“Our goal was to be 1-0 after this game. Goal accomplished,” said Freeze after the Rebels snapped a three-game losing streak with a 37-27 win over Georgia Southern.
The streak-snapping win did not come easily for the Rebels (4-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference), who were forced to overcome a 21-10 deficit after the opening 20 minutes. Quarterback Chad Kelly, who accounted for 249 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, hobbled off in the third quarter, favoring his right knee and ankle.
Kelly, 16 of 23 for 233 yards, remained in the bench area in the fourth quarter and left the field without assistance after the game. He did not appear at the post game press conference.
“I haven't got a clue,” answered Freeze when asked about Kelly's status. “He came back to the sidelines and he will get an MRI tomorrow. We'll let our doctors look at it and they will let us know tomorrow.”
Kelly was the decisive factor in leading three consecutive touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Kelly capped the drives with scoring runs of 3 and 5 yards and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram.
Akeem Judd rushed for a season-high 139 yards on 26 carries with a 9-yard touchdown run. Gary Wunderlich added field goals of 35, 29 and 38 yards as the Rebels had 441 yards of total offense.
“Akeem had a solid day. He was important as we managed the game after Kelly went out,” Freeze said. “I always want to see more, but I’ve learned one thing this season and that's to celebrate the good times. Today was a good day for us.”
Freeze has spent most of the season watching the Rebels build big leads, only to see them disappear in the second half. Georgia Southern (4-5, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) reversed the pattern, racing to the early lead before the Rebels rallied to gain control.
Kevin Ellison connected with Myles Campbell on a 29-yard scoring pass before adding a 9-yard touchdown run. Campbell led all receivers with 121 yards on four receptions. Matt Breida scored on a 68-yard touchdown run to cap the early offensive outburst.
Georgia Southern dropped their fifth game in the last six starts despite 401 yards of total offense. The option-based Eagles rushed for 267 yards, highlighted by Breida with 100 yards on 22 carries, but managed only two field goals in the second half.
“There are no moral victories by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think what you saw today was a vast improvement over the last time we played,” Georgia Southern coach Tyson Summers said. “I thought Kevin (Ellison) did a nice job managing the game through it all.”
OLE MISS: After an unsettling 20 opening minutes, the defensive unit turned in an effective performance. End Fadol Brown, plagued by injuries, had a game-high 14 tackles. The Rebels will need defensive production with successive road dates at No. 7 Texas A & M and Vanderbilt.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN: Younghoe Koo, after converting 14 consecutive field goals , narrowly missed a 54-yard attempt on the final play of the first half. Koo responded with field goals from 41 and 38 yards in the second half.
OLE MISS: The Rebels visit No. 7 Texas A & M in an SEC Western Division match on Saturday.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN: The Eagles return to Sun Belt play on Saturday, hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.