has been talked about
ever since he arrived on campus and he has tried to put that behind him to
become the best person he can be on and off the field. It has shown; the young
man has matured and become a leader of the Ole Miss football team.
The wide receiving corps might be one of the best in the
country, led by junior Laquon Treadwell, who has bounced back from that
terrible injury he suffered versus Auburn last year. Treadwell has 35 catches,
nearly double that of Quincy Adeboyejo who is second on the team with 18
catches, five of those resulting in touchdowns. Adeboyejo and senior Cody Core
have been deep threats for Kelly, as Core averages over 20 yards per catch to
be among the SEC leaders in that category. Don't forget about Markell Pack,
Damore'ea Stringfellow and Evan Engram either; that trio has combined for 38
receptions. Needless to say, Kelly has options out in space.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Nkemdiche brothers
lead the way in tackles. Senior Denzel Nkemdiche's 38 tackles are a team high
and Robert Nkemdiche has tallied a Rebel best 5.5 tackles for loss. The younger
of the siblings put together his own highlight reel in the big win over No. 2
Alabama, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Robert is a do-it-all
athlete that provides an impact whenever he's on the field. Need any more
proof? He blocked a field goal and has found the end zone three times on
offense thus far. Also on the line is sophomore Marquis Haynes, who has
recorded 11.0 sacks in his short time at Ole Miss, already becoming a top-10
career sack leader for the program. In the secondary, Elston has
four interceptions, including two pick sixes.
Teams deal with injuries every year. It's part of the
physicality of football. Unfortunately, the injury bug has hit the Rebels hard
this season. Starting defensive lineman Issac Gross was lost for the season,
while 2014 All-SEC honorees Tony Conner and C.J. Johnson required surgery and
expect to miss at least four weeks with their respective injuries. On Saturday,
a total of seven starters did not play versus New Mexico State.
Speaking of starters not playing, All-American offensive
tackle Laremy Tunsil has not seen the field once this season, sitting out due
to an NCAA investigation of improper benefits. Earlier this week, the NCAA finally
announced its decision, suspending Tunsil for seven games, which means the
junior will be able to return when Ole Miss hosts Texas A&M, Oct. 24. A fan
favorite throughout his time at Ole Miss, Rebel Nation will be sure to give the
big man a warm welcome when he emerges from the tunnel and steps onto
Fear not Rebel Nation; losses happen in college football.
Yes they're disappointing, but the probability of going undefeated in a season
is incredibly slim. Look at last season. A whopping zero teams ended the
campaign unbeaten. The team that hoisted the national championship trophy lost
by 14 points at home, in primetime, and to a team that finished the season with
a 7-6 record. Florida is currently ranked No. 8 with a record of 6-0, and The
Swamp has been known as one of the nation's most difficult places to play for
Memphis, unbeaten and ranked No. 22 in the coaches poll,
awaits the Rebels. The Tigers have had two weeks to prepare for Ole Miss, and
the Memphis faithful has been anxious for this nationally televised game (11
a.m., ABC). When the Tigers held on for a narrow victory over Cincinnati, Sept.
24, Memphis fans could be heard chanting "we want Ole Miss" throughout Liberty
Bowl Stadium. The non-conference affair has plenty of implications. Memphis
looks to remain unbeaten and in line for a New Year's Six bowl game, while Ole
Miss hopes to improve to 6-1 and grab some momentum heading into the SEC West
The trip to Memphis will be the Rebels' third road game
against a nationally ranked team. The schedule doesn't get any easier as the
season progresses. Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU will come to Oxford to face
the Rebels. Ole Miss also has to hit the road for a matchup against Auburn on
Halloween as well as face Mississippi State in Starkville for the season-ending
Yes, Ole Miss has a blemish on its schedule. However, the
loss was against an SEC East opponent. Doing some football math, going 1-1
against their two cross-divisional opponents plus a victory over an SEC West
foe (Alabama) equals the Rebels controlling their destiny to the SEC
Championship game. Ole Miss' remaining five conference games are all against
teams from the West, giving the Rebels control. It won't be an easy task due to
the stiff competition in the division, but if Ole Miss takes care of business
in each of those contests, we will be hearing "Hotty Toddy" echoing throughout
the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Along with the vision of an SEC crown, the bigger picture is
the Rebels' quest of making the College Football Playoff, which is still a
possibility. Once again, it requires Ole Miss taking care of business and that
starts on the road this weekend against Memphis. The sky is the limit for the
2015 Ole Miss football team. Coach Freeze and the Rebels know they have to
focus on the weekly task at hand, taking one game at a time in order to get
there. In this week's press conference, he mentioned the message to his team.
"Do your assignment and your job to the best of your ability with great
enthusiasm on that given play, and we'll see at the end of four quarters if
that was good enough." The Rebels need to continue living up to their season motto
The second half of the season is upon us. I'm sure the time
will fly by, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. We'll see what happens down the
stretch. Hotty Toddy!
By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Ole Miss raced past another non-conference opponent at home this week. The Rebels returned to their usual form after a conference loss at Florida last week, racking up 665 yards of total offense, the second-most in school history, en route to smacking homecoming opponent New Mexico State 52-3.
"It was good to get back on the field and see our kids compete," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "It was good to play at home in front of our crowd in an early game. Hopefully we can use that time to rest and recover. There were some good individual efforts in this game."
The Rebels (5-1) and Aggies (0-5) traded field goals after their first drive. From then on, it would be Ole Miss all the way. In the first half, Chad Kelly put on a clinic, throwing for over 300 yards and a touchdown. That put the game out of reach early, with the Rebels leading by 28 at the half. The offense worked quick, never taking more than three minutes on touchdown scoring drives.
Kelly connected with receiver Laquan Treadwell eight times for 136 yards. In the third quarter, Kelly tossed two touchdowns to Treadwell, including a highlight-reel, one-handed catch after a beautiful slant-and-go route that left the corner stranded.
"I got pushed off my route, and knew I couldn't let it affect me, so I couldn't get two hands on it," Treadwell said. "I just stuck out one and was able to let out my passion I have for the game when I got in the end zone because I had dropped a lot of balls that I should be catching, and I just needed a stepping stone."
The Rebels improved on key stats that held them back last week. They converted five of eight third-down conversions, scored five times in seven red-zone visits, and averaged 9.6 yards per play. Running backs Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins combined for 118 and two touchdowns to carry the rushing workload while Jaylen Walton was sidelined with an injury. Eugene Brazley also had a nice day. He had six carries for 98 yards and a touchdown, including a 78-yard rush that would be the final score of the game.
The Rebel defense improved from last week as well, only allowing 98 yards on the ground and a season-low 239 total yards. They were led by senior defensive back Mike Hilton, who was roaming all over the field at the huskie position. He had four tackles, including three for loss, an interception and a pass break-up.
"In this profession, you have to enjoy those wins that you have," noted Freeze. "You have a short window to enjoy it for a while before you get to move on."
This would be a polish-up game for the Rebels before a quick visit to next week's opponent, the undefeated Memphis Tigers (5-0), their last non-conference game of the regular season. They will kick off at 11:00 a.m. next Saturday. The game will be televised on ABC.
Ole Miss' historic win over Alabama last Saturday was not only popular with members of Rebel Nation, it was among the most-watched college football games of the year.
The Rebels' thrilling 43-37 victory over the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the highest-rated game of the week across all television networks, earning a 4.6 overnight rating. The rating is up 254 percent to the 2014 comparable television window and is the third-highest overnight rating of the 2015 season across ESPN.
The instant classic was WatchESPN's most-streamed college football game of the week and the product's second-most streamed regular season college football game ever. It achieved an average minute audience of 128,000 users, 615,000 unique viewers and 35,700,000 live minutes viewed. Additionally, the stream was up 485 percent in average minute audience, 328 percent in unique viewers and 666 percent in live minutes viewed compared to last season's similar window (USC at Boston College).
It's not the first time ESPN has benefitted from a big-time showdown between Ole Miss and 'Bama. College GameDay appeared in The Grove for last year matchup, and it was the most-watched episode of the 2014 season for the popular pre-game show.
Ole Miss is the talk of college football this week. Numerous outlets have pegged Hugh Freeze's squad as a playoff frontrunner, and the Rebels were the headline story on nearly every sports website over the weekend.
The Rebels look to improve to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC play when Vanderbilt visits Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m. CT, televised by ESPNU.
By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
The road to the College Football Playoff includes many tests along the way. The Ole Miss Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) just passed their first, proving that they are a legitimate contender after knocking off the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide for a second straight year with a 43-37 triumph.
Quarterback Chad Kelly showed that the production of the offense from the first two games wasn't a fluke. He connected on 18 of 33 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a hostile road environment, leading the Rebels' tempo offense to 43 points, their most ever in Tuscaloosa.
The offense would take advantage of turnovers and turn them into points, scoring all 17 of their first-half points off turnovers. The Crimson Tide fumbled the opening kickoff, resulting in a field goal by Gary Wunderlich. The defense later picked off Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman and recovered another fumble on a kickoff to score 14 points in the second quarter.
The whole game could be summed up in one play made in the third quarter by Kelly. He would tip a bad snap high in the air to himself, lob up a pass up for grabs in the area of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell as he narrowly avoided a sack, had the ball tipped off an Alabama player's helmet and land in the hands of wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who scampered 66 yards to the end zone to extend the Rebels' lead to 14.
Two more field goals from Wunderlich, from 34 and 45 yards out, extended the lead to 20 with 3:57 remaining in the third quarter. Wunderlich would finish the night a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.
Alabama scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a touchdown that they would score after recovering an onside kick following a Derrick Henry touchdown run. That would be negated by an excellent closing effort by the Rebels.
What appeared to be a penalty turned into a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Core. Kelly would also lob a beautiful fade to Treadwell, who snatched the ball from the Alabama defender. Those 14 fourth-quarter points and a dehydrated Landshark defense would be enough to hang in to close out the game.
"We were definitely exhausted," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "It was a four-quarter battle. We were gassed. Defensively, we were struggling to stop them. Offensively, I was scared to open it up to much, but we made enough plays in a very difficult environment against a really good football team.
"It was absolutely electric in here. And you could tell that they wanted us back from last year. It was a pretty wild atmosphere."
Similar to last year, Ole Miss was able to defeat the Crimson Tide despite being out-gained in total yards. The Crimson Tide passed for 288 yards and rushed for 215. The Rebels passed for 341 yards, but were held to only 92 yards rushing. This wouldn't matter, as timely plays from Ole Miss would guide the team to victory.
"The only thing I told them before the game was that you don't have to be anything that you are not; you are good enough to win," noted Freeze. "We don't need to be anything special, just be who you are and you'll be good enough to win."
The Rebels look to keep up their reputation as a final four candidate next week as they continue SEC play at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-2, 0-1 SEC).
By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
There is no doubt who the starting quarterback is anymore. Chad Kelly has solidified the starting role after his effort today. The gunslinger tossed four touchdowns for 346 yards and added a touchdown on the ground in a 73-21 victory.
"Chad Kelly is the starter," said head coach Hugh Freeze. "I said yesterday, to the ESPN crew, that the job is his to lose. Chad has certainly done nothing to put himself out of the job, so he is the starter. I expect that to continue."
Kelly was able to make big plays all game because of great pass protection and his physical receivers, who bodied the Bulldog secondary all night. Quincy Adeboyejo led the Rebel receiving core with five receptions for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Cody Core hauled in six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Laquon Treadwell proved he is past his injury, as he snagged five balls for 73 yards.
Kelly started off the game hot. He was responsible for five touchdowns in the first half, the most in the SEC since Johnny Manziel did it in 2012. Kelly connected on 18 of 22 passes for 305 yards and four scores in the half, while also running for 24 yards and another TD.
The Rebels scored four touchdowns of 20 yards or longer, including two pick-sixes. Kelly flashed his arm strength, connecting with Adeboyejo late in the first quarter for a 50-yard touchdown pass, and again early in the second quarter from 44 yards out. Free safety Trae Elston picked off the Fresno State signal caller and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown halfway through the third quarter. Fellow defensive back Chief Brown had the final points of the game on a 22-yard interception return. The Rebels now have three pick-sixes in two games.
DeVante Kincade will still be involved in the offense. His ability to run will be a threat to opposing defenses. He led the team in rushing with 48 yards, averaging 12 yards a carry.
It seems as though Freeze might look to keep Robert Nkemdiche in a few offensive packages as well. The defensive tackle lined up at fullback again this week, this time powering his way into the end zone from 1 yard out. That would be the second career touchdown for Nkemdiche.
The Landshark defense flew to the ball all game, making big play after big play. To go with the three picks, the defense chalked up 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a sack.
Ole Miss looks to polish up this week as they hold a 2-0 record heading into SEC play. They will look to knock off Alabama (2-0) on the road at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama rolled through Wisconsin in a neutral-site season opener 35-17 and defeated Middle Tennessee 37-10 in week two.
Offense, defense and special teams. Ole Miss dominated all three aspects of the game as the 15th-ranked Rebels routed UT Martin 76-3 in the season opener. The 60,186 fans, mostly dressed in white, anticipated an exciting start to the 2015 season.
The offense exploded, racking up 662 total yards. In his Rebel debut, starting QB Chad Kelly threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran one in for the Rebels. Quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who have been in competition for the starting job this offseason, also had big games. Buchanan completed 4 of 6 passes for two touchdowns. Kincade also hit 6 of his 7 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with the effort of his starting quarterback.
"I thought Chad Kelly's performance was really solid," Freeze said. "Kelly did miss a touchdown throw, and probably could have thrown one a little bit better on the fade to Laquon Treadwell early in the game, but outside of that I think he had a solid day. We will get back to watching film, but I felt pretty good about him out there."
The quarterbacks hit 11 different receivers today. One of those receivers was defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who caught a 31-yard touchdown on a play-action pass coming out of the backfield. The 6-4, 296-pounder lined up at fullback, sneaked into the flat, caught a ball from Buchanan, and tiptoed down the sideline for his first touchdown of his career. Laquon Treadwell caught four balls for 44 yards in his debut since his injury.
"Treadwell looked explosive, but it was an average performance," Freeze noted. "It was really good seeing Laquon get tackled and be able to bounce back up, but he just has to get back out there and get some more plays."
The offense was balanced, with 338 yards on the ground. Jaylen Walton scored the first points of the game on a 60-yard scamper early in the first quarter on the first play of the second drive. He would finish the day with two touchdowns. Sophomore Eugene Brazley and redshirt-freshman D.K. Buford both added touchdowns on the ground.
The defense was effective, as they held the UT Martin offense to 290 yards and three points. Trae Elston intercepted UT Martin quarterback Jarod Neal and took it 93 yards to the house. The Landshark defense negated the Skyhawks on third down as they only converted 2 of 17 third-down conversions.
The special teams looked great for the Rebels after a shaky start. After the 60-yard run by Walton, the Rebels showed they aren't scared to go for two. They opened their first PAT in a swinging gate formation. A direct snap to the up-back fell just short of the goal line. They would bounce back from an effort from Robert Nkemdiche, as he plowed through the line and blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt. Punt returner Carlos Davis also had a nice play off of a rugby-style punt. He eluded a defender a split second after fielding the bouncing ball, and took it 58 yards into UT Martin territory, which would lead to six.
Freeze was pleased with the effort of his team.
"It was a good first day for us. (UT Martin head coach) Jason (Simpson) is a great friend of mine. The score was a little top-sided. I told him afterwards that I am not sure what I could have done differently and he was great. To be excited for all of our young kids to get in and make plays, and to see them enjoying the game of football, it is very rewarding."
The Rebels look to continue improving this week as they get set to kick off next Saturday against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN or ESPNU.
14 For '14,
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2015 NFL Draft,
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2016 SEC Women's Golf Championships; Kory Henkes; Ole Miss Women's Golf; Rory McIlroy;,
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3 Things You Should Know About Gameday,
38: The Chucky Mullins Effect,
A Year in Review,
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Alabama Crimson Tide,
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Armintie Price Herrington,
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Be The Fan,
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Egg Bowl Motivational,
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Jamie laverty said:
Bulmer I love you and ole Miss in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really Bulmer is very fantastic & dedicated in his job. Really outstanding & well done... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really motivating post & outstanding job did Bulmer .Loved it... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Great year. I am proud of you all. in post Drama Rules The Day at Vaught-Hemingway
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. in post Rebels Dominate In Prime-Time Spotlight
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. in post Rebels Pass First Test in Search of Playoff Berth
Joe Snaidauf said:
Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!! in post Eleven Rebels Garner Phil Steele Preseason Honors
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 in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year
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
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