Ole Miss finished the regular season with the sound of clanging cowbells in its head, losing to rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. However, there was nothing but the sweet sound of victory for the Rebels in the American Mortgage Music City Bowl as Ole Miss finished with a 25-17 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Junior quarterback Bo Wallace rebounded from a sub-par game against State to finish with one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns against Georgia Tech. Wallace was 22-32 for 256 yards passing and 86 yards rushing on 13 carries—a career-high on the ground for the Pulaski, Tennessee native—and was named MVP of the game.
Wallace was determined to erase the memory of the Egg Bowl. “Going into this game, I knew I needed to have a good one,” Wallace said. “But at the same time, sometimes I try to make too many plays.”
On this day, all the plays he made were great.
Head Coach Hugh Freeze agreed on his quarterback’s performance. “I have said that there’s no way we would be sitting here with 15 wins, including two bowl victories in two years, had Bo not been here with us,” he said. “I knew from watching him prepare that the way we ended the season didn’t set well with him, nor did it for me. I liked the way he prepared and I’m proud that he was able to have the game he had today.”
The Rebels won their sixth consecutive bowl game, giving them the longest streak in the country. Auburn and Florida State, who play each other in the national title game on January 6th, each have bowl winning streaks of five games—so one of them will tie the Rebels after their contest.
Freeze was quick to point out that though one game does not define the state of a program, it is definitely beneficial for the Rebels to have finished with a win. “There is no question that winning a bowl game is very advantageous heading into recruiting and the off-season and for the confidence of our young men.”
He went on to add, “To win two bowl games in our first two years with what we inherited says that we’re headed in the right direction for sure. It’s a very positive step.
In addition to having a successful day and being named MVP, Wallace’s 342 total yards moved him ahead of Eli Manning’s school yardage record. Wallace now sits at 3,701, surpassing Manning’s 3,572 set in 2003.
Junior Donte Moncrief was Wallace’s main target in the Music City Bowl and finished with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Moncrief now ranks third in school history with 2,371 career receiving yards and third with 20 career touchdown catches.
Wallace was quick to credit his offensive line for the protection he received all day. The line, consisting of four senior starters–offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, offensive guard Jared Duke and center Evan Swindall—allowed just two sacks.
“That was their best day as far as getting set to get the tempo going and rolling,” Wallace said. “I felt really comfortable back there. That was probably as comfortable as I have been all season. We had a lot of seniors up there. They all did a great job, and I’m glad they get to leave on a good note.”
Defensively, many wondered if the Rebels would be able to handle Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack. The Rebel D answered those questions by holding the Yellow Jackets to 151 rushing yards, 160.7 yards lower than their season average of 311.7.
Junior linebacker Serderius Bryant and sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross each finished with eight tackles, while freshman Tony Conner and senior defensive end D.T. Shackelford had seven apiece. Bryant had a team-high six solo tackles, while Gross led the team with three tackles for loss.
Sophomore DB Mike Hilton forced a fumble, and sophomore DB Trae Elston recovered it. Junior DB Senquez Golson had an interception, his second of the season and sixth of his career.
The victory leaves Ole Miss with an 8-5 record on the season, its best since a 9-4 season in 2009.
With the season over, Rebel fans will turn their sights to recruiting and National Signing Day, which is February 5, 2014. Ole Miss is poised for another great class and currently sits at number nine in the overall team recruiting rankings by 247sports.com.
The Grove Bowl will be held Saturday, April 5, 2014.