Sunday, January 29, 2023

Bowl Games of Ole Miss’ Past – The Deuce Breaks Loose in 1997 Motor City Bowl

Bowl Games of Ole Miss Past

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.

Deuce McCallister scoring the winning TD in the 1997 Motor City Bowl – Image Courtesy of Ole Miss Football

After a win in the 1992 Liberty Bowl, the Rebels wouldn’t return to a bowl game for five years before appearing in the inaugural Ford Motor City Bowl in 1997. Hit with sanctions in November of 1994, the Rebels were banned from postseason consideration for two years. 1997 marked the first time the Rebels were able to participate in college football’s postseason since the sanctions began. 

In his third season with the Rebels, Tommy Tuberville led the team to a 7-4 regular season, and his first and only appearance in a bowl game as the head coach of the Rebels. The 9-2 Marshall Thundering Herd awaited the Rebels in Detroit, and they were led by a dynamic duo featuring QB Chad Pennington and WR Randy Moss. The Rebels had an emerging star of their own in the backfield who would go on to be a household name in Oxford and the NFL, freshman RB Deuce McAllister. 

The Rebels scored just 24 seconds into the game, and took an early 7-0 lead; however, the lead didn’t last long. Just 17 seconds later an 80-yard TD on a connection from Pennington to Moss saw the Thundering Herd tie the game at 7-7. The rest of the first quarter wouldn’t be quite so exciting, but a Marshall FG put them ahead 10-7. Still unable to get the offense on track, the Rebels wouldn’t score in the second quarter. The Thundering Herd scored by way of another TD pass from Pennington and took a 17-7 lead into the half. 

The Rebels came out looking like a different team in the third quarter, led by senior QB Stewart Patridge. Patridge threw two of his three TD passes in the third quarter, as the Rebels took a 21-17 lead going into the final quarter. Marshall struck first in the quarter to, once again, take the lead. Down 24-21, Patridge led the Rebels on a drive and threw for his third TD of the game to put the Rebels up with just over 5 minutes remaining. The Rebel defense was unable to stop Pennington and the Marshall offense, as they scored a go-ahead TD with 2:57 remaining. Patridge went back to work, and with 31 seconds remaining Deuce McCallister would take matters into his own hands. A game that featured over 1,000 yards of offense and six lead changes saw the ending come down to a chance at the goal line to see who wanted it more. Taking the handoff from Patridge and leaping over the goal line, McAllister gave the Rebels the lead and the win by the final score of 34-31. 

The Motor City Bowl would be Tuberville’s only bowl appearance with the Rebels as he infamously left for Auburn following the 1998 regular season. Tuberville left just days after publicly stating “They’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box,” referring to leaving Ole Miss. David Cutcliffe would be the man to take over the program and led the Rebels to five bowl games including a trip to the Cotton Bowl in 2004 with the help of Eli Manning.

For video from the 1997 Ford Motor City Bowl, see below. Video courtesy of Ole Miss Football.

Steven Gagliano is a writer for He can be reached at