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Bowl Games of Ole Miss’ Past – Eli Manning Dazzles in 2004 Cotton 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.

Manning Celebrates in 2004 Cotton Bowl

It had been 62 years since the Rebels made their way to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl; but in 2004, the Rebels completed a nine-win regular season and accepted an invitation to the famed bowl game behind senior QB Eli Manning. In his last game as a Rebel, the Maxwell and Unitas Award winner added to an already legendary career with the Rebels. Ready for the challenge was a man the Rebels would get to know much better in the near future. Les Miles and the Oklahoma State Cowboys were awaiting David Cutcliffe’s Rebels. 

The game began and 10 minutes ran off the clock before Manning and the Rebel offense struck first. A seven-play, 75-yard drive ended with a touchdown pass from Manning to WR Tremaine Turner, and the Rebels took a 7-0 lead. The Cowboys answered with a TD drive of their own before the end of the opening quarter, and the game was tied at 7-7. A Cowboy touchdown in the second quarter saw the Rebels trail for the first (and last) time in the game. Manning didn’t panic but instead led the Rebels down for a tying score. With the score locked at 14-14, it was up to the Rebel defense to stand tall, and they did just that. With four minutes left in the first half, the Cowboys drove into Rebel territory, and on a 4th down the Cowboys decided to gamble. DE John Cooper made his way to the QB and brought him down for a sack and gave the Rebels the ball back. A Johnathon Nichols FG before the half gave the Rebels a 17-14 lead and all of the momentum. 

Just over eight minutes into the third quarter, Manning threw his third TD of the day and put the Rebels up 24-14. The defense continued to keep the Cowboy offense in check as the final quarter approached. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Manning capped a 13-play, 97-yard drive with what appeared to be the beginning of a rout. Leading 31-14, the Rebels seemed to have the game in hand, but the Cowboys wouldn’t quit. Fourteen unanswered points saw the Rebel lead dwindle to a three-point, 31-28 lead. The Cowboy defense was unable to get the ball back to their suddenly hot offense, and the Rebels held on for their first Cotton Bowl win since 1956. 

Manning finished 22 of 31 with 259 yards and three total TDs on his way to earning the games “Outstanding Offensive Player” honors. The Rebels completed a ten-win season in 30 years but would follow their Cotton Bowl victory with a 4-7 record the following year. Cutcliffe was fired despite leading the Rebels to five consecutive winning seasons. What followed was the Ed Orgeron era, which came and went without a trip to a bowl game. Houston Nutt came in to replace Orgeron and brought the Rebels to two consecutive Cotton Bowl wins before being fired at the end of the 2011 season.

For video of the 2004 Cotton Bowl, see below. Video courtesy of Ole Miss Football. 

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottyotddy.com

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