Ole Miss

Wink let Ole Miss' Tunsil know it was his turn to find the end zone

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss scores on a tackle eligible play in the closing seconds of the first half during the All State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss scores on a tackle eligible play in the closing seconds of the first half during the All State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. SUN HERALD

NEW ORLEANS -- The Rebels were threatening. Time was running out in the first half and No. 16 Ole Miss had its heel on No. 13 Oklahoma State's throat. Another touchdown could essentially put the Sugar Bowl out of reach.

Following a pass interference call in the end zone that put Ole Miss at the 2, Ole Miss junior left tackle Laremy Tunsil looked to the sideline and shrugged.

"I kind of looked at Coach (Hugh) Freeze on the sideline and said, 'are you going to run it now?' He just looked at me and gave me a wink and that's when I knew," Tunsil said after the 48-20 win. "I started to get nervous. I knew I had to catch the ball and score."

The 305-pound left tackle dropped back momentarily "into protection." Quarterback Chad Kelly rolled right and flung the ball back across the field. Tunsil had to lean forward to grab the ball, but he hauled it in and practically walked into the end zone for what was officially ruled a 2-yard touchdown run.

"Matter of fact, that was the first touchdown of my career," Tunsil said after the 48-20 win over Oklahoma State. "I was excited just to get the ball and walk into the end zone. To see the players come off the bench like that was just exciting. You've never been in a situation like that before being a lineman."

Receiver Laquon Treadwell, whose three touchdowns helped set Ole Miss' single-season mark with 11, was a bit in disbelief. He saw the athletic left tackle making one-handed grabs throughout the week in practice, but did Freeze really send the call in?

"When I saw Chad roll out and then throw it back, I'm like, 'wait.' I see this big dude and I'm looking up at the jumbotron and he's running into the end zone," he said.

Emotional win

During the post-game press conference, Kelly and Treadwell were asked about the Ole Miss fans chanting "One! More! Year!"

"I see the tears in his eyes," Kelly said of his star receiver, who laughed at the mention while swiping one of his big hands across his face.

"It was huge," Treadwell said. "I really don't know how to explain it. I probably haven't grasped it yet, but it was really big."

After the press conference, Treadwell, who is projected by many to be the first receiver selected in the NFL draft, held court with three reporters next to his locker.

"It's just something that came out," Treadwell said of the tears. "It's something I felt at the podium."

Bouncing back

Ole Miss came out firing in the Sugar Bowl and looked like it was going to score first. But Kelly got greedy looking for Treadwell deep down field and threw an interception into double coverage.

Kelly's first interception of 2016 didn't phase the gun slinger, however, as he bounced back to complete 21 of 33 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

"Being a quarterback, you can't worry about the last play," the Sugar Bowl MVP said. "Each play has its own life. And we took a chance. (Treadwell) might have got caught up or held or whatever, but we knew that we had to keep taking our shots and couldn't back down.

"That's what we kept on doing and kept on fighting. And the guys came out and executed."

Two QBs

A lot was made heading into the game about Oklahoma State utilizing two quarterbacks. Mason Rudolph is more of a pro style quarterback, while J.W. Walsh is one of the Cowboys leading rushers.

The two combined for 303 yards, and Walsh scored the Cowboys' lone touchdowns on 2- and 8-yard runs, but the duo was largely neutralized until the game was in hand.

"We were really flying around," former Gulf Coast All-American Tony Bridges said. "We knew if we could stop the passing game, the running game would handle itself."

The Cowboys finished with just 63 yards rushing, their third-lowest total of the season.

From all over

Asked what the win meant to him, Freeze instead turned his response to Ole Miss' fans, who helped push the Mercedes-Benz Superdome capacity to north of 72,000.

"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," Freeze said. "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 there that sacrificed greatly to come and support us. And man, that's a big deal to me"

Stars come out

Plenty of notable folks were in attendance on Friday, like former Ole Miss stars Archie Manning and Deuce McAllister - both Saints greats. Also in the stands was NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who is Chad Kelly's uncle.

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