By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – With a dominating second-half performance, Ole Miss reached two goals Saturday night, ending a three-year losing streak to rival Mississippi State and getting to a bowl game in the first season under new coach Hugh Freeze.
Bo Wallace shook off three turnovers and passed for five touchdowns, and the Rebels held the Bulldogs to 1.2 yards per rush in a 41-24 win before 61,005 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009. Exactly what that means for the Rebels remains to be seen.
Staff members from the AutoZone Liberty Bowl attended the game, as did scouts from the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the latter there to court MSU.
Destination notwithstanding, the Rebels are elated to be 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC after a dry spell – winning just one SEC game over the previous two seasons – led to the dismissal of former coach Houston Nutt.
Ole Miss students rushed the field and bedlam followed the game’s end, and the only bowl on the minds of so many at that time was the Egg Bowl.
“I hate to keep saying it, but these seniors have had to go through two or three years of having to hear what they’ve had to hear everywhere they go,” Freeze said. “Those kids have had some difficult times, and now they can hear the good side of it.”
While the Rebels began the night with a lead of 18 games in the series with MSU, Ole Miss had not beaten the Bulldogs since the arrival of Dan Mullen as head coach.
The loss dropped MSU, which began the season with seven straight wins, to 8-4 overall, 4-4 in the conference.
“Give them credit. Their kids played hard and made a lot of plays when they needed to make big plays,” Mullen said.