Thursday, September 29, 2022

Rebels Pass First Test in Search of Playoff Berth

Ole Miss Rebels vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 19, 2015. (Photo by Joshua McCoy/Um Athletics)
Ole Miss Rebels vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 19, 2015.
(Photo by Joshua McCoy/Um Athletics)

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).


Written by Steven Oubre
Story courtesy Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

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