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Ole Miss Football: 2015 Offensive Juggernaut

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 relevant.

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?

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Wallace Cements Legacy with Gusty Performance

If his legacy remained in doubt, senior quarterback Bo Wallace cemented it Saturday night in his final home game.

Playing with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Arkansas, Wallace helped lead his team to a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, his second win over a top-five opponent this season, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Archie Manning in 1969.

"He couldn't practice any this week," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told everyone you would have to chain him down to not play in this game. You would have to really chain him down. 

"For all the stuff he gets talked about, I hope this would cement his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback who came and helped restore pride and returned us to relevancy. He won two Egg Bowls and at least two bowl wins, taking us to a third. I hope this cements his memory here by everyone in a positive light because he deserves that."

The school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and added a touchdown run, rebounding from a four-turnover game in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last season.

"I have been thinking about this game since last year," Wallace said. "Every single day, I have thought about this game. It pushed me this offseason to work harder than I ever had. The crazy thing is, looking back, I'm kind of thankful for that game because it made me have a better season this season. That game drove me every single day."

Tightly taped up and given pain medicine to deal with the ankle injury, Freeze said Wallace never complained as he prepared this week and then played Saturday night.

"There was a little more motivation there," Freeze said. "He has wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 365 or whatever number of days it's been, and he prepared like it. Even though he was unhealthy, he spent a lot of time in the film room and made sure he felt good about the things we were going to call. He was locked in."

Despite the injury, Wallace was sacked only once, a credit to his much-maligned offensive line that helped pave the way for a 532 yards of total offense. He was also helped by career efforts from sophomore tight end Evan Engram and junior running back Jaylen Walton.

"Hats off to the O-line because I couldn't move back there and they kept guys off of me," Wallace said. "I told them the whole game, 'Keep doing what you're doing. You guys are playing great.' If it weren't for them playing as well as they did, I don't think I would have had a shot."

"It was unbelievable," said Engram of Wallace. "He's definitely one of the toughest players I have played with in my whole career. A lot of guys could have easily just milked the injury and sat on the sideline and not do anything, but that wasn't going to happen with him."

Stepping into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, capped by his second Egg Bowl win and the program's first nine-win regular season since Eli Manning in 2003.

"I had to win this game," Wallace said. "I knew it. I talked to Quon (Laquon Treadwell) about it. I talked to a lot of guys about it. I had to win this game for what I want to be remembered for."

Van Devenders Share Special Moment With Mannings

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Here's part of a profile on former Ole Miss football player and now successful businessman Billy Van Devender, who was college teammates and roommates with Archie Manning. The full story, as well as the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation website, is linked below.

At the premiere of the ESPN Films documentary "The Book of Manning," Billy Van Devender shared a special moment with former roommate and good friend Archie Manning. 

In partnership with Ole Miss athletics, the Van Devender and Manning families made significant contributions to the Forward Together campaign to rename the indoor football practice facility the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

"It was very emotional," Van Devender said. "My wife, Mollie, and I were there, and my children were there. Archie and Olivia did not know that it was going to be named after them. They walked in the room, and there were a lot of moist eyes in the room. Everybody was excited and emotionally charged. They were very appreciative of it. It's a great tribute to them. 

"I've always believed that, 'to whom much is given, much is expected.' Everyone says they want to give back, and that's what I'm trying to do here. I feel strongly that we have the right leadership at Ole Miss, and I know that head football coach Hugh Freeze is not only interested in winning football games, but he's genuinely interested in the student-athletes who we're recruiting and playing football. He wants them to be good examples and good citizens when they leave Ole Miss."

Full StoryGiveToAthletics.com

Book Of Manning Premieres In Oxford

Family and football. Fathers and sons. A scrapbook of memories, which come alive on the screen through home video, game footage and candid, personal interviews with members of the Manning family and those whose lives they touched.


It was a special night in Oxford, as the ESPN Films documentary, The Book of Manning, premiered Friday at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Ole Miss campus. The event also raised $100,000 to benefit the Friends of Children's Hospital, which supports the Blair E. Batson Hospital for children.


"I'm really honored to be here and flattered that Ole Miss wanted to make an event out of this," Archie said of the premiere. "I'm excited that the benefactor will be Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, which is part of the University Medical Center. It's going to raise a lot of money for them and help the sick children of Mississippi get well and get home.


"We are really flattered and indebted for the turnout that we had. We're always glad to be on campus and be around the Ole Miss family, so it's a great night for us."


Earlier in the day, Ole Miss Director of Athletics, Ross Bjork, announced the "building phase" of the Forward Together Campaign, and later at the film's premiere, it was also announced that Ole Miss Athletics will name the newly renovated Indoor Practice Facility the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.


"Unbelievable," Archie said of the facilities. "The meeting room, the dining facility, the dressing room, the weight room. I saw SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and said we have got it going here. What we have here is Alabama-type stuff, and what they have been able to accomplish is the paramount thing in our conference right now. We have some great facilities."


MY TAKE ON THE FILM: The Book of Manning is a special tribute to a special family, which follows the Mannings through both their prosperity and adversity, from Archie's father, Elisha, to Archie, to Archie's three sons, Cooper, Peyton and Eli. 


It strikes a balance between their respective personal and professional lives, and their relationships, as the most powerful moments of the film are interviews with them talking about one another. And, other than video of Eli's verbal commitment to Ole Miss, what drew the most reaction was home video of football games in the Manning backyard. 


All of the games and moments you expect are in the film, such as Eli's commitment mentioned above, with context and supported by photos, videos and interviews. And each of their respective stories, all their own, is given careful attention, both individually and as part of the Manning family.


In the end, the story comes full circle and leaves you with a satisfied feeling of completeness, with Eli winning a January bowl game at Ole Miss more than 30 years after his father, Archie, did just the same.


The film premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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