Ole Miss Handles Liberty, 27-14, In Hugh Freeze's Return to Oxford

Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze returned to his old school as Liberty's coach and brought his high-powered offense, but the No. 16 Rebels held the Flames off for a 27-14 win Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.

The Rebels beat Alabama twice under Freeze in 2014 and '15. And Freeze took Ole Miss to a 10-3 record with a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State in the 2015 season before being fired before the 2017 season amid NCAA recruiting violations and other controversies.

Liberty (7-3) gained 457 yards, with 284 on the ground, but could not come back from a 24-0 halftime deficit.

"To Ole Miss people, thank you for your kindness to me and my family,” Freeze said after the game. "The reception from Ole Miss people at the hotel in Tupelo, and as we were walking in (the stadium) were incredibly kind. I’m thankful.”

Freeze, who was Ole Miss' head coach from 2012-16, is 25-9 in his third season at Liberty, an independent in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, still nursing an ankle injury, completed 20 of 27 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown for Ole Miss (7-2), but gained just nine yards rushing on six carries with two sacks. Jerrion Ealy led the Rebels with 115 yards on 10 carries with a 70-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game. He added a 4-yard touchdown run for a 17-0 lead in the second quarter before Corral threw a 40-yard touchdown to Dannis Jackson.

The Rebels host No. 14 Texas A&M next Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

"It was gutsy," Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said of Corral's performance. "He did what he can do. we didn't play very well around him. We didn't play well up front."

The Rebels sacked Liberty quarterback Malik Willis nine times for -55 yards and intercepted three passes. Willis completed 16 of 25 passes for 173 yards while rushing 27 times for 71 yards with a touchdown.

"We're 7-2, which is good," Kiffin said. "Our defense played really well, except for two series. But second week in a row we lost the second half. We just really struggled on offense. I'd like to get our players back and get them healthy."

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Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests. A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention. Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at www.acadianhouse.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.