Sunday, May 16, 2021

Bowl Games of Ole Miss' Past – Rebels Taste Sweet Sugar Bowl Victory

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.

Sugar Bowl Trophy – Image courtesy of Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

The Rebels were a 4th and 25 short of repressing the SEC West in Atlanta, but after a 9-4 regular season, Hugh Freeze took his team to New Orleans for the 2016 Sugar Bowl. This was the Rebels first trip to the Big Easy since Archie Manning led the Rebels to a win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 1970 Sugar Bowl. This was the Rebels fourth consecutive trip to a bowl game and their second New Year’s Bowl Game in as many years. The 2015 Peach Bowl didn’t quite go according to plan, but the Rebels came out with a winning attitude in the matchup against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Rebels and the Cowboys had previously met in the 2004 and 2010 Cotton Bowls, both games won by Ole Miss. The crowd of over 72,000 largely favored Ole Miss, and the Rebels put on a show for those that made the trip. 
First-year QB Chad Kelly had one of the most prolific seasons in Ole Miss history, but an interception of the Rebels first possession of the Sugar Bowl led to the Cowboys taking an early 3-0 lead. A promising seven play, 57-yard drive stalled for the Rebels, but they were able to answer with a FG of their own to tie the game at 3-3. The Rebel defense forced a 3-and-out, giving the ball back to Kelly and the offense. Wasting no time, the offense scored in just 39 seconds after Kelly hit a wide open Cody Core for a TD. The Rebels took a 10-3 lead and never looked back.
The Cowboy offense continued to move in the wrong direction, and the Rebels took advantage. After another hold by the Rebel defense forced a punt, Kelly took the Rebels down the field with ease once more and hit an all-time Rebel great, Laquon Treadwell, for his first of three touchdowns on the night. Treadwell would do it on New Years Day 2016, on the Rebels next drive he connected on a 45 trick play pass to Jordan Wilkins, and of course, he would catch his second TD on the same drive. 
Both teams would add field goals throughout the second quarter, and with a 27-6 lead, the Rebels had one more score on their mind before the end of the half. The Superdome erupted as Kelly threw back across the field to Laremy Tunsil, Tunsil rumbled into the end zone and I imagine it was difficult for Freeze to be angry about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that followed. The Rebels couldn’t have asked for a better first half and took a 34-6 lead into the locker room. 
Not much went the Cowboys way that night, including a Rebel punt that was fumbled by the return man. Two plays later Jordan Wilkins went 36 yards for another Rebel TD. The Cowboys would score their first touchdown of the game before the third quarter ended, but the Rebels 41-13 lead was never in jeopardy headlining into the games final quarter. For good measure, Kelly and Treadwell would connect on a third TD to complete the Rebels offensive clinic. The Cowboys wold add an insignificant TD, but by the final score of 48-20, the Rebels were Sugar Bowl Champions for the first time in 46 years. 
Chad Kelly finished 21/33 for 302 yards and four TDs, three of them to Laquon Treadwell; Kelly was voted Sugar Bowl MVP. The Rebel defense was able to shut down a Cowboy offense that came into the game averaging 44 PPG. The Rebels would finish the season 10-4, and ranked in the top 10. In years to come, Ole Miss will win and lose games, new faces will be in new places, but someday we will tell the next generation about the night that Ole Miss was back where they belonged, hoisting the Sugar Bowl trophy once more. 

Steven Gagliano is a writer for He can be reached at
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