NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bo Wallace wanted redemption for his poor play in the Egg Bowl. The Mississippi quarterback made sure the Rebels finished the season as winners.
Wallace ran for two touchdowns and threw for another score, and Ole Miss beat Georgia Tech 25-17 Monday in the Music City Bowl for the Rebels’ second straight bowl victory under coach Hugh Freeze.
The redshirt junior quarterback and Tennessee native made up for his three turnovers in the Egg Bowl overtime loss by throwing for 256 yards and running for 86 more, giving him the school record for total yards in a season and most completions in a season, topping Eli Manning for both.
“I knew I needed to have a good game,” said Wallace, also chosen the bowl’s MVP. “At the same time, I thought all day sometimes I try to make too many plays. I think all day I was thinking, ‘Don’t try to make too many plays. Just make the plays that are there.’ That’s what I did today.”
Freeze said he knew from watching Wallace prepare for this game that how the Rebels lost to rival Mississippi State last month didn’t sit well with the quarterback.
“Nor did it me,” Freeze said. “And we didn’t really have to talk about it a whole lot. I liked the way he prepared, and I was proud he was able to have the game he had today.”
Ole Miss (8-5) now has won six straight bowls and 10 of the last 11 in making up for the lone loss in that stretch in the 2000 Music City Bowl. The Rebels came in tied with Auburn and Florida State, who play Jan. 6 for the BCS national championship, for the longest bowl winning streak.
“I didn’t want to screw that up today,” Freeze said, “so I’m glad to win two bowl games in our first two years. With what we inherited, I think says we’re heading in the right direction for sure. It is a very positive step.”
Georgia Tech (7-6) has lost eight of nine bowls. The Yellow Jackets scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as they tried to rally before a safety with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left ended their last chance.
“We didn’t play well enough in any facet to win the game,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “We were fortunate that we had a chance at the end to come back and win.”
Yellow Jackets lineman Adam Gotsis, who also blocked an extra point, knocked down a 32-yard field goal attempt by Andrew Ritter giving Georgia Tech the ball at its 20-yard line with 4:36 left trailing 23-17.
But Georgia Tech lost 5 yards on the first play, then Vad Lee flipped the ball to Corey Dennis on a reverse with the receiver apparently looking to throw when he fumbled under pressure. Right tackle Ray Beno covered up the ball in the end zone for the safety. Freeze said he thought it might have been a touchdown but was glad to get some points. Johnson wishes his player had just tried to run for what he could get.
“It’s disappointing,” Johnson said.
Ole Miss finally punted back to Georgia Tech with 37 seconds left. Senquez Golson intercepted Lee on the next play to seal the victory for the Rebels in the bowl, sponsored by Franklin American Mortgage Company.
With a month to prepare, Ole Miss shut down the nation’s fourth-best rushing offense. Georgia Tech came in averaging 311.7 yards per game, and the Rebels smothered the Yellow Jackets, holding them to just 151 yards on the ground. Ole Miss held the ball for nearly 33 minutes and had a 477-298 edge in total offense.
“That’s why it’s so difficult to play them probably in a short amount of time,” Freeze said. “You’re going to be forced to play some of your base stuff. We were able to get some different stuff in.”
Ole Miss had a 23-7 lead when the Yellow Jackets scored 10 straight points.
Harrison Butker capped a 64-yard drive with a 38-yard field goal in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, then D.J. White intercepted a Wallace pass intended for Donte Moncrief. On the next play, Lee found Darren Waller for a 72-yard catch-and-run for a TD with 13:25 left.
Wallace helped Ole Miss lead 13-7 at halftime as he capped the opening possession for Ole Miss with a 17-yard run for a touchdown, and he connected with Moncrief on a 28-yard TD catch where the receiver went down the right sideline and then held the ball out at the pylon for the score in the second quarter.
But Gotsis blocked the extra point. Ritter also missed a 29-yard field goal later in the quarter that was so low it bounced off the crossbar.
Georgia Tech looked impressive with its opening 14-play, 74-yard drive, and senior Robert Godhigh scored on an 8-yard run that tied the game.
The Yellow Jackets also hurt themselves with a fake punt attempt in the second when punter Sean Poole tripped short of the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-11 at midfield.