Sunday, February 5, 2023

Bowl Games of Ole Miss’ Past – Rebels End Bowl Drought in 1986 Independence Bowl


While Ole Miss may not be going bowling this season, the Rebels have a decorated history in some of College Football’s most famous bowl games. From going to their first bowl game in 1936 to the Sugar Bowl victory in 2015, the Rebels rank 10th in the NCAA in bowl victories with 23. The Rebels have won games and set records that will stand the test of time. From Conerly to Manning and Vaught to Freeze, Ole Miss legends have made names for themselves in bowl games over the years. So, instead of an actual bowl this year, let us take you back to some of the most memorable bowl victories in Ole Miss history.

1986 Independence Bowl Program – Courtesy of

After defeating Georgia Tech in the 1971 Peach Bowl, the Rebels would have to wait a while for their next bowl victory, 15 years to be exact. Head coaches Ken Cooper and Steve Sloan came and went without a bowl appearance, and when Billy Brewer came along, there was a renewed hope around the Rebel program. In Brewer’s first season in Oxford, the Rebels made it to the 1983 Independence Bowl but lost to Air Force 9-3. Two seasons went by without a bowl berth, but after an 8-3-1 regular season, the Rebels once again accepted an invitation to the Independence Bowl in 1986 to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and wouldn’t be denied.

While the Independence Bowl wasn’t the bowl game the Rebels would prefer in the state of Louisiana, the 1986 edition of the game in Shreveport was one for the Ole Miss Record books.

A Willie Goodloe touchdown run in the first quarter and a Joe Mickles TD run early in the second quarter saw the Rebels go up 14-0 on the Red Raiders. Texas Tech would respond with a score of their own before the end of the half, and the teams went into the locker room with a score 17-7 in favor of the Rebels. The second half began, and the third quarter saw the momentum swing toward the Red Raiders. An interception returned for a TD by Tech’s Merv Scurlark cut the Rebel lead to 17-14 at the end of the third quarter. A Texas Tech field goal tied the game at 17-17 early in the fourth quarter. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Rebel kicker Ryan Owen converted on a 48-yard FG attempt to reclaim the lead. The two teams traded possessions for the remainder of the game, without either team being able to score. The Rebels clung to their 3-point lead until the final whistle, stopping the Red Raiders at the goal line in the game’s final minutes.   

Despite the Rebels’ scores coming by way of the ground game, QB Mark Young set 5 Ole Miss bowl records that day. Young broke Archie Manning’s records for pass attempts (50), completions (31), yards (343), plays run (62), and total yards by one player (314)*. After 15 years of making it to a bowl game, the Rebels had a 15 years drought in between bowl wins, but it came to an end that day in Shreveport. Billy Brewer would win two more bowl games with the Rebels before being fired in 1993. 

*343 passing, -29 rushing   

For video from the 1986 Independence Bowl, see below. Video courtesy of Ole Miss Football. 

Steven Gagliano is a writer for He can be reached at

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