Ole Miss craving a second chance after last year’s Peach Bowl debacle

Published 11:50 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ole Miss learned last season it’s a huge honor and lots of fun to play in one of the major bowl games.

The Rebels also found out how embarrassing it is to get blown out on such a big stage.

So No. 16 Ole Miss (9-3) has a little added motivation on Friday when it faces No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl. It’s the first time the Rebels have played in the game since 1970 and the first trip to New Orleans for the Cowboys since 1946.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“Last year we kind of blew it,” Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins said. “We’re here to redeem ourselves.”

Ole Miss was in a similar situation last year when it won nine games during the regular season and played TCU in the Peach Bowl. The Rebels lost 42-3 in a game that is still a sore subject for several players and coaches.

Now, players and coaches say they’re ready for a do-over.

Ole Miss has had an up-and-down season of impressive wins (Alabama) and head-scratching losses (Memphis, Arkansas). The Rebels closed the season on a roll, beating LSU and Mississippi State heading into the Sugar Bowl.

Junior quarterback Chad Kelly leads the Ole Miss attack. He has thrown for 3,740 yards and 27 touchdowns. He’s also run for 427 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Kelly said Oklahoma State’s defense is impressive on tape.

“They are physical and fast, they like to press their corners and get after the quarterback,” Kelly said. “They are always going to have great players because their coaches recruit so well. I’m anxious to get out there and see what we can do against them.”

Oklahoma State also is looking for a measure of redemption after late November didn’t go like the program hoped.

The Cowboys were in the middle of the college football playoff discussion after winning their first 10 games, but back-to-back losses to Baylor and Oklahoma in the final two weeks of the season knocked them back to the Sugar Bowl.

Beating an SEC team in the season finale would be a good consolation prize.

“This game is like the college Super Bowl to us … it’s the SEC versus the Big 12, we have to go out there and show them that we are not a conference people can just push around,” Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “We just have to go out there and be the best team we can be.”

The Rebels and Cowboys have some recent postseason history. Ole Miss beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl in both 2004 (31-28) and 2010 (21-7).

Ole Miss will be missing two of its best defensive players when the teams meet in the Sugar Bowl.

Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche was suspended for Friday’s game after he fell out of a hotel window in Atlanta and was charged with possession of marijuana. The junior, who has already said he will enter the NFL draft, had seven tackles for a loss and three sacks this season. His older brother, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, hasn’t played since November after he went to the hospital for an undisclosed reason. He is fourth on the team with 53 tackles.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze pointed out that the Rebels have been without Nkemdiche and several other key players at times this year, and said it spoke to the depth of the roster that they’ve still had a successful season.

“Here we sit today, second best record in the SEC, and we did it with other people, too, and I expect that to continue with us, the way we’re hopefully going to recruit and then continuing to build our program, you know,” Freeze said. There’s an expectation now that we should be competitive and relevant in the SEC West and I think you pointing out that we didn’t have those, large majority of the time those four were always on the field. I think it says what I have been trying to say is that we’re doing okay with other kids, too.”


Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State

Friday, 7:30 p.m., at New Orleans

TV: ESPN; Radio: 1490 AM

History: Ole Miss and Oklahoma State will play each other in a bowl game for the third time since 2004, but for the first time ever in the Sugar Bowl. Ole Miss is in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1970, and Oklahoma State for the first time since 1946.