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No. 15 Ole Miss Defeats UT Martin 76-3

Chad Kelly scores a touchdown with his feet. Photo courtesy of Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics
Chad Kelly scores a touchdown with his feet. Photo courtesy of Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss scored early and often Saturday against UT Martin.

The Rebel offense amassed 662 yards and scored 10 touchdowns, while the defense limited the Skyhawks to just 290 yards and scored a TD of its own, as Ole Miss rolled to a 76-3 season-opening win in front of 60,186 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

It marked the most points in a game for Ole Miss and the largest margin of victory since a 92-0 win against West Tennessee Teachers College, now known as Union University, in 1935.

On the first play of the Rebels’ second series of the day, senior running back Jaylen Walton broke free on a draw play up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown run to get Ole Miss on the scoreboard. After the Rebel defense forced a Skyhawk punt, junior Carlos Davis returned it 58 yards to the UT Martin 26, and five plays later Walton danced into the end zone from four yards out for his second TD of the day to put Ole Miss up 13-0.

Walton finished the game with just three carries but gained 65 yards and tied a career-high two TDs.

“Jaylen Walton has the big-play ability,” said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. “We talk about explosive plays in our offense. In this league if you aren’t able to create some explosive plays you will not be able to perform offensively. Jaylen definitely showed that ability in the touches he had.”

Following another UT Martin punt, junior quarterback Chad Kelly – making his Ole Miss debut –  connected with sophomore Markell Pack for a 56-yard TD pass on the Rebels’ first play of the drive. Sophomore Ryan Buchanan entered the game on Ole Miss’ next offensive series and capped a 38-yard drive with a with a 15-yard TD strike to junior wideout Quincy Adeboyejo that put the Rebels up 27-0 at the end of the first quarter.

“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 27 first quarter points were the most for the Rebels in a first quarter in modern history (since at least 1962) and the most in any quarter since scoring 28 in the fourth quarter against Boise State in the season opener last year.

Ole Miss continued to add to its lead in the second quarter after Buchanan found junior Robert Nkemdiche, who was lined up at tight end, in the flat and Nkemdiche rumbled 31 yards to the end zone to put the Rebels up 34-0. It was Nkemdiche’s first career reception and touchdown, and the 6-4, 296-pounder added a blocked field goal later in the quarter. Buchanan finished the game with a pair of TDs and 58 yards on 4-of-6 passing.

“Robert Nkemdiche is a tremendous athlete,” Freeze said. “Anytime we can use the kids within our team to be successful, we try to do that. Robert is definitely one of those guys that will help in any way that he can, and he is able to help us in a lot of areas.”

The offensive onslaught continued in the second quarter after Kelly hooked up with senior Cody Core for a 57-yard touchdown strike that gave Ole Miss a 41-0 heading into halftime. Kelly, who started under center for the Rebels, completed 9-of-15 attempts for 211 yards and a pair of scores.

“It felt great,” Kelly said. “Being out there with my teammates we put in a long, long year of work. This season could be a great season so I’m excited to be able to go out there with great fans, great coaches and great teammates.”

After a Kelly pass bounced off the hands of Treadwell and into the arms of a UT Martin defender, senior Trae Elstonresponded the very next play with a 93-yard pick six that put the Rebels up 48-0 midway through the third period. It was the longest interception return for a touchdown since Charles Sawyer’s 96-yard pick six against BYU in 2011.

Kelly added a 20-yard rushing TD on the next Ole Miss possession that extended the lead to 55-0, while the Skyhawks finally got on the scoreboard with 2:26 left in the third quarter after Jackson Redditt connected on a 29-yard field goal that cut the Ole Miss lead to 55-3.

Kincade found freshman wideout DaMarkus Lodge in the corner of the end zone from 12 yards out with 10:27 left in the game to put the Rebels up 62-3. Sophomore running back Eugene Brazley continued the Rebels’ offensive explosion with a 70-yard TD run later in the fourth quarter, while fellow running back D.K. Buford added a 20-yard TD run with 1:44 left that provided the final score of 76-3.

Ole Miss will welcome the Fresno State Bulldogs to Oxford next Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Then game will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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