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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