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VOL. 130 | NO. 184 | Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ole Miss Rebels Prove Their Worth, Rewarded With Rankings Boost

By Don Wade

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Underdogs sometimes receive great pre-game speeches. But in the Ole Miss locker room Saturday, Sept. 18, at Bryant-Denny Stadium, there was no sense that the Rebels were about to try and make a miracle, or that it would take one to beat then-No. 2-ranked Alabama.

Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze celebrates with fans after defeating Alabama 43-37 Saturday, Sept. 19, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The Rebels had defeated Nick Saban & Co. last season in Oxford, so there was positive recent history from which to draw. Head coach Hugh Freeze kept the words to a minimum.

“Our pregame was as short as it has ever been,” Freeze said. “I said, `You’re good enough to win.’”

And they were, 43-37. The Rebels, 3-0 and 1-0 in the SEC, are now No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll with Alabama (2-1, 0-1) sliding back 10 slots to No. 12. In The AP Top 25, Ole Miss is tied with TCU for No. 3.

The Rebels proved themselves in a variety of ways: They cashed in five Bama turnovers for 24 points; they stood up on defense when Bama rallied; and they played a turnover-free game. Quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 341 yards and three TDs and rushed for another score.

At plus-six, Ole Miss leads the SEC in turnover margin and is No. 4 in the country.

The loss ended Bama’s 17-game home winning streak as neither Cooper Bateman nor Jake Coker seized the quarterback job, combining for three picks. The defense allowed 9.7 yards per pass completion. Both situations signal more trouble could be ahead.

“They played a really good game,” Saban said of the Rebels, “But are you going to be a giver or are you going to be a taker? If you’re going to be a great competitor, you’ve got to take what you want.

“I don’t know if there’s anybody we can beat if we’re going to give away (24) points, I really don’t.”

University of Memphis stays undefeated
The Tigers extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 44-41 shootout win over Bowling Green. The Tigers’ winning streak is third nationally, behind Ohio State (16) and TCU (11).

“I don’t look at it as a 10-game winning streak,” Tigers coach Justin Fuente said. “I look at it as we’re 3-0 this season.”

QB Paxton Lynch threw for 386 yards and three TDs. The Tigers’ defense was able to hold off the Falcons’ high-flying offense on their final three possessions.

Next up: a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday, Sept. 24, vs. Cincinnati (2-1) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on ESPN.

“We’re excited for the opportunity” to play on the national stage, Fuente said. “They don’t come along every day.”

Quick hits
QB Greyson Lambert set an NCAA record by completing 24 of his 25 passes for 330 yards and three TDs in the Bulldogs’ 52-20 beatdown of South Carolina.

“I can’t believe he threw an incompletion,” quipped Bulldogs coach Mark Richt.

Missouri survived for a 9-6 win over Connecticut, but Tiger fans booed starting QB Maty Mauk. And with good reason. Mauk finished with 145 passing yards and posted his third straight sub-200-yard game, a continuation of the often-maddening play he exhibited last season.

Tigers Linebacker Kentrell Brothers had another 10 tackles and leads the nation with 42 on the season.

Tennessee was still stinging from its double-overtime loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago at Neyland Stadium when UT blew a 17-point lead; Western Carolina was the recipient of their anger, losing 55-10.

Running back Alvin Kamara got some touches as a return man and had a 50-yard punt return for a TD and another one for a TD that was called back. The SEC can expect to see more of him in this role.

“Just about making people miss,” Kamara said. “You have all that space to set guys up.”

Texas A&M sophomore defensive lineman Myles Garrett had seven tackles and 3.5 sacks in a 44-27 victory over Nevada just days after having wisdom teeth removed.

“What a tough guy,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.

Navy won its first AAC game 45-21 over East Carolina as QB Keenan Reynolds rushed for a league-record five TDs. Reynolds, who already owns the NCAA mark for rushing TDs by a quarterback, needs seven to tie the record of 77 set by Wisconsin running back Montee Bell.

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