NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WCBI Sports/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss junior quarterback Bo Wallace threw one touchdown and ran for two more, and the Rebels’ defense held the Georgia Tech triple-option attack in check en route to a 25-17 victory Monday afternoon at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., at the 2013 Music City Bowl.
The Rebels’ victory was their sixth-straight bowl win, which is currently the longest in the country. Auburn and Florida State, which play each other in the national championship game Jan. 6, each have bowl winning streaks of five games.
“I have been careful to say that one game doesn’t really define where a program is, particularly in the early stages,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “I still believe that, but I also said that there is no question that winning a bowl game is very advantageous heading into recruiting and the offseason and for the confidence of our young men.
“Ole Miss is tied for the nation’s longest bowl win streak right now, and I didn’t want to screw that up today. To win two bowl games in our first two years with what we inherited says that we’re headed in the right direction for sure. It’s a very positive step.”
Wallace, who was named the game’s MVP, finished the game 22-32 for 256 yards, as well as a career-high 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. The Pulaski, Tenn., native’s 342 total yards Monday pushed his season total to 3,701, topping Eli Manning’s school record of 3,572 yards set in 2003.
“I have said that there’s no way we would be sitting here with 15 wins, including two bowl victories, in two years had Bo not been here with us,” Freeze said. “I knew from watching him prepare that the way we ended the season didn’t set well him, nor did it for me. I liked the way he prepared and I’m proud that he was able to have the game he had today.”
Junior Donte Moncrief led the Ole Miss receiving corps with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant and sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross each had eight tackles, while freshman Tony Conner and senior defensive end D.T. Shackelford had seven tackles. Bryant led the Rebels with a team-high six solo tackles, and Gross recorded a team-high three tackles for loss.
Despite just over a month of time elapsing since its last game, the Ole Miss offense came out flying, going 75 yards in a fast-paced 15 plays, capped off by a 17-yard touchdown run by Wallace on third and long.
Georgia Tech followed Ole Miss’ drive with an equally impressive opening drive, going 74 yards in 14 plays to tie the game at seven points apiece.
The Ole Miss defense clamped down after that though, allowing just 34 total yards for the remainder of the half, and 75 total yards in the Yellow Jackets’ seven drives after their score.
“We knew that there would be an adjustment to the speed at which Georgia Tech operates offensively,” Freeze said. “I couldn’t be more proud of (defensive coordinator) Dave Wommack, his staff and the job they did in scheming and giving us a plan. We had some outstanding individual efforts from Issac Gross, D.T. Shackelford and certain others, too.”
Wallace broke open the 7-7 tie with 7:59 remaining in the first half when he hit Moncrief in stride down the right sideline for a 28-yard touchdown. It was Moncrief’s sixth touchdown reception of the year.
On Georgia Tech’s second drive of the third quarter, sophomore Mike Hilton caused a fumble which was recovered by fellow sophomore Trae Elston at the Yellow Jackets’ 44-yard line.
Ole Miss took advantage of the game’s first turnover with Wallace scampering 10 yards up the middle for his second rushing touchdown of the day, giving Ole Miss a 20-7 lead.
Down 23-7, Georgia Tech scored 10 unanswered points in 1:18 of game time in the fourth quarter to pull within six at 23-17.
The Ole Miss defense sniffed out a Georgia Tech reverse play with 4:22 remaining in the game and forced a fumble. The fumble was recovered by the Yellow Jackets in their own end zone, resulting in a safety, which gave the Rebels a 25-17 lead.
Facing third and 13 with less than 2:30 remaining in the game, Wallace found freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell down the middle of the field for 27 yards to extend the Ole Miss drive and keep the Georgia Tech offense off the field.
The Yellow Jackets would eventually take over with 37 seconds remaining in the game, but junior Senquez Golson picked off the Yellow Jackets’ first pass and the game was sealed.
The win gives Ole Miss its eighth victory of the season as it finishes the year with an 8-5 mark.