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NOTEBOOK: Offense benefiting from ‘honest’ relationship between Freeze, Kelly

The dynamic between Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and quarterback Chad Kelly has been one built on trust.

Ever since Kelly’s run-in with the law in his hometown of Buffalo, New York last winter, Freeze admitted he was taking a chance on Kelly, keeping him on the team and eventually naming him the starting quarterback.

That faith in Kelly has paid off as Ole Miss is staring down an opportunity to do something the program has not experienced — play for a Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta.

There are still four weeks to go, but the Rebels control their destiny thanks in part to the play of Kelly and his leadership of the offense.

There are still times when Kelly makes a judgment call and attempts a pass that may not seem so wise and has paid the price 10 times this season. The most recent of those judgment calls came against Texas A&M when Kelly threw an interception with six minutes remaining, when Ole Miss was up 23-3 and in control of the game.

“Chad and I have a relationship that is in a good spot,” Freeze said during his weekly press conference Monday. “We can be very honest with each other. If you watch the first quarter and a half, that is as good as I have seen. He understands exactly what we are trying to do. And somewhere in there, we had a few things go bad. … We started pressing a little. He needs to handle that a little better, stay within the system and move the ball.”

The honesty from his coach is something Kelly respects, and it is one of the reasons that he enjoys playing for Freeze and Ole Miss. That comfort level did not take long to happen as the relationship between coach and player was formed when Freeze first contacted Kelly through Twitter during the early part of the recruitment.

“Ever since then, I was able to be brutally honest with him,” Kelly said. “That’s all he wanted from me and that’s all I wanted from him. You couldn’t ask for anything more than that when a coach is dead honest with you.”

Road woes
Ever since the trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, things have not gone smoothly for Ole Miss when it steps out of the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels are 1-2 in away games, dropping their last two against Florida and Memphis.

Both games against the Gators and Tigers were not competitive with the home team having a decidedly large lead by halftime or early in the second half. Florida and Memphis outscored the Rebels 75-34.

In Freeze’s first three years at Ole Miss, the Rebels went 6-7 on the road, including bowl games.

“We’re thinking about that,” Freeze said of finding ways to improve on the road. “We were good our first road game. Our energy was good. And I don’t know if it is so much being on the road or the fact that we lost some confidence, particularly on defense. Maybe it had something to do with the loss of some kids and not performing well early on in some of these road games. We’ll address all those things.”

Injury report
Freeze noted that Christian Morris suffered a spinal cord contusion at the end of the first half Saturday that caused him to collapse and be taken to the hospital during halftime. His timetable to return is unknown.

Robert Nkemdiche is still going through the concussion protocol. The junior defensive tackle does not have to start it over but must be symptom-free, Freeze said, in order to play. He was cleared to play last week then suffered headaches Saturday morning, causing him to miss the A&M game.

Safety Tony Conner was planning on running Monday, Freeze said, but it is still too early to determine a return date