MODERATOR: We have been joined by Ole Miss. We have head coach Hugh Freeze and Chad Kelly and Laquon Treadwell. Coach?
HUGH FREEZE: It's hard to express, really, all of the feelings that you have and the emotions that you have when you put so much into a team game with great people at a university that you care about, kids that you care about. And, you know, you go through the disappointments. This team could have easily have gone a lot of different directions after the heartbreaking Arkansas loss. And we found ourselves deciding to get better.
And to end the year, winning the Magnolia Bowl, the Egg Bowl, and now the Sugar Bowl, which was a bucket list item for me, it's really surreal. And I'm just happy for these guys, of course. But it's guys that are not up here like C.J. Johnson and Morris and Jimmy Ward, and Justin Bell, Woody Hamilton, that before we arrived, they went through some very difficult, disappointing times. And to be able to send those seniors out winning on that stage is very rewarding.
MODERATOR: Questions for Ole Miss?
Q. Hugh, can you talk about that call right before half, Laremy's touchdown? What went into it and why then?
HUGH FREEZE: Well, I had a good feel for what they would be in. And I knew if we could get them in double-edge pressure man, that, you know, he would be unaccounted for. And it's something that we worked a couple of years. Smart thing to do there is kick the field goal. If we would have chucked it, we would have had plenty of time to do both. But, you know, it -- I don't know. You study film, you play the percentages, and felt comfortable with the lead we had at that moment and really thought that could be somewhat of a dagger to end the first half. you have a gut feeling every now and then. But there was obviously some planning that went into it that you kind of knew what they did when they got down there. And that's a tough play to stop if you can execute it because there's nobody to guard for your man.
Q. Laquon, how did their defense compare to Alabama or Florida-type caliber?
LAQUON TREADWELL: Most importantly, they have a great defense. I think we just executed better and played at higher intensity and jumped on them early. The pieces fell our way. And we caused a couple of turnovers and made plays. And we made them pay for it.
Q. Growing up in Mississippi, you talked a lot about hearing about the stories of Archie leading Ole Miss to a Super Bowl Championship. How does it feel to have etched your part in that Super Bowl history for Ole Miss?
HUGH FREEZE: I don't know that it's totally sunk in yet. You know, I know that when I reflect on this tomorrow, I'm going to have emotions. I seem to cry more, the older I get. I will probably cry a little bit with my wife and kids because, you know, it's just being raised in this state and knowing what the Sugar Bowl meant to the SEC and to be able to come and win the first Champions Bowl for the SEC and the Big 12 is a big, big deal. This team just won the three most important games, arguably, on our schedule right in a row, and did it in convincing fashion. And so I think -- I don't even know if you guys know, but Laquon broke the record tonight for single-season receiving touchdowns. And Chad has broken a lot of records.
There's a lot of great things. But, man, I'm doing an awful job really putting into words what it means. I told our team beforehand -- and I really mean this -- one of the reasons I wanted to win so bad is I know that there are people that pull for Ole Miss, that support us, that probably worked a 10-hour shift yesterday driving a truck making $15 an hour to be able to drive here and watch us play, because it's not a cheap ticket or a cheap event.
And from Iuka to Collins to Independence to all of those small towns in between, all of those 70-I-don't-know-how-many-thousand people were there. But whatever Rebels were there, I know that there were people in that that sacrificed greatly to come and support us. And, man, that's a big deal to me.
Q. This question is to Chad Kelly. How important was it for you and how gratifying is it for you to win both the game and also the MVP of this game?
CHAD KELLY: I think it's big. But I think the biggest thing is that we all came together and played really, really well today. And coming into this game, we knew that we were going to face a tough defense. And we knew we had to be on our P's and Q's. And we went out and executed. And the coach put us in the right situation. And knowing that we came into this game having to execute each drive, that is huge. And we did that.
Q. Hugh, after that loss to Memphis, you said something was missing. The players came out and said, you know, questioned teammates' heart and effort. What changed in the second half of the year to finish the way y'all did?
HUGH FREEZE: I don't think that it was ever a lack of heart. I think that we lost some key components in Gross and Conner that took us some time defensively to kind of get situated. But we, obviously, did not carry the same swagger into that game that we did in others. And that falls on me and our staff. And we just renewed our commitment to take a stand every week and stay true to who you are in difficult times. And the kids responded, thank God.
Q. Chad, after the interception on your second throw, how are you able to put that behind you? And what were your emotions after that and putting that behind you and keeping the offense moving?
CHAD KELLEY: Being a quarterback, you can't worry about the last play. Each play has its own life. And we took a chance. He might have got caught up or held or whatever, but we knew that we have to keep taking our shots and can't back down. And that's what we kept on doing and kept on fighting. And the guys came out and executed.
Q. This is for Chad and Laquon. When you heard the "one more year" chant, what is going through your head? And Chad, you heard it on the stage, what was going through your head?
LAQUON TREADWELL: Rebel Nation has always supported us and been with us through tough times. And being injured a year ago and coming back and getting the "one more year" chant was a blessing. And it was huge. I really don't know how to explain it. I probably haven't grasped it yet, but it was really big.
CHAD KELLY: I see the tears in his eyes, if y'all care. But having this guy on my team is a blessing. And he is not only a hard worker, but he's a big-time leader on this team. And to have him for another year would be definitely huge. But, I mean he, is just a great overall player. And when it's time, it's time. But I'm glad he was able to be on my team this year and bounce back from an injury and set a school record.
Q. Hugh, the defense, I think, 20 points against a team that was ninth in the country in scoring, what allowed the defense to click and do so well against a really good defense?
HUGH FREEZE: I think Dave and his staff, when they have time to plan, do a really good job. Our kids were very motivated to play with an edge defensively. And they had heard all of the, you know, the negativity they have gone through at certain times this year. And we had a good plan. And our kids played really, really hard. We got a little winded. We were so thin on the defensive front that that resulted in some of the other scores. But, I mean, they're a very good offense. And I couldn't be more pleased with the way our defense played.
Q. Laquon, when you came in, your whole class, you talked about completely changing the culture. And from Evan and Laremy and all in the locker room said to make Ole Miss a national brand year after year was a plan. Do you feel the same way?
LAQUON TREADWELL: Guys coming in, like Chad Kelly and Cooper, and year after year, you get top guys that have been through something or want to come make a difference, besides the top schools already and coming here is a place to be. And we welcome anyone. And I think that we're building family. And it's more than football here. Outside of the field, you know, where we're bonding, we're sharing life experiences, we're growing together.
So I think that helped with the success on the field, you know, just welcoming every player that comes and, you know, playing together and fighting hard. And when guys go down, somebody else is stepping up and making a play. And, you know, it's just been a great journey to be a part of.
MODERATOR: Go ahead.
Q. For Chad and Laquon, what was the pulse of your preparation leading up? Did you sense a performance like this coming?
CHAD KELLEY: I think so. From the first bowl practice and first bowl workout, we had a mindset that we wanted to win this game. We came here as a business trip and not just to have fun in New Orleans. I mean, those guys wanted to win as bad as the top guy down to the bottom, and it starts with our coaches bringing the intensity every day in practice and our strength coaches getting us prepared. And we're just so thankful to be in this position and being in such a prestigious bowl, we knew we wanted to come out with a big win.
LAQUON TREADWELL: To add on, it all started with HUGH FREEZE honestly. He got on us day one and let us know it was going to be different this year, and he was going to hold us accountable and make sure that everybody was ready to play come Friday, and it showed tonight. And, you know, he is able to celebrate it and enjoy with his family. So it's a big one for the program, and I'm thankful that he did that.
Q. This is for Hugh. When you looked to 2016, I know it's right after the Sugar Bowl, but do you see it as another playoff team that can contend for a playoff spot and championship?
HUGH FREEZE: We have high expectations for ourselves. The Ole Miss brand now is probably as strong as it has ever been. We think we have an environment that is attractive to a lot of certain type of people that want to do something new and fresh at a different place than has been done before. You have to continue to recruit at a high level, and I see no reason why we shouldn't stay relevant in the southeastern conference now. And what that means from year to year, you never know because it's such a grinder, but I am excited. I think this is a new normal.