Happy Monday and welcome to my very first edition of the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call! Join me every Monday through Friday here at SEC Country, and I’ll fill you in on everything an Ole Miss fan needs to know in order to be the most informed guy at the water cooler, coffee pot, car pool, etc. …
Let’s get started!
Of course, Mondays are always a little better when they follow an Ole Miss win. That’s especially true this week as Rebels fans finally got to see what 60 minutes of intense, turnover-free football looks like. On Saturday, it looked like an absolute thrashing of the then-12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, as Ole Miss let out its frustrations on the way to a 45-14 victory.
The game was never even close.
It was the Ole Miss football team’s first win over Georgia in 20 years, and it was a throttling of the type that the Bulldogs don’t get very often. In fact, with the 31-point victory Ole Miss handed Georgia its worst loss since the Bulldogs suffered a 42-10 defeat to LSU in the 2011 SEC Championship game.
That fact wasn’t lost on Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.
“I can’t think of a time in my lifetime where a team has done that to Georgia,” Freeze told the AP.
Turns out, Ole Miss is a really good football team when it plays 60 minutes of mistake-free football. According to Freeze, it was those costly turnovers that kept the Rebels from tasting victory against Florida State and Alabama.
“I know everyone wants to make it out to be great strategy by the opposing coaches, or by us, or not by us; the reality is, if we don’t turn the ball over, we don’t talk about all those strategy things,” Freeze said in his postgame press conference. “That’s what happened to us. We turned it over in both of those games. Not just turned it over but turned it over for two-straight touchdowns. It’s hard to overcome that against good teams. And those teams seized the momentum after those plays.”
But it was different on Saturday. The Rebels played a complete game, roaring to a 45-0 lead before relinquishing a couple meaningless touchdowns late. Quarterback Chad Kelly was turnover free and masterful, distributing the ball to eight different receivers for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns and running 41 yards for another to put the game out of reach.
If Kelly keeps playing like that, the Rebels will win a lot more games.
Keeping the lead
Ole Miss has taken a lot of heat for blowing 21-point leads against Florida State and Alabama, so, of course, when Ole Miss grabbed a quick lead against Georgia, Twitter had a good time with it.
Tense moment for Ole Miss fans.
Rebels lead 17-0 in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/LIVMCKEIRR
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 24, 2016
Georgia's got Ole Miss just where they want them, down 24-0.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 24, 2016
Ole Miss with another fast start…Their fans are excited to watch them blow another huge lead in the second half. #HottyToddy
— Fake SportsCenter (@FakeSportsCentr) September 24, 2016
But the Rebels weren’t about to let another one slip away.
After Ole Miss jumped in front 17-0, senior tight end Evan Engram started reminding his teammates it wasn’t over, according to this from the Ole Miss Spirit.
“I was going up and down the sideline saying, ‘We’ve been here before. Let’s finish,'” Engram said, and the Rebels did just that, not giving up a single point until the game was well in hand.
Engram, a Georgia native, finished the day with 6 catches for 95 yards.
Wide Receiver U
The Rebel wide receivers made a strong case for Ole Miss being designated the new Wide Receiver U in a shocking display of offensive skill.
Take a look:
Obviously, the receivers can’t do their thing without a strong-armed quarterback, but between Kelly’s cannon of an arm and this squadron of receiver talent, Ole Miss showed that it can score points in bunches and do it with shock and awe.
“It’s as if they play with the fast-forward button stuck,” ESPN’s Adam Rittenburger wrote. “They strike quickly. They blow leads quickly. They entertain and electrify. They are never methodical and occasionally maddening. They’re fun and fearless. Everything is fast and exciting, most notably senior quarterback Chad Kelly and his gifted group of wide receivers and tight ends. Ole Miss has no chill, and those attending Rebels games better show up on time.”
ESPN’s Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway were so impressed by the dominating Ole Miss performance that they spent Saturday afternoon talking about Ole Miss as a possible playoff team, which may sound preposterous considering the Rebels’ 2-2 record, but everybody remembers how completely unstoppable Ole Miss looked early against both the Seminoles and the Crimson Tide before coming unglued late in those game. Georgia was the evidence many needed as to what the Rebels look like with their foot on the gas, tires on the road, for a full 60 minutes.
With a schedule that doesn’t include any more games against top 5 opponents, the Ole Miss team that defeated the Bulldogs looked like it could conceivably run the table. With a little help, who knows what could happen?
The bounce-back master
With some teams, a couple discouraging early losses can make the wheels fall off, especially with the entire country chuckling at you for blowing those 21-point leads. But Freeze kept his Rebels in a good place mentally, and they were ready to explode all over Georgia.
“Coach (Hugh) Freeze is the best I have ever been around after a loss,” Rebels offensive coordinator Dan Werner told the Ole Miss Spirit. “He does not let someone beat us twice. If you had been at practice this week, you would have thought we were undefeated. We rolled all week and that’s how we played today. We rolled. Our guys believe we are the best offense in the country. If it hadn’t been for some turnovers in two earlier games, I think we would be the best offense in the country. Today showed what we can do. That was a good defense we played today.”
Passing the Mannings
Kelly is going to have his name all over the Ole Miss record books before this season is over. Considering that most of the quarterback records are currently owned by guys named Archie and Eli Manning, and half the campus contains some reference or tribute to the two Ole Miss legends, that’s a pretty big deal. Ole Miss’ win over Georgia was Kelly’s 17th straight game with a touchdown pass, which surpasses Eli Manning’s record of 16 touchdown passes. Kelly also amassed 335 total yards against the Bulldogs, which moved him past Archie Manning into sixth place on the Ole Miss all-time yardage list with 5,901 yards.
The Rebels host the Memphis Tigers (3-0) next. Warning: It might be a barn burner. That’s probably not the news you wanted to hear after a rough September, but the Rebels have a young secondary, and Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson just set the sky ablaze against Bowling Green, throwing 6 touchdown passes on his way to a 359-yard night and a 77-3 win for the Tigers. Fortunately for Ole Miss, it’s a revenge game, as the Rebels were upset by Memphis last season, and it’s in Oxford. We’ll talk more about this one as the week progresses.
The return of coach O
The powers that be finally had enough of the offensive futility that was Les Miles and Cam Cameron. Miles was let go on Sunday afternoon, only to be replaced on an interim basis by former Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron. Speaking of futility, never was the Ole Miss football program worse on offense than when Orgeron was calling the shots. The Rebels were a gosh-awful 10-25 (3-21 SEC) from 2005 to 2007 under Orgeron, so … good luck with that, Tigers.
Ed Orgeron will be LSU's Interim Head Coach for the rest of this year. This should be fun. pic.twitter.com/MiDogGTroF
— The LSU Logo (@LSU_Logo) September 25, 2016
If Ole Miss knew LSU preferred Coach O over Les Miles we would've traded straight up back in 2006.
— Kyle Cole (@ColeMissSports) September 25, 2016
Rebels climb in polls
Ole Miss climbed to No. 16 in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 17 in the Amway Coaches Poll. The fact that the Rebels received enough respect not to fall out of the polls after losing two games by mid-September could really pay off, as Ole Miss is now well-positioned for a quick ascent into the top 10 if it can keep winning.
The NFL cornerback returns
As a freshman, Derrick Jones was a future NFL cornerback, according to defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. That was back in 2013 after Jones had helped Ole Miss shut down LSU. Then, almost inexplicably, Ole Miss moved Jones to wide receiver, where he spent the next two seasons lost in the shuffle of talent. Jones finally returned to corner on Saturday, and boy did it pay off.
— CFBonESPNRadio (@CFBonESPNRadio) September 24, 2016
It’s safe to say that Jones will finish his senior season at cornerback!
Rebel breakfast bites
• Dylan Edwards, who works as an intern in Ole Miss media relations, is a must-follow for Rebel fans, as he always has his nose in the stat book. Here’s his latest:
Ole Miss has put up 500 yards in back-to-back SEC games. The only team to do that last year was also Ole Miss.
— Dylan Edwards (@DylanEdwards77) September 25, 2016
Not bad considering the two teams Ole Miss posted 500 yards against are named Alabama and Georgia.
• This is hard to believe, but with the firing of Miles, Hugh Freeze (five years) is the third-most-tenured coach in the SEC behind only Nick Saban (10 years) and Dan Mullen (eight years). Kevin Sumlin also is in his fifth year.
• Vaught-Hemingway Stadium looked good in red.
— OleMissPix (@OleMissPix) September 25, 2016
• Overwhelmed. That’s the only word you could possibly use to describe how Kelly and his receivers made Georgia’s defense feel.
Chad Kelly > Georgia's defense. https://t.co/AoPPZWvxxe
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 24, 2016
• Ole Miss pulled Kelly to the side shortly after going up 45-0 in the third quarter, but RebelGrove.com’s Neal McCready thought the Rebels would have been justified to pour on a few more points.
It's my opinion UGA was one of the most vocal complainers in Ole Miss' NCAA mess. If I'm Freeze, I'm not stopping until it's all zeroes.
— Neal McCready (@NealMcCready) September 24, 2016
Rebels in the NFL
It was a rough day for Ole Miss in the NFL. Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Donte Moncrief and Cody Core were inactive.
• Eli Manning threw a pick in the final minutes that ended any chance the New York Giants had to beat the Washington Redskins as the Giants (2-1) took their first loss.
• Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace had 3 catches for 34 yards.