Senior running back Jeff Scott ran for a career-high 164 yards and had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown here Saturday night as Ole Miss scored 30 unanswered points to run past Texas 44-23 in front of the third largest crowd at DKR Stadium (101, 474). With the win, the Rebels improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1989.
Hugh Freeze refers to his tenure at Ole Miss as a “journey.”
Suffice it to say the journey has moved at a quicker pace than even Freeze could have imagined.
A Mississippi native, inspirational leader and one of the nation’s top rising coaches, Freeze was the first choice to return championships to Ole Miss Football and was introduced as the Rebels’ 37th head coach on December 5, 2011.
In the time since Freeze inherited a program coming off a two-win season and 14 straight Southeastern Conference losses, the Rebels have made four straight bowl appearances and won three of them. The team’s win total under Freeze has risen as consistently as possible – from seven in 2012 to eight in 2013, nine in 2014 to 10 last season.
Freeze is the first coach in school history to guide the Rebels to a bowl game in each of his first four seasons, including wins in the BBVA Compass, Music City and Sugar. Ole Miss is one of five programs in the country (along with Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State) to make consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearances in the first two years of the College Football Playoff system.
Freeze’s 34 wins at Ole Miss – which include a number of landmark victories over programs such as Alabama, LSU and Texas – are the most by a Rebel head coach in his first four seasons. He and Alabama’s Nick Saban are the only current coaches with a .500 or better record against every other SEC West team.
The Rebels have been a fixture in the national rankings under Freeze, having been included in the top 25 for a total of 37 weeks over the last four years, including a string of 27 straight weeks in the polls for the first time since 1957-62. Ole Miss rose as high as No. 3 in both 2014 and 2015, its highest national ranking since 1964.
Freeze’s teams have shattered most of the offensive school records and had the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2014. His high-flying tempo offense has helped shine the college football spotlight brightly on quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly and receivers Donte Moncrief, Laquon Treadwell, Evan Engram and others.
The Rebels have saved some of their best work for the biggest games, upending No. 1 Alabama in 2014 and claiming their second-ever road win over the Crimson Tide in 2015. The Rebels are 3-1 in the “Egg Bowl” rivalry against Mississippi State under Freeze. Their 48-20 Sugar Bowl triumph over Oklahoma State to capture their 10th win last season featured the third-most points ever scored by a team in the Sugar Bowl’s 82-year history.
Freeze and his staff have developed 15 players to All-SEC honors, including All-Americans Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson, Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Engram, Treadwell and Trae Elston. Treadwell was named Ole Miss’ first ever SEC Freshman of the Year in 2013 and became the school’s first Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2015. Nkemdiche was the first ever defensive lineman to be named a Hornung Award finalist.
Seven Ole Miss players have been selected in the NFL Draft since Freeze arrived as head coach, including 2016 first-rounders Tunsil, Treadwell and Nkemdiche. Moncrief, Golson, Fahn Cooper and Cody Core were also drafted over the last three years. Three more Freeze pupils – Pierce Burton, Lavon Hooks and Carlos Thompson – made it on NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.
Success on the field has been a direct result of the way Freeze runs his program – recruit elite football talent and treat the team like a family.
Freeze and his staff have collected four straight recruiting classes ranked among the top 15 in the nation. The 2013 and 2016 classes were both among the top five in the country, which makes them the best two classes in recorded program history.
A total of 97 players have earned their University of Mississippi degrees since Freeze’s arrival, while the 2016 spring semester saw the team earn its highest cumulative grade point average in recorded history. Freeze’s staff has brought stability to the program’s academic standing and has emphasized the value of good character and brotherly love throughout all aspects of the team. Many players volunteer their time to community service projects in the Oxford area, and 19 players have participated in mission trips to Panama and Haiti over the last three spring breaks.
2015: Magnolia Bowl, Egg Bowl, Sugar Bowl Champs
The Rebels earned their 10th win of the most recent campaign by crushing Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, 48-20, highlighted by three Chad Kelly-to-Laquon Treadwell touchdowns and another score by junior offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil on his final play as a Rebel. The Sugar Bowl appearance was the Rebels’ first since the 1969 season, and Freeze guided the team to its first 10-win campaign since 2003.
At No. 9 in the final coaches poll and No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll, Ole Miss finished with its highest national ranking since 1969.
Freeze led the Rebels to back-to-back seasons with at least nine victories for the first time since 1961-62. Ole Miss finished the regular season 9-3 overall and 6-2 in conference play to place second in the SEC West. The six SEC wins were the most by a Rebel football team since 2003.
A whopping 64 Ole Miss team and individual records were broken or tied in 2015, including most total yards (6,731), points (531), touchdowns (68) and passing yards (4,351) in a season. Kelly and Treadwell made resounding cases for their status as Ole Miss icons with the number of records they set on the field -- 17 and 15 respectively -- surpassing such names as Eli Manning, Bo Wallace, Donte Moncrief and Chris Collins. Ole Miss also became the first team in SEC history to score 73 or more points in back-to-back games.
Kelly’s 4,542 total yards and 4,042 passing yards were both the third-most by a player in Southeastern Conference history, as he became the league’s third QB to ever throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season. He tied the Sugar Bowl record with four touchdown tosses in the Superdome.
Ole Miss finished the campaign eighth nationally with 40.8 points per game, 10th with 517.8 total yards per outing and 10th with 334.7 passing yards per game.
Freeze and the Rebels won multiple memorable games throughout the 2015 campaign, including a road win over No. 2 Alabama, capping off consecutive victories over the Crimson Tide for the first time in program history. Along with the Alabama victory, Freeze led Ole Miss to wins over Auburn and rival LSU, marking the first time the Rebels took down all three teams in one season. The 2015 team also kept a stranglehold on the Golden Egg, winning back-to-back Egg Bowls over Mississippi State for the first time in over a decade.
Alabama went on to claim the national title, making it the third time in program history that the Rebels were the national champion's only loss. The Rebels also upended Notre Dame in 1977 and Florida in 2008.
2014: Rebels Take Down No. 1, Make Inaugural New Year’s Six Bowl
The foundation that was laid in 2012 and 2013 led the way for a memorable campaign in 2014. Ole Miss played in the very first of the inaugural New Year’s Six bowl games - the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl vs. TCU. The Rebels got there on the strength of the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (16.0 ppg allowed) and wins over four 10-win teams (Alabama, Boise State, Memphis, Mississippi State) and three conference champions (Alabama, Boise State, Memphis).
Freeze, a finalist for both the 2014 Bear Bryant Award and Dodd Trophy, led Ole Miss to its most regular-season wins over ranked teams since 1969 and its highest national ranking (No. 3) since 1964.
October 4, 2014 will forever be remembered by Rebel Nation as the day ESPN’s College GameDay and pop singer Katy Perry put Oxford in the national spotlight, and the Rebels knocked off the No. 1 Crimson Tide 23-17 for the program’s first ever victory over the nation’s top-ranked team.
On top of pacing the nation in scoring defense , the 2014 Landsharks also paced the SEC in interceptions (22), turnovers forced (32), tackles for loss (7.6/game) and opponent third-down conversion (33.0 percent).
2013: Offensive Fireworks Lead to Eight-Win Season
The Rebels’ 8-5 record after defeating Georgia Tech 25-17 in the 2013 Music City Bowl gave Ole Miss consecutive winning campaigns for the first time since the 2008-09 seasons. For his efforts, Freeze was named the 2013 Grant Teaff Coach of the Year by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The fans that filled Vaught-Hemingway Stadium each Saturday were treated to another exciting offensive season in 2013. The Rebels eclipsed 500 total yards in four of their final five home games, including a program-record 751 yards in a rout of Troy. The Rebel offense finished the season with a then-school record 6,153 total yards and ranked 21st nationally and fifth in the SEC in total offense (473.3 ypg).
A month after the Rebels capped off the 2012 season with a 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Ole Miss was the talk of National Signing Day when Freeze and Co. landed a consensus top-10 class that was ranked as high as No. 2 by 247Sports and No. 5 by ESPN - the highest recorded signing class rankings in school history.
2012: Rebels Reverse Fortunes under Freeze
The Rebel offense saw a dramatic turnaround under Freeze in 2012. With many of the same players, he took a team that had ranked at or near the bottom of the SEC in every statistical category in 2011 to rank top five in the league and top 50 in the nation in scoring, total offense and passing.
The 2012 Rebels soared up the school record books and cracked the top four single-season totals in scoring, total offense and passing.
The Rebels’ 7-6 record could have been even better had they not lost three tight SEC games (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, at LSU) by a combined 10 points.
Rising Through the Ranks
Freeze, a noted speaker and recruiter throughout his career, has enjoyed success at nearly every coaching level over the past 21 years, from high school to NAIA to FBS, and each stop has featured a high-scoring offense and the ability to motivate young people. Before returning to Oxford, the former Ole Miss assistant experienced a record-setting run at Arkansas State.
With Freeze as head coach in 2011, the Red Wolves captured the Sun Belt Conference championship and became just the third school in Sun Belt history to finish undefeated in league play with a perfect 8-0 mark. The 10-2 overall record marked the program’s first 10-win season since 1986, when ASU was a member of the I-AA Southland Conference.
In the best debut season ever by an A-State head coach, Freeze became just the 14th FBS first-year head coach to win 10 regular season games. He also returned ASU to a bowl game for the first time since 2005.
Freeze was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year, while 13 of his pupils earned all-conference honors, including both the Offensive Player of the Year in junior quarterback Ryan Aplin and the Defensive Player of the Year in senior lineman Brandon Joiner.
While dominating the Sun Belt statistical categories, the Red Wolves finished the season ranked top 25 in the nation in total offense (24th), total defense (24th), passing offense (16th), rushing defense (13th), pass efficiency defense (21st), scoring defense (25th), tackles for loss (eighth) and sacks (15th). They were also one of only two teams in the NCAA to lead their conference in both total offense and defense.
Freeze’s high-octane offense saw Aplin shatter the school record for career pass completions. He established new single-season standards for total offense and passing yards per game while ranking No. 10 in the nation in total offense. Wide receiver Dwayne Frampton broke the Red Wolves’ single-season record for receptions and ranked 13th nationally.
The Freeze defense also impressed in 2011 led by Joiner, who tied for third in the NCAA in sacks and 10th in TFLs. Senior DB Darryl Feemster registered six interceptions and tied for 14th in the nation in that category.
Freeze’s first season in Jonesboro saw him serve as Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Red Wolves’ offense to a record-breaking year in 2010.
He made an immediate impact on ASU’s program, leading the offense to a No. 43 national ranking in total offense one year after the Red Wolves finished toward the bottom of the NCAA FBS rankings at No. 95. In just their first year under Freeze’s up-tempo offense, the Red Wolves broke nine offensive school records that included 4,841 yards of total offense, which ranked No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference.
ASU, ranked 42nd in the nation in scoring offense, finished the season averaging 30 points a game and recorded at least 20 points in 11 consecutive games for the first time in school history. Freeze’s offense scored 46 touchdowns for the fourth-most in school history and the most since the 1975 season.
In addition to working as ASU’s offensive coordinator, Freeze was also the quarterbacks coach for the Red Wolves. Under Freeze’s direction, Aplin exploded onto the scene in 2010 to emerge as a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year candidate as a sophomore. Aplin not only broke the ASU records for total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions, he posted numbers that rank among the top 10 in Sun Belt history in the same categories.
Prior to his arrival at Arkansas State, Freeze compiled a 20-5 record over the 2008 and 2009 seasons at the helm of the Lambuth University football program.
Freeze was named the American Football Coaches Association’s Southeast Region Coach of the Year in 2009 after leading the Eagles to their best regular season in school history with an 11-0 record. Under Freeze’s direction, Lambuth won the Mid-South Conference West Division, advanced to the second round of the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 1999, finished the year with a 12-1 mark and ascended to the No. 6 ranking in NAIA.
The Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year oversaw the offense and called plays for a Lambuth team that averaged more than 40 points per game and ranked ninth nationally in total offense (465 ypg). The Eagles also ranked first in the nation in fourth-down conversions, fourth in first downs per game and third-down conversions, fifth in passing and eighth in scoring offense.
Prior to taking over as head coach at Lambuth, Freeze served on the Ole Miss staff from 2005-07, including the final two seasons as an assistant coach. He originally arrived in Oxford as Assistant Athletics Director for External Affairs before being named the Rebels’ recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach before the 2006 season.
In his first year as recruiting coordinator, he helped bring in the nation’s ninth-ranked recruiting class, the highest recorded rank in the history of the program at that time. Ole Miss’ 2007 signing class was tabbed 25th nationally, and he was responsible for nine commitments in the 2008 signing class.
While maintaining his duties as recruiting coordinator, he moved to wide receivers coach in 2007 and tutored current NFL star Mike Wallace to a top-10 SEC finish in receiving yards. Freeze also coached Shay Hodge, who later became Ole Miss’ first 1,000-yard receiver, and Dexter McCluster, who went on to become the first player in SEC history with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.
High School Teacher and Coach
Before going to Ole Miss, Freeze served 13 years at Briarcrest Christian School (Memphis, Tenn.) as a classroom teacher, coach and administrator. He was the Saints’ head football coach from 1995 to 2004, running the no-huddle “spread system” for six years that led to six straight state championship games.
Freeze compiled a 99-23 record while at Briarcrest, which included an undefeated season in 1996 and led the school to state championship titles in 2002 and 2004. Briarcrest won regional titles in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2002, and Freeze was named the Region 8-AA Coach of the Year five times and Associated Press Coach of the Year four times.
Among his talented pupils during that period were eventual Rebels and current NFL starters Michael Oher and Greg Hardy.
Before assuming the role of head coach at Briarcrest, Freeze served as the teams’ offensive coordinator and defensive backs coach from 1992-94, as the Saints reached the TSSAA state semifinals twice.
A 1988 graduate of Senatobia High School, Freeze received an associate’s degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College in 1990 and was a two-year letterwinner on the Ranger baseball team. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in coaching and sports administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1992.
It was while attending USM that he became active in mission projects, serving as a missionary in Houston, Salt Lake City, St. Petersburg, Russia and Australia. Freeze also served as the state president for the Mississippi Baptist Student Union.
Born in Oxford and raised in Independence, Mississippi, Hugh, 46, and his wife, Jill, are the parents of three daughters: Ragan (17), Jordan (16) and Madison (13).
College Head Coaching Record:
2nd MWC West
1st MWC West
1st Sun Belt
5th SEC West
BBVA Compass Bowl
T-5th SEC West
Music City Bowl
3rd SEC West
2nd SEC West
5 Bowl Berths
*did not coach team in bowl game
Previous Coaching Experience: Arkansas State (Head Coach, 2011; Offensive Coordinator, 2010) San Jose State (Assistant Coach/Offensive Coordinator, Dec. 2009 - Feb. 2010) Lambuth (Head Coach, 2008-09) Ole Miss (Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, 2006-07; Assistant Athletics Director for Football External Affairs, 2005) Briarcrest Christian High School (Head Coach, 1995-2004; Assistant Coach, 1992-94)
Coaching Awards: 2013 Grant Teaff FCA Coach of the Year 2011 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year 2009 AFCA Southeast Region Coach of the Year 2009 Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year 5-Time Region 8-AA Coach of the Year 4-Time Associated Press HS Coach of the Year
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