Ole Miss wins Peach Bowl, record 11 season wins
Published 9:54 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023
By Ole Miss Athletics
ATLANTA – For the first time in Ole Miss’ 129 seasons of college football, the Rebels won 11 games, capping off the season with a 38-25 victory over No. 10 Penn State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday afternoon inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Ole Miss (11-2) offense picked apart the nation’s top defense, recording the most points (38), passing yards (394) and total yards (540) Penn State (10-3) has allowed this season. Those 540 yards marked the second straight bowl game for Ole Miss with at least 500 yards of total offense, again displaying head coach Lane Kiffin’s offensive prowess in his second New Year’s Six appearance at the helm for the Rebels.
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Junior quarterback Jaxson Dart led the Rebel assault, ending the day with 393 total yards, four total touchdowns and no interceptions – capped by an Ole Miss bowl record 379 yards passing. The Rebel duo of offensive MVP Caden Prieskorn and Tre Harris helped him out greatly, combining for 270 yards and two touchdowns on the day – with Prieskorn ending with an Ole Miss bowl record 10 receptions, and both Prieskorn (136) and Harris (134) falling just shy of the Rebel bowl record of 137 receiving yards.
On the ground, sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins was excellent again, ending with 120 all-purpose yards and one touchdown, including 106 yards on the ground – only the second 100-yard game allowed by the Penn State defense this season. Judkins concludes his sophomore campaign third on the Ole Miss career rushing list at 2,725 yards through two highly productive seasons.
Senior defensive end and defensive MVP Jared Ivey led the way for the Landshark defense, ending the day with five tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
Keeping the ball on the ground to start the game, Penn State marched 64 yards down the field, but the Rebel defense held strong in the red zone and forced a field goal to give the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead at 9:17.
After shaking off the nerves from the first drive, Dart marched the offense into Penn State territory. On the drive, he hit Dayton Wade over the middle for a 34-yard gain, Wade’s 10th reception of at least 30 yards this season, to set up a 36-yard field goal by Caden Davis to tie the game at 3-3 with 7:16 to play in the opening quarter.
With points on the board and momentum behind them, the Rebels forced a punt and put the ball back in the hands of their offense. Faced with a fourth-and-one from the Penn State 47, Lane Kiffin reached into his bag of tricks. Defensive tackle JJ Pegues took the direct snap and pitched the ball to wideout Jordan Watkins, who rolled left and hit a wide-open Dart for a gain of 15 yards. Three plays later, the Rebels’ signal caller found Prieskorn for a six-yard touchdown pass to give Ole Miss a 10-3 lead.
As the first quarter came to a close, Penn State quickly got into scoring position with a 75-yard pass and tied the game at 10 with 13:34 remaining in the second quarter. The Rebels quickly responded to retake the lead at 13-10, with a 45-yard field goal from Davis at 10:33.
Looking for a big play on defense, senior defensive back Daijahn Anthony snagged the game’s first takeaway. He picked off Penn State’s Drew Allar on a deep ball at the Ole Miss 17, his third interception of the season, to put the ball back in his offense’s hands.
Scoring on each of their previous three drives, Dart and the Rebels were in rhythm offensively. Prieskorn pulled in a one-handed snag on the sideline, Judkins converted a key fourth-down around midfield and Dart capped off the nine-play drive with a 37-yard strike to his tight end to make it a two-score game with 4:58 left on the clock.
Up 10, Penn State answered in four plays to pull back within three following a 48-yard strike from backup QB Beau Pribula to Nicholas Singleton at 2:45 to go in the half, closing the Rebel lead to 20-17 at the break.
Out of the half, Ole Miss looked to leave no doubt. The defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs, while Dart and the offense methodically picked apart the top defense in college football. The Rebels extended their lead with a 52-yard field goal from Davis at 10:58 in the third, followed by a 14-yard touchdown reception by Judkins and a successful two-point conversion by Prieskorn to go up 31-17 at 4:10.
Driving to start the fourth quarter, Penn State found itself in Ole Miss territory. A failed lateral stalled the Nittany Lions, forcing them to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by Zxavian Harris – his third block of the season and fourth of his career.
Back with the ball on offense, Dart once again marched the Rebels down the field. He connected with Harris for a big gain, putting him over the 100-yard mark, and found the end zone rushing from two yards out to cap off the scoring at 38. Penn State later added another score and a two-point conversion to make it 38-25, but it wasn’t enough as Ole Miss was crowned 2023 Peach Bowl Champions.
Ole Miss is now 2-1 all-time in the Peach Bowl, as well as 25-15 all-time in bowl games excluding a vacated victory in the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl. Today marked Ole Miss’ fourth New Year’s Six bowl appearance, which ranks third in the SEC behind Alabama (9) and Georgia (7), as well as tied for eighth nationally. Elsewhere in the FBS record book, Ole Miss currently ranks tied for fifth with Alabama and USC all-time in bowl winning percentage (.625), tied for 13th in wins (25) and tied for 20th in appearances (41).