BOWL NOTEBOOK: Three benched at start

OleMissLogoBy Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

NASHVILLE – In the days leading up to the Music City Bowl kickoff, one issue after another seemed to arise and affect the playing status of Ole Miss players.

When it appeared that running back Jeff Scott would be healthy for the game, he abruptly left the team on Saturday to return home to Miami and be with an ailing family member.

Scott wished luck to his teammates on Twitter.

Reserve tight end Nick Parker did not travel with the team as his wife suffered a miscarriage on the day the team was to depart.

In addition to Scott, starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, his brother Denzel Nkemdiche and All-America safety Cody Prewitt were all suspended for at least one quarter for violation of team rules.

“I’m a stickler for team rules. If you’re five minutes late for curfew, or if you miss a class, those are the two issues we had, and we’re going to be consistent with that,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “It’s out of love, I assure you, because I want what’s best for them.”

Quiet Engram, loud rushers

Freeze said freshman tight end Evan Engram made the offense “different” when he was available, catching 21 passes, three for touchdowns before his injury against LSU on Oct. 19.

Engram played in the game but caught just one pass, a 3-yard gain on the Rebels’ first possession.

Even with Engram not playing a vital role the Rebels were able to rediscover their run game, primarily between the tackles.

The Rebels’ 221 rushing yards were their most against a BCS-level opponent since getting 272 at Texas on Sept. 14.

Sophomores I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton combined for 111 yards on 29 carries. Mathers had 58 on 13, and Walton added 53 on 16.

Key drive

The Rebels moved 44 yards in five plays after a Georgia Tech fumble to take a two-possession lead at 20-7 when Wallace scored on a 10-yard run with 8:13 left in the third quarter.

Key number: 10

Ten players combined on 10 tackles for loss. Several players were credited with “half” tackles for loss; Issac Gross had three and Serderius Bryant two.

Quotable

“Hats off to Ole Miss. They did what they had to do to win the game. I think we can play better than that. I don’t think we ever got in sync on offense at all, never got in any rhythm. It was kind of haphazard.” – Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.

Next up

Signing Day is Feb. 5.

Rebel ramblings

Wide receiver Donte Moncrief, considering entering the NFL draft, had six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. … Bo Wallace set the school record for total yards in a season with 3,701, breaking Eli Manning’s mark of 3,572. … Wallace’s touchdown pass to Moncrief was his 40th toss in two years.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com