NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze spent 13 years coaching high school football in Tennessee so he feels very comfortable in the Volunteer State.
And his Rebels made sure he started and finished this season with victories in Music City.
Bo Wallace ran for two touchdowns and threw for another score, and Ole Miss beat Georgia Tech 25-17 Monday in the Music City Bowl. The Rebels opened the season edging Vanderbilt 39-35 a couple miles away, and they’ll be back here in September to play the Commodores again.
“It feels like it’s kind of a second home to me also,” Freeze said. “Anytime we can be in this area we enjoy it.”
Freeze said he also needs to get into Tennessee for some more recruiting. Wallace already is a native of Pulaski, Tenn., and Ole Miss’ top rusher this season I’Tavius Mathers is from Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Wallace 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.”
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 4:22 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 their own 20 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 scored on runs of 17 and 10 yards. He also 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.