Going Bowling

ATLANTA, Ga. - For many, Thursday was filled with family, food and some Christmas spirit.


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Same for Ole Miss football, only in Atlanta, Ga., site of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

The No. 9-ranked Rebels reported for the game on Christmas day. Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3 SEC) takes on No. 6 TCU (11-1) Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Rebels are appearing in the Peach Bowl for just the second time in program history.

"We’re all here and accounted for," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Everyone is eligible, and that’s a good thing. We’re progressing nicely there."

Christmas came early for the Rebels. After a team meeting Christmas Eve night, bowl gifts for players were distributed. Freeze said players, coaches and their families spent the big day at the hotel enjoying the game room and watching movies.

"Last night we enjoyed it and no one left the hotel," he said. "Everyone stayed together. That was all fun and neat."

It's all fun and games for now. That is, until kickoff in six days.

Ole Miss is making its third straight bowl appearance for the first time since 1998-2000. Freeze is the first coach in school history to take his team bowling in each of his first three years at the helm. Ole Miss is tied for ninth all-time among Division I teams with 23 bowl victories.

TCU, led by head coach Gary Patterson, was one of the final teams in the conversation for the fourth spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff after an outstanding turnaround season. The Horned Frogs were just 4-8 last season.

"I’ve known of Gary for a long while, and when I was at Arkansas State, we actually talked and there were a couple of guys on his staff that had interest in joining me there," Freeze said. "We hung out quite a bit, played golf and his wife and my wife hit it off."

Not all is merry and bright for Ole Miss currently. Freeze will soon have to make a decision on East Mississippi Community College quarterback Chad Kelly, who signed with Ole Miss earlier this month. Kelly was arrested early Sunday morning after police said he got into a late-night fight with bouncers at Encore bar in downtown Buffalo, N.Y.

"It’s like I tell him every day when he’s calling and texting me: I will deal with you when I get ready to deal with you," Freeze said. "That will be after I gather everything and see after the Jan. 5 court date and what happens with that. When you’re dealing with a kid’s future, I know everybody has their opinion and none of the opinions really matter except for what is best for the program first, the kid second.

“For me to do anything other than wait for all the facts and the total truth ... everything that is out there is not accurate. I want to deal exactly what is accurate. This is where he wants to be. He knows a mistake in being in the wrong place and I think is remorseful for that. But I got to deal with what is best for the team first, and then try to do what is best for the young man."

Freeze said Kelly, a four-star prospect who led EMCC to a national championship this season, has been humbled by the experience.

"Very humbled," he said. "Very remorseful, but also wants me to know the truth. How he perceives it. I’ve heard that."

Kelly finished his only junior-college season with 3,906 passing yards and 47 touchdowns, as well as 446 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.


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