He totaled a team-leading four catches for 44 yards, but five Ole Miss wide receivers hauled in a touchdown in the Rebels’ 76-3 rout of the Skyhawks, and Treadwell wasn’t one of them. He had an opportunity early in the first quarter, but starting quarterback Chad Kelly threw high in one of his few errant throws of the game.
Treadwell showed signs of rust. He dropped a few balls, including a rather routine pass from Kelly that resulted in an interception.
“He looked explosive, but it was an average performance,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “It was really good seeing him get tackled and be able to bounce back up, but he just has to get back out there and get some more plays.”
“My first couple of plays, especially on the drop, it was just something I wasn’t used to. It was different,” Treadwell, a preseason All-American, said. “I didn’t play too many reps, but when I was in, it was great being out there being physical, blocking and doing it all. It’s all about getting back into rhythm.”
Treadwell didn’t play poorly by any means, but he certainly didn’t look the player who entered the game with three 100-yard receiving games in his Ole Miss career, tied for the seventh most in school history.
Still, just to have him on the field was a welcomed sight for the Rebels. Treadwell suffered a gruesome injury in a loss to Auburn in November. Saturday was his first real action since. Though he practiced with the team throughout fall camp, the coaching staff limited his contact.
“I’ve probably done him an injustice in preparing him because I’ve been a little bit protective with his injury,” Freeze said. “Now I think these first few games will help him get back in the flow. If he had insufficient play it’s my fault because we haven’t let him go against contact a lot.”
Despite his ups and downs, Treadwell showed good chemistry with Kelly, who had a memorable Ole Miss debut. He finished 9 of 15 for 211 yards and three total touchdowns.
“It was great,” Treadwell said. “He didn’t turn the ball over. I’ll take credit for that one he did turn over. Hit my hands, I dropped it. Other than that, his ball placement was perfect. Everything was good. He looked great. He didn’t look in a rush, panicked. It’s all great.”
Not to mention the Rebels recorded their largest margin of victory since a 92-0 win over West Tennessee Teachers College in 1935. Ole Miss racked up 662 yards of total offense, and the Rebels scored 11 touchdowns by 10 different players.
“We worked on perfection (in fall camp), and everything went perfect today,” Treadwell said. “Seventy points is a lot. It speaks to how hard we worked. It showed.”
Treadwell said he’s never been a part of such a scoring outburst.
“Probably basketball,” he joked. “Definitely not football.”
BUCHANAN SHINES IN RESERVE ROLE
Kelly wasn’t the only Ole Miss quarterback to have success Saturday.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Buchanan completed four of his six passing attempts for 58 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yard pitch-and-catch with junior Robert Nkemdiche, on loan from the Ole Miss defense.
“I feel like I played well,” Buchanan said. “There was one pass where with the certain coverage I got, I got a little greedy. I felt good on the drives I had, and I got lucky Robert decided to run for 40 yards for a touchdown and help me out. It was a good day overall, and I can’t wait to get back out there and do it again and get more snaps.”
How many more snaps Buchanan gets going forward is the question.
Buchanan battled Kelly for the better part of four months for the right to replace departed Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. However, Kelly was slightly better in practices, according to Freeze, and was given the nod for UT-Martin. Kelly, a junior college transfer from East Mississippi, ultimately played the majority of the snaps.
“It’s been a little stressful because you know you have to play great,” Buchanan said of the competition. “Every throw is charted, and if you throw an interception, it’ll hurt you. You have to take it in stride, and I have good family around me.”
The Ole Miss quarterback corps, which also includes DeVante Kincade, combined to complete 19 of 28 passes for 324 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.
“I thought we all played very well (Saturday),” Kelly said. “There’s always room for improvement. (Freeze) is the coach; he decides everything. But I know all three of us, as well as Jason (Pellerin) and Drew (Davis), we’re all going to come out every day and push each other to be the best. That’s about all you can ask for, and do what the coaches say and study, study, study.”
WARD STEPS IN, STEPS UP
Ole Miss defensive end Fadol Brown missed the bulk of practices last week due to a death in his family.
Senior Channing Ward was rotated in with the first team in his absence and received the lion's share of the reps, so it’s understandable he was given the first start of his career against UT-Martin. He finished with four tackles (three solo) and a quarterback hurry.
“I thought I played good,” Ward, who has now played in all 40 games of his three-plus-year Ole Miss career, said. “We’re just trying to get back in the groove of it all. Being in the hot sun really drains you, and I pushed myself to play harder. I feel like we’re right back in the saddle, but we can always get better.”
SIX PLAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE
Situation: First-and-1 from the Ole Miss 19-yard line with 11:06 left in the first quarter.
Play: Ole Miss fans had to wait a drive for their first Rebel touchdown of the 2015 season. But, boy, was the wait worth it. Senior running back Jaylen Walton took a handoff from Kelly on the second play of the second series and broke free for a 60-yard touchdown. The Rebels would take a 6-0 lead following a failed two-point conversion try, with the score setting up a 41-point first half, the most points scored in a first half since Arkansas State in 1990.
Score: 6-0, Ole Miss
Situation: Fourth-and-3 from the UTM 35-yard line with 7:33 left in the first quarter.
Play: Junior Carlos Davis was limited a bit in August due to a broken finger, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. Suffice to say, there was a bit of uncertainty as to how Davis, the Rebels' primary punt returner, would respond to his first game action in some time. Those concerns were put to rest when Davis fielded a Skyhawk punt and rumbled 58 yards to the UTM 26. Davis showed great vision, elusiveness and burst, demonstrating again why he could be a dangerous weapon for Ole Miss in the return game, an area the Rebels struggled with at times over the course of their 2014 campaign.
Score: 13-0, Ole Miss
Situation: First-and-10 from the Ole Miss 44-yard line with 5:36 left in the first quarter.
Play: As previously noted, Kelly certainly impressed in the first start of his Ole Miss career. His aerial numbers are noted above, but somewhat lost is he also rushed one time for 20 yards and another score. Still, his day had to start somewhere. Enter sophomore wide receiver Markell Pack. Kelly etched his name in the Rebel record books when he connected with Pack for a 56-yard touchdown. The play was a thing of beauty, Kelly leading the wide-open Pack to the end zone with a perfect throw.
Score: 27-0, Ole Miss
Situation: Third-and-2 from the UTM 31-yard line with 12:35 left in the second quarter.
Play: Nkemdiche, a preseason All-American, is a gifted athlete, and he's certainly no stranger to running back. He starred at the position in high school, when he was rated the top overall prospect in the country, and Freeze hasn't hesitated to use him sparingly in select packages. He wasted no time Saturday. Buchanan, in the game at quarterback in place of Kelly, found Nkemdiche in the flat for a 31-yard score. Nkemdiche tip-toed the sideline to stay in, and what was already a rout got even uglier for a undermanned Skyhawks team. Freeze and Nkemdiche would say later the play was designed for Nkemdiche's mother, who had made the trip from Nigeria to see her son play for the first time since 2013.
Score: 34-0, Ole Miss
Situation: Fourth-and-2 from the Ole Miss 6-yard line with 3:52 left in the second quarter.
Play: Ole Miss’ first-half shutout of UT-Martin was in danger when the Skyhawks set up for a field goal late in the second quarter. However, Nkemdiche, apparently not content with simply making an impact on both the offensive and defensive sides, stepped up to block a Jackson Redditt attempt. Making mama proud.
Score: 41-0, Ole Miss
Situation: First-and-10 from the Ole Miss 29-yard line with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
Play: UT-Martin was threatening again, the Rebels having allowed a long punt return. The Ole Miss defense, though, was up for the challenge, as senior safety Trae Elston stepped in front of Skyhawk quarterback Jarod Neal's pass at the Rebel 7 and raced 93 yards for a touchdown. The play acted as a nice bow on an impressive open to the season for Ole Miss. The Rebels return to action next week against Fresno State at 2:30 p.m.