Ex-Red Lion QB named Sugar Bowl MVP
NEW ORLEANS — Mississippi's Chad Kelly was throwing touchdown passes and Laquon Treadwell was catching them in the Sugar Bowl on Friday night.
No surprise there.
But that touchdown run by 305-pound left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who nimbly grabbed a lateral and jogged untouched into the end zone? That caught a few people off-guard — including an overwhelmed Oklahoma State defense that had no answer for the Rebels.
No. 16 Ole Miss cruised to a 48-20 victory over No. 13 Oklahoma State to help the Southeastern Conference improve to 6-2 in bowl games this season with three teams still playing.
The Rebels (10-3) showed plenty of playbook moxie during the win, jumping out to a 34-6 lead at halftime by mixing their standard offense with a few trick plays that kept the Cowboys reeling all night.
"We had a blast," an emotional Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said on the field after the game. "They really prepared well — I was super confident all day."
The former Red Lion High School quarterback, who was selected he game's Most Valuable Player, threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Treadwell.
"We all came together and played really, really well today," Kelly said.
Kelly's four touchdown passes and Treadwell's three touchdown catches tied Sugar Bowl records. Kelly completed 21 of 33 passes and ran for 73 yards on 10 carries.
Kelly has overcome a troubled past to star with the Rebels. He was twice kicked off the Red Lion team as both a freshman and sophomore before moving to the Buffalo area, where he starred as a junior and senior in high school and earning a scholarship to Clemson.
He was later booted off the Clemson team before landing at a junior college in Mississippi, where he again starred and earned a chance at Ole Miss. Before playing a down at Ole Miss, he was involved in another off-field incident at a bar, that put his future with the Rebels in doubt. Freeze, however, stood by Kelly and it paid off in a big season.
Oklahoma State (10-3) lost its final three games after 10 straight wins. The Cowboys fell into a 41-6 hole midway through the third quarter and never mounted a legitimate challenge.
Mason Rudolph was 18 of 31 for 179 yards for Oklahoma State. Ole Miss outgained Oklahoma State 554-366 in total yards.
"It became kind of a runaway train for us," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "I think they're a really, really good football team."
Gundy said Rudolph wasn't the same quarterback in the Sugar Bowl after battling a foot injury in November.
Ole Miss was embarrassed a year ago in a 42-3 loss to TCU in the Peach Bowl and players vowed throughout the past month that the outcome would be much different.
They were right.
Ole Miss started off a little shaky after a couple early penalties helped Oklahoma State advance down the field. The Cowboys eventually kicked a short field goal for a 3-0 lead.
That was the end of the good news for the Cowboys, who were playing in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1946.
The Rebels' offense got on track later in the first quarter when Kelly hit a wide open Cody Core for a 31-yard touchdown that made it 10-3 and started the onslaught.
Treadwell added two touchdown catches in the first half and also completed a 45-yard pass after a lateral on a trick play. His second touchdown catch gave Ole Miss a 24-3 lead.
The Ole Miss fans — who were cheering for the Rebels at the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1970 — were already in a frenzy when one more trick play by Freeze brought down the house.
"You study film, you play the percentages," Freeze said. "We 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."
Even Archie Manning, the Rebels' quarterback in 1970, was impressed.
"I enjoyed every minute of that," Manning said.
With 5 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Kelly ran right and then fired back across his body to Tunsil, who caught the lateral and jogged into the end zone for a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
Ole Miss fans roared and the "S-E-C! S-E-C!" chant started in the Superdome: The Rebels had scored on their final six possessions of the first half and this one was essentially over.
For Oklahoma State, it was a rough ending to what started as a promising season. The Cowboys were in the middle of the playoff conversation in November after 10 straight wins, but losses to Baylor, Oklahoma and then Ole Miss exposed their defense. They gave up a combined 151 points in those three losses.