The Rebels looked to bounce back from their loss to Florida with a stellar performance in front of their home crowd on Homecoming, and they accomplished their mission behind quarterback Chad Kelly’s four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) and the team’s 665 yards of total offense. The 14th-ranked Rebels (5-1, 2-1 SEC) rolled past the Aggies (0-5, 0-1 Sun Belt) 52-3 to improve to 30-1-2 overall against teams in the Sun Belt Conference.
Freeze was happy to see his team get the bounce-back win, but feels there’s room to get better.
“There were some good individual efforts in this game,” Freeze said. “There were also some things that we need to continue to improve on. It is our job to as coaches to do that and address those things, and then hopefully demand where to make corrections if necessary.”
The Rebels looked sharped on their first drive and looked well on their way to scoring the game’s first touchdown; however, the drive stalled at the goal line when three straight rushing attempts failed to produce a touchdown.
Ole Miss had to settle for Gary Wunderlich’s 21-yard field goal, but after that the Rebels began to roll. Jordan Wilkins ran it through the middle for an 11-yard touchdown, then Akeem Judd followed with a three-yard scoring run to give Ole Miss a 17-3 lead.
Judd rushed for 76 yards on 13 carries and his teammate Eugene Brazley hit the 10o-yard mark on six carries, following a breakout 78-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Before Judd’s touchdown run, Kelly connected with Laquon Treadwell for a 17-yard reception to New Mexico State’s 37. Kelly paired with Treadwell on two of his three touchdown passes, one a 20-yard reception and the other a one-handed, 37-yard Odell Beckham-like catch that brought fans to their feet.
“It feels great, but I don’t want to make this about me today; I just want to be humble about it and know we can get so much better,” said Treadwell, who tied J.R. Ambrose for career touchdown receptions (13). “I left a few plays on the field and I just want to make it up,” he added.
In the last two games against Florida and Vanderbilt, the Rebels weren’t able to throw the deep ball; however, that changed against the Aggies. New Mexico State’s defense had plenty of gaps in it for Kelly to take his chances.
Kelly, who was 24-for-33 for 384 yards, connected with wide receiver Markell Pack who went unscathed into the end zone for a 66-yard score with 5:58 remaining in the second quarter. With a little over one minute before halftime, Kelly added a 4-yard scoring run of his own through the middle.
The Rebels committed three turnovers on the day; however, none turned into points for their opponent. The Aggies finished with 239 yards of total offense.
“We had some things today we wanted to improve on going into the game,” Aggies’ coach Doug Martin said. “The turnover margin and third downs on both sides of the ball were the things we were looking at. When you play a team that is as talented as (Ole Miss), they’ll make you better if you handle it the right way.”
“I thought we did some things where we got better. I told the players after the game we have seven games left and they’re all Sun Belt games. We can win any of them if we go prepare and play like we are capable of.”
Kelly steps into elite company
Kelly completed another milestone in his first year at the University of Mississippi, throwing for 300-plus yards for the fourth time this season, which has him tied with former Rebel quarterbacks Eli Manning (2002, 2003) and Bo Wallace (2013, 2014) for most in a single season.
Kelly is in sole possession of third place in career 300-yard games behind Wallace (11) and Manning (10).
“There’s a lot of smiling going on around here,” Kelly said. “We just have to get better, and we did that today. The offensive line did great, receivers ran great routes, and running backs ran hard. It was a good day.”
Rebels’ defense steps up in big way
Senior nickel back Mike Hilton smiled after he picked off Aggies’ quarterback Andrew Allen. It was Hilton’s first interception of the season, and he was ecstatic about the opportunity to make a big play on defense.
“He ran a crossing route and the QB rolled out to the opposite side and threw against the body. I knew it was either going to be underthrown or thrown out of bounds,” Hilton said. “I undercut it and made a play when I had the chance.”
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics