Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rebels Aiming to Improve Impressive Bowl History

Johnny Vaught being carried off the field by his players / Photo from Ole Miss Athletics Media Archives
Johnny Vaught being carried off the field by his players / Photo from Ole Miss Athletics Media Archives

Ole Miss has a very proud and successful bowl history dating back to the 1936 Orange Bowl.

Ole Miss lost to Catholic University 20-19 in that first bowl game but since then the Rebels have won more than they lost.

It all began in the mid 30’s when Ole Miss head coach Ed Walker led the Rebels to their first-ever bowl appearance in the Orange Bowl, which was a big bowl game back then and still is a BCS bowl game today. Catholic University from Washington D.C, doesn’t even play football anymore but they had enough that day to squeak by the Rebels in a 1-point heartbreaker.

The next time Ole Miss charged  into a bowl game, they fought under the direction of legendary head coach Johnny Vaught. Twelve years after the Orange Bowl loss, the Rebels returned to the post season after winning their first SEC championship in Vaught’s first year as a head coach (Vaught is one of only three head coaches to win the SEC in their first year as head coach). The Rebels traveled to the Delta Bowl and defeated TCU by a score of 13-9.

The golden age of Ole Miss football followed that 1947 season —  comprising eight Sugar Bowl appearances, three national championships and five more SEC Championships. During Vaught’s tenure as head coach, the Rebels earned 19 bowl appearances and compiled an 11-8 bowl record (with five of those victories in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans).

Vaught coached the Rebels in the 1970 Sugar Bowl. In that bowl game Archie Manning was the quarterback and led Ole Miss to a 27-22 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Archie completed 21 of 35 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 13 times for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Archie Manning celebrating after a Sugar Bowl victory / Photo from Ole Miss Athletics Photo Archives
Archie Manning celebrating after a Sugar Bowl victory / Photo from Ole Miss Athletics Photo Archives

Then head coach Billy Brewer in the 80’s and 90’s led the Rebels to five more bowl appearances. Ole Miss’  bowl record under Brewer was 3-2. After a five-year dry spell, the Rebels returned to bowl success in 1997 as Tommy Tuberville became the fourth Ole Miss head coach to lead his team in bowl competition. In his only bowl game as Ole Miss’ head coach, Tuberville led the Rebels to a 34-31 victory over a Chad Pennington and Randy Moss led Marshall team in the Motor City Bowl.

After Tuberville bolted for Auburn, the Rebels needed someone to come in and make an immediate impact as head coach. The Rebels were preparing to face a great Texas Tech team in the 1998 Independence Bowl. Enter David Cutcliffe, who had been at Tennessee as offensive coordinator and left the eventual national champion to come coach Ole Miss in their bowl game. After only a few weeks on the job, Cutcliffe led the Rebels to the biggest upset of the ’98 bowl season defeating Texas Tech 35-18.

Eli Manning in the 2004 Cotton Bowl
Eli Manning in the 2004 Cotton Bowl

Cutcliffe would go on to be one of the most successful coaches in Ole Miss history and helped recruit Ole Miss legend Eli Manning to campus. While Cutcliffe was head coach, Ole Miss went to five bowl games and only lost one. His victory in the Cotton Bowl helped Ole Miss reach ten wins in one season for the first time in over 30 years.

It would be five long years before the Rebels would see the postseason again. Houston Nutt led an Ole Miss team that had gone 3-9 (0-8) the previous season to a nine-win season and winning record in the SEC. The Rebels played against a heavily favored 11-1 Texas Tech team in the 2009 Cotton Bowl. Nutt and his Rebels were not intimidated and Ole Miss dominated the Red Raiders by a score of 47-34.

The next year Ole Miss returned to the Cotton Bowl against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. It was a sloppy performance by both teams, but the Rebel defense prevailed late in the game and got Ole Miss its second straight Cotton Bowl victory. Nutt’s bowl record at Ole Miss ended at 2-0.

Another three years would pass until Ole Miss returned to bowl eligibility. This time it was with current head coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels bounced back from a 2-10 campaign in 2011 to a 6-6 season in Freeze’s first year as head coach. Ole Miss was riding high on momentum after obliterating in-state rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl when they traveled to Birmingham to play in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Rebels dominated the Pittsburgh Panthers from the opening kick-off and won the game in convincing fashion, 38-17.

Ole Miss currently has a 22-12 all-time bowl record and is looking to add a 23rd victory against Georgia Tech in the 2013 Music City Bowl. The Rebels are tied for seventh all-time in bowl victories with Auburn and LSU. This year will be the second time the Rebels have played in the Music City Bowl.

The last time came in 2000 against West Virginia. That same game featured a tall, lanky, baby faced freshman who entered the game late and almost led Ole Miss back to a victory in the fourth quarter. That young quarterback’s name was Eli Manning.

–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com

–You can email Justin at justin.taylor@hottytoddy.com

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