(Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
The Ole Miss Rebels controlled the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions, winning the Peach Bowl 38-25.
ATLANTA – Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss continue to break records at Ole Miss. The fourth year head coach led the Ole Miss Rebels, (11-2, 7-2 SEC), to the programs first eleven-win season in the programs 129-year history, defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions 38-25 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in front of 71,230 fans inside Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The Nittany Lions, (10-3, 7-2 BIG TEN), came into the game as the nations best defense, holding opponents to only 223.2 yards per game and the nations best turnover margin.
When the final horn sounded, Ole Miss would sit atop of any offense Penn State faced, finishing with 540 total yards en-route to the win.
“I’m very excited about how our players showed up today. To come in here and have a chance to do something that’s never been done before in the history of the school, to win 11 games against a big-time program, big-time opponent, just really proud of how they did,” Kiffin said.
The Rebels were relentless on defense, forcing two turnovers and locking down Penn State for most of the second half. The Nittany Lions scored once in the fourth quarter when the Rebels moved to a prevent defense.
Ole Miss leaned heavily on wide receiver Tre Harris early in the game. The Louisiana Tech transfer would finish with seven catches for 134 yards. When Dart was under duress in the first half, Harris bailed out the Rebels multiple times.
Harris feat was outdone only by tight end Caden Prieskorn, who had a coming out party. Prieskorn finished with 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on his way to receiving the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Offensive Player of the Game.
The leading receiver for Ole Miss even grabbed an onside kick to prevent any hope of a late game comeback for the Nittany Lions.. For Prieskorn, who Dart calls the “father of the team,” it was a team effort. “We had a lot of older guys and experience on the team. I just wanted (when he transferred) to come in here and compete,” Prieskorn said.
At the end of the day, Ole Miss only had one player to opt out in defensive end Cedric Johnson. Penn State had multiple players, specifically four starters in Chop Robinson, Johnny Dixon, Karen King and Olu Fashanu.
This would prove to be a big piece of the puzzle in the loss to Ole Miss.
“Just too many moving parts with the staff and players to have the type of success,” Penn State head coach James Franklin.
The former Vanderbilt head coach was familiar with Ole Miss and credited the Rebel players and coaches.
“Getting off the field on defense, we’ve been great all year and specifically in the third quarter but you have to give Lane (Kiffin) and his staff credit.”
Golding and the defensive staff shut down the Penn State defense following halftime, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless in the third quarter and giving up only eight points in the second half during mop-up time.
Penn State head coach James Franklin credited the Ole Miss defense, specifically the length of the defensive line. Ole Miss wore down the offensive line in the second half.
The third quarter would belong to the Rebels, as Penn State had possession of the football only 4:39 and went 0-3 on third down with three straight punts.
JAXSON DART WAS ON A MISSION
Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart entered rarified air to end the season. In his time at Ole Miss, Dart has thrown for over 5,000 yards and run for over 1,000 yards. Only two other Rebel signal callers, John Fourcade and Matt Corral, are in that club.
Penn State applied early pressure to Dart, forcing him to run for his life at times in the first half. The Rebel offense would settle down in the second half, in large part, because of chip block improvement by running back Quinshon Judkins.
Dart finished the day 25-40 for 379 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, Dart ran for a touchdown.
Ole Miss now has even more excitement heading into the 2024 season, where on paper, it could have its most athletic roster in the history of the program.
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