Ole Miss makes long-awaited return to Sugar Bowl

Published 8:50 pm Saturday, December 26, 2015

There was a time when Ole Miss was a regular competitor in the Sugar Bowl, with eight appearances between 1953 and 1970.

Now on New Year’s Day, for the first time in 46 years, the Rebels return to the Big Easy for the Sugar Bowl – a benchmark in the resurgence of Ole Miss football under coach Hugh Freeze.

Freeze, in a pre-Sugar Bowl press conference, said that going to the Sugar Bowl was on his bucket list.

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The hero in Ole Miss’ last win in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1970 – former Rebel and New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning – should be in attendance on New Year’s Day when the 9-3 Rebels take on 10-2 Oklahoma State. By the way, Oklahoma State hasn’t competed in the Sugar Bowl since 1946, and back then the Cowboys were called Oklahoma A&M.

Ole Miss is 5-3 in the Sugar Bowl – all under the tutelage of the legendary Johnny Vaught – but the last appearance in 1970 was truly epic.

Ole Miss rolled into New Orleans ranked No. 13 and had beaten three Top 10 teams that season – Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. And No. 3 Arkansas would end up being No. 4.

Manning threw for 273 yards and one touchdown, and ran for one, as Ole Miss built a 27-12 lead and held on the second half for a 27-22 win. But it wasn’t all offense. All-American safety Glenn Cannon from Gulfport and the Ole Miss defense withstood a late second-half charge from Arkansas quarterback Bill Montgomery.

This will be the first time Ole Miss plays in the Sugar Bowl when it is an indoor affair. All eight of its previous appearances came outdoors at Tulane/Sugar Bowl Stadium, not in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

In addition to the 1970 win over Arkansas, Ole Miss also holds Sugar Bowl wins over LSU (1960), Rice (1961), Texas (1958) and Arkansas (in 1963).

But a 12-7 loss to Alabama in 1964 was certainly memorable. Four inches of snow fell on New Year’s Eve, slowing traffic from the Coast to New Orleans on Highway 90. Snow would be pushed off the field, and No. 8 Alabama – with Steve Sloan subbing for Joe Namath at quarterback – upset No. 7 Ole Miss 12-7. In just the opposite vein of the 1970 Sugar Bowl, Alabama would build a 12-0 lead on four field goals by Tim Davis, then hold off an Ole Miss rally in the fourth quarter.

With Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly throwing for 3,740 yards and 27 TDs this season, expect a shootout between these two high-powered offenses – much like that 1970 game.

And get this. Ole Miss is averaging 40.2 points a game, and Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State offense is a tad better – at 41.17 ppg.

It should be entertaining.

by Doug Barber, Associated Press