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Ole Miss makes history with 38-25 Peach Bowl victory over Penn State

Peach Bowl
Ole Miss players hoist the Peach Bowl trophy after earning the first 11-win season in program history (Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News)

The No. 11 Ole Miss football team made history on Saturday, earning its first-ever 11-win season with a 38-25 win over No.10 Penn State in the 2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

An unstoppable force overwhelmed the immovable object in Saturday’s contest with Lane Kiffin’s top-15 offense moving the ball all over the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions’ defense to seal a momentous victory.

Penn State struck first blood with a 26-yard field goal from Alex Felkins on the team’s first drive. Ole Miss, after an uneventful opening drive, countered with a 36-yard field goal to even out the scoreboard.

The Rebels buckled down defensively and slowed the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack led by Nicholas Singleton. Late in the first quarter, Kiffin, known to go for it on fourth down, dialed up a trick play in which wide receiver Jordan Watkins threw to quarterback Jaxson Dart to move the chains. Dart later found his reliable tight end, Caden Prieskorn, to give the Rebels a 10-3 lead.

A tipped pass thrown by Penn State quarterback Drew Allar conveniently found its way to tight end Tyler Warren for a 76-yard gain to move the Nittany Lions into the red zone to close out the first quarter. After being stopped on three goal-line plays, James Franklin rolled the dice on fourth down — to his avail. Allar found Harrison Wallace III to tie up the game.

Ole Miss continued to battle offensively and find creative ways to avoid Penn State’s pass rush and move the ball up the field. A few catches from Tre Harris placed the Rebels into field goal territory, setting up Caden Davis to knock one in from 45 yards out to give Ole Miss a 13-10 lead at the 10:33 mark in the second quarter.

Coming into the game throwing only one interception all season, Allar slipped up with a heave downfield that landed in the hands of Ole Miss safety Daijahn Anthony. Looking to capitalize on the momentum from the rare Allar turnover, Dart connected with Prieskorn on fourth down and put the Rebels in position to take a commanding lead late in the half. Keeping the chemistry with his tight end alive, Dart then hit Prieskorn again to give Ole Miss a 20-10 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the half. But Penn State did not go away.

The Nittany Lions gave backup quarterback Beau Pribula a few reps ahead of the intermission. Pribula used his legs for a 12-yard run before finding Singleton on a 48-yard deep ball to put Penn State back within three.

Pete Golding’s defense opened the second half forcing the Nittany Lions to punt. A pair of highlight-reel catches from Harris and Prieskorn put the Rebels in field goal range. Davis split the uprights from 53 yards out to give Ole Miss a 23-17 lead.

Following another forced Penn State punt, the Ole Miss offense stormed down the field to take a commanding double-digit lead. Dart, on a third-down pass in the red zone, found Judkins for the score. Kiffin dialed up a two-point attempt with Dart hitting Prieskorn to give Ole Miss a 31-17 advantage.

Penn State tried to work its way back into the ballgame early in the fourth quarter, but a horribly executed trick play paired with a 51-yard field goal that defensive tackle Zxavian Harris blocked gave Ole Miss all the momentum. The Rebels continued to pile on the points. A drive deep into Nittany Lion territory resulted in the Ole Miss signal-caller scoring on a keeper to give his team a 38-17 lead.

A forced fumble by Akelo Stone that was recovered by Jared Ivey put the Rebels’ offense back on the field. Franklin used all three timeouts on the drive that ended with Fraser Masin punting, placing the ball back in Allar’s hands.

Things got a little interesting late in the contest with Allar finding a wide-open Wallace for a score. A successful two-point conversion thrown to Singleton put Penn State within 13, but it was too little too late.

Ole Miss recovered a subsequent Penn State onside kick and proceeded to milk the clock, leaving the Nittany Lions with not enough time to pull off a late comeback. A turnover on downs with under 30 seconds in the game cemented things for the Rebels.

“I’m very excited about how our players showed up today,” Kiffin said. “To come in here and have a chance to do something that’s never been done before in the history of the school, to win 11 games against a big-time program, big-time opponent, just really proud of how they did.

“Like I told you, it’s one thing to win some games — if you win a game in the last second, a field goal goes in or it doesn’t, that’s one thing, but to play a game and in a lot of the phases of the game, these guys played extremely well. Kind of dominated certain phases of the game against — I know they were a little short with opt-outs, but the No. 1 defense in the country.”

Dart led the Rebels in passing, completing 25 of 40 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. His top targets were Prieskorn with 136 yards and two touchdowns and Harris with 134 yards. Judkins led the Rebels in rushing with 106 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Defensively, Ole Miss caused Penn State’s offense to turn the ball over twice. Anthony had the interception and Stone recorded the forced fumble. Trey Washington led the team in tackles with eight. Ivey had two tackles for loss and the fumble recovery.

Prieskorn was named the offensive player of the game following his stellar performance while Ivey was dubbed the most valuable defensive player of this year’s Peach Bowl.

Kiffin and company end a storybook season looking to carry the high of winning a New Year’s Six bowl, hauling in a top-tier class of transfer players, and landing an impressive high school recruiting class to put Ole Miss in its first-ever playoff game come 2024.

“I think it’s really a cool time right now at Ole Miss,” Kiffin added. “To win the most games in the history of the school and to have so many pieces already announcing that they’re coming back, which I made sure a couple of them are still doing that after their performances today.”

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