Ole Miss is 2-0 on the year following its 73-21 dismantling of Fresno State. The Rebels’ 149 combined points over the last two weeks - which also includes a 76-3 win over UT-Martin - are the most in a two-game span in school history. The previous record was 131 from Oct. 22-29, 1904. The Rebels are the first SEC team to score 70 points in back-to-back games since Florida in 1994.
A good start to the season, to say the least.
Junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who finished with five catches and 73 yards against the Bulldogs, said the Rebels’ fast and impressive start can be attributed to a team-wide shift in approach.
“That’s what we got caught up in last year - looking forward to bigger games,” he said. “We’re taking it one game at a time, and we’re going to continue to do that. (Alabama) will get our best effort next week. Hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”
Alabama moved to 2-0 with a 37-10 win over Middle Tennessee State. Now comes an early-season matchup of SEC West contenders with potentially significant postseason implications on the line, should the Rebels and Crimson Tide continue down their current paths.
Ole Miss entered the weekend ranked No. 17 in the latest Associated Press poll, with Alabama at No. 2.
“I didn’t hear one person say anything about Alabama this whole week,” Treadwell said. “That’s the focus you want to have as a team - going week by week, and not looking forward to a certain team. We have our goal, to be the national champs. We’ll take it one at a time.”
“Are we ready for SEC play? I don’t know,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “It’s hard to tell. I can’t answer if we’re ready or not, but I’m really excited about finding out.”
Leading the way for the Rebels is emerging junior quarterback Chad Kelly. Kelly, a junior college transfer, is averaging 278.5 passing yards through two games, having completed 29 of his 40 attempts (72.5 percent) for 557 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Kelly finished 20 of 25 for 346 yards with four touchdowns Saturday. He also added a four-yard rushing touchdown, his second of the season. With two games down, he ranks No. 1 in the nation in Total Quarterback Rating (QBR).
“I’m just ready for this next game. I know it’s going to be a good test,” Kelly said. “They’re a great team, and I’m excited about this opportunity, especially with some of the great players we have on our team.”
Ole Miss upset Alabama at home, 23-17, in 2014. Students swarmed the field. A goal post came down. Rebel football announced its presence on the national college football stage.
Will there be an encore performance? The Rebels don’t have to worry about looking ahead anymore. SEC play, the measuring stick, is here. Alabama holds a 47-10-2 series lead, and not once in history have the Rebels picked up a win in Tuscaloosa at night.
Now the fun begins.
“We’re ready,” senior linebacker C.J. Johnson said. “We’re going to be ready, we’re going to prepare (Sunday) when we come in, make the corrections. Starting (Sunday) is when we start prepping for them.
“It’s going to be a knockdown in T-town. Can’t wait.”
“OLD” JOHNSON DELIVERS
Though his debut at middle linebacker was delayed, Johnson certainly showed his ability against Fresno State.
The senior captain, who was suspend for the season opener, had two tackles and the second interception of his career, which he returned 70 yards to set up a Rebel score.
The operative words being set up, not scored himself. A fact not lost on his head coach.
“He’s old and ran out of gas about the 50,” Freeze joked. “It’s really good to have him out there, and he really loves playing the game. He loves Ole Miss, got his degree. I’m proud of him, and I’m glad he got to get out there and get some work in. I was real happy to see him get that pick.”
“I did (run out of gas), man,” Johnson laughed. “It felt good just to be back out there with the team doing my part. Felt great.”
KELLY + ADEBOYEJO = CHEMISTRY
Junior wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo totaled 313 receiving yards in 13 games last season.
He’s nearly halfway (153) to that number a year later. In two games. With a new quarterback.
Adeboyejo had the best game of his Ole Miss career against Fresno State, racking up career-highs in yards (120) and touchdowns (3). He’s the first Rebel with three touchdown catches in a game since Donte Moncrief against in-state rival Mississippi State in 2012.
“He was one of the first guys I talked to before even getting to campus,” Kelly said. “He’s been nothing but a great teammate, great worker. I can’t say enough about Quincy, and (his hard work) is starting to pay off. He’s doing a great job. He’s one of the guys that pay attention to every little detail. He’s doing a great job getting open.”
Adeboyejo attributed much of his early success on Kelly. The pair has quickly developed a good rapport, with Adeboyejo leading all Ole Miss receivers with four touchdowns, including grabs of 50 and 44 yards in Saturday’s win.
“His deep balls are really good,” Adeboyejo said of Kelly. “From anybody I've ever thrown with, he has one of the best deep balls I've ever encountered. He just puts some touch on it, and he hits those guys in stride.
“If there’s a deep play called, we know to run as fast as we can and Chad's going to hit us. Whether it's 50 yards, 60 yards. He's shown he can get the ball to us. That's really good.”
STILL NO TUNSIL
The third week of the season has arrived, but still no resolution in the eligibility status of star Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Ole Miss held Tunsil out for the second time in as many games for what the university has deemed “precautionary measures.” Again in his place was Fahn Cooper, who shifted over from his traditional right tackle spot. Sean Rawlings, in turn, earned the second start of his career.
Ole Miss, sources indicate, is expected to push hard this week for a final decision from the NCAA. For now, though, all the Rebels can do is wait.
“Laremy’s there,” Treadwell said. “He’s contributing as much as he can, and he’s always around and smiling. We’ve just got to worry about what we can worry about, and hopefully we’ll get him back soon.”
Tunsil, a preseason All-American, is widely considered a potential top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. He’s started 20 games in his Ole Miss career, allowing only two sacks.
“I haven’t seen a sack yet,” Kelly said of the Rebel offensive line without Tunsil. “I haven’t seen a negative play either. I think we’re doing just fine. The offensive line is doing a great job, with him or without him. I know we’ll all be happy when we get him back, but that’s going to take its course. I’m just excited about what we have out there right now.”
Freeze said junior offensive lineman Robert Conyers has a sprained ligament in his knee. Ole Miss held him out the second half of Fresno State. “He could have gone back in, but just chose not to. We’ll see how sore he is (Sunday) and get rehab started on him. We definitely need him coming up. That’s a position we really can’t afford to have any injuries at.” … Junior cornerback Tee Shepard was ejected for targeting in the third quarter. By rule, he’ll miss the first half against Alabama. Freeze said while the SEC will likely look at the play, “once they look at it (in the booth), if there was contact to the head, they won’t overturn it.” … Tight end Evan Engram has been noticeably quiet to open his junior campaign, having totaled all of one catch and five yards so far. Freeze said there’s nothing to worry about. “We take what they give us. We know Evan is talented, and the balls will start coming his way for sure.”