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Ole Miss Holds Off No. 7 Indiana to Win Outback Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. — In a season filled with uncertainty, fireworks, heartbreak and adversity, the Ole Miss Rebels restored their rich tradition of postseason football, earning their first bowl bid in five years. Lane Kiffin‘s squad made the most of it, putting together a valiant effort in Raymond James Stadium to knock off the No. 7 ranked Indiana Hoosiers 26-20 in the 2021 Outback Bowl, concluding the 2020 football season with their first bowl win since the 2016 Sugar Bowl.

“Really an awesome day for us, coming down here, being out of a lot of players. Glad to come away with this against the No. 7 team. Credit to our players. There were teams around the country stepping up with players out. I told our players ‘Why can’t we be one of those teams?’ Really cool for our seniors to go out like this,” said Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin.

Down four key playmakers on offense, the Rebels totaled 493 yards of total offense against one of the nation’s top defenses. Matt Corral completed 30 of 44 passes for 342 yards and two scores through the air. He became the fifth in school history to eclipse the 3,000 yard mark and tied Eli Manning for third in school history with 29 touchdown passes single season.

On the receiving end, Dontario Drummond had a season-high six catches for 110 yards and a score. In his first action at receiver, John Rhys Plumlee had five catches for 73 yards, two of which led to the go-ahead score with minutes left to play. Casey Kelly added 49 yards on six catches and a score—all career-highs. On the ground, Henry Parrish Jr. and Snoop Conner combined for 106 yards on 33 carries and a score coming from Conner.

As strong as the Rebels were offensively, it was the defense that sealed the deal in the end. Ole Miss claimed the lead on a Corral-to-Drummond touchdown connection with 4:12 left in the game, but Luke Logan’s PAT attempt missed, opening the door for Indiana to win with a touchdown and extra point. However, the Rebel defense locked down as a key tackle-for-loss by Keidron Smith and a sack by freshman Cedric Johnson put Indiana behind the sticks on their final drive, ultimately leading to a  game-sealing fourth-down stop.

Defensively, Jacquez Jones led the Rebels with 13 tackles, followed by nine tackles each from Otis Reese and A.J Finley. As a unit, the defense gave up a season-low 20 points to go along with a season-low 201 yards through the air. The Hoosiers went 7-for-17 on third down, and only managed to fail on fourth down once in four attempts, including the game winning stop, capping off year one of the Lane Kiffin era.

The Rebels came out swinging with that shorthanded offense. It took just three plays to reach the Indiana red zone with a pair of big pass plays from Corral to Jadon Jackson and Drummond. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty hampered Ole Miss near the goal line, resulting in a Logan field goal from 26 yards out. Right out of the gate, Ole Miss had a 3-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

After both teams traded punts, the Hoosiers reached the Ole Miss 27-yard line, but an illegal shift penalty on fourth down forced Charles Campbell to kick a 50-yard field goal. With 2:47 left in the first quarter, the game was tied at three. The Rebels responded going up-tempo but would again have to settle for three in the red zone. Luke Logan’s 24-yard field goal gave Ole Miss a 6-3 lead with 23 seconds left in the opening quarter. That field goal tied Brian Lee for fifth all-time for most career field goals in school history.

Going into the second quarter, Ole Miss finally broke through, On an 18-play, 76-yard drive, where the Rebels converted on twice on fourth down, Corral found Kelly wide open in the end zone for a five-yard score. The Rebels had a 13-3 lead with 7:17 left in the first half.

The Hoosiers would reach Ole Miss territory, but on 3rd-and-long, heavy pressure from the Rebel defense led to an Otis Reese interception, the first of his career with under three minutes left in the first half. The Rebels could not capitalize, going three-and-out and giving Indiana back the football with 1:44 left until halftime at their own five yard line. The Hoosiers converted a 3rd-and-12 in the shadow of their own goal post, but couldn’t get anything else out of it. The Rebels had 53 seconds before halftime to score. Throws to Drummond and Kelly set up Luke Logan with a 49-yard field goal, which was blocked as time expired.

At the half, the Rebels totaled 295 yards of offense, 255 of which came from Matt Corral alone. Defensively, the Rebels only surrendered 141 yards of offense.

Coming out of the locker room, Indiana’s first offensive drive was extended twice due to pass interference penalties. The Hoosiers took advantage. They reached the Ole Miss 35-yard line, but would again force a Charles Campbell field goal, this time from 53 yards out. The Rebels led 13-6 with 12:53 left in the third quarter, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Once Ole Miss crossed the 50-yard line, Snoop Conner took over. His 33-yard run up the gut set him up with a touchdown from four yards out. With 9:20 left in the third, Ole Miss had a 20-6 lead. Five plays later, Tylan Knight forced a fumble after a completion on the perimeter and Jalen Jordan fell on the loose ball near midfield. However, Ole Miss failed to capitalize offensively again.

To begin the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers finally found the end zone. Stevie Scott III took the snap out of the wildcat and scored from three yards out, capping off a 6:45 drive and going 80 yards in 15 plays. With 14:56 left, Ole Miss had a one score, 20-13 lead. Parrish and Kentrel Bullock carried the rock to the Hoosier red zone, But Luke Logan would miss wide left from 37 yards out. Indiana had a chance to tie it with 11:38 left in the game. The Hoosiers did just that, capping off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with another Stevie Scott III score from two yards out. With 5:58 left in the game, the game was tied at 20.

Plumlee proceeded to come up clutch with a third-down catch and a 44-yard grab down the sidelines. Then Corral threaded the needle, finding Drummond in traffic for the go-ahead score. However, a missed PAT from Luke Logan gave Ole Miss a 26-20 lead with 4:12 left.

When the Rebel defense needed it most, they delivered. The Hoosiers marched down to the Rebel 33-yard line before the Landshark defense clamped down. Keidron Smith came up with a key tackle for loss to push the Hoosiers behind the sticks. Then Johnson pursued Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle all the way to the sideline to bring him down for a critical sack. Facing 3rd-and-18, Indiana went deep, but Knight was there for a game-saving pass breakup to bring up fourth down.

Facing 4th-and-18 at the Ole Miss 41-yard line, heavy pressure from Quentin Bivens and others forced Tuttle’s pass to fall incomplete, wrapping up year one of the Lane Kiffin era with an Outback Bowl championship.