Ole Miss made program history by recording their first 11-win season with victory in the Peach Bowl earlier. The Rebels dominated Penn State in the second half to record a 38-25 win.
After a back-and-forth first half, Ole Miss pushed on the accelerator on both sides of the ball to achieve their 11th win of the season.
Despite the result, it wasn't the best start in Atlanta for the Ole Miss offense. The offensive line was put under heavy pressure, with QB Jaxson Dart tackled for a loss on the first play. A bigger problem came from the tackle, with Dart hobbling away on his left leg.
It was good news for Lane Kiffin as Jaxson Dart looked to be moving well as he came out for the team's second series. He helped drive the offense up the field into scoring range. Two questionable calls from the officials had Ole Miss settling for a field goal to tie the game up.
The first call was after Dart found tight end Prieskorn in the end zone on what looked like a free play. However, the play was called dead by the officials, leaving Lane Kiffin enraged on the sideline. The play straight after, it appeared a Penn State defender had made contact with an Ole Miss offensive lineman, but no foul was called.
Ole Miss had early struggles in stopping the Penn State run game. Both running backs, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, gashed the defense behind a dominant Nittany Lions offensive line.
The Ole Miss offense started to find some fluency in their next drive. Two guys who confirmed they were heading back to Oxford in 2024 over the last few weeks spearheaded the drive. Wide receiver Tre Harris made a big 25-yard catch, finished off by tight end Caden Prieskorn, who scored on a 6-yard pass.
However, Penn State answered straight back, with some luck on the way. After scrambling around in the backfield, Drew Allar had his attempted pass tipped by Isaac Ukwu. The ball landed straight to tight end Tyler Warren, who made a 77-yard play to the four-yard line. The drive was finished off with a 4th down TD pass from Drew Allar to Theo Johnson.
Ole Miss added another three points from the boot of Caden Davis. Then came the first turnover of the day. A big hit from Jared Ivey forced a wayward Allar throw that went high in the air. Daijahn Anthony watched the ball carefully into his hands to make the interception. The team capitalized, with Dart connecting with Prieskorn again for a 37-yard score.
Just before the half, Ole Miss were dealt a double blow. First, Nic Singleton grabbed a touchdown to reduce the lead. Then, more concerning for the Rebel fans was star WR Tre Harris limping to the locker room. However, Harris came back out in the second half moving well, with Ole Miss leading 20-17.
The Ole Miss defense started the second half strong, forcing Drew Allar to throw the ball, something they were dealing with much better. The passing game was struggling for James Franklin's side, with the Rebels forcing a punt to start the half.
Tre Harris and Caden Prieskorn continued where they left off in the first half, making clutch catches. Both players finished the day with 100-yard receiving games. The plays helped, towards Caden Davis smashing a 52-yard field goal with plenty left on it.
The Rebels started to stamp their authority on the game, especially on defense, forcing a three-and-out and the second punt in two possessions for Penn State.
The Ole Miss offensive tempo was taking its toll on the Penn State defense. After little success early in the game, running back Quinshon Judkins was starting to get loose. He finished off a ten-play, 82-yard drive with a 14-yard TD pass, popping out of the backfield to make the catch. Prieskorn, who was having himself a day, grabbed the two-point conversation catch to make it a two-score game.
Once again, the defence forced another Penn State three and out. The Ole Miss D came to play in the second half, allowing just 13 offensive yards in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter didn't start much better for the Big Ten team. Despite moving the ball better, they shot themselves in the foot with two negative plays. The first was an offensive pass interference, knocking the drive back 15 yards. The second was a vertical pass that went 12 yards out of bounds, behind the line of scrimmage. To add insult to injury, the 51-yard field goal attempt from Alex Felkins was blocked by Zxavian Harris.
The Rebels looked to seal the victory by putting together a TD drive while taking time off the clock. They only managed to take four minutes away from Penn State. However, they did get their fourth touchdown of the day, Jaxson Dart scrambling home from the two-yard line.
The day got much worse for Drew Allar when he had the ball knocked loose by Akelo Stone. The ball was then recovered by defensive lineman Jared Ivey at the Ole Miss 47-yard line, the second turnover for Ole Miss.
Penn State offered a late answer to the big gap when Drew Allar found a wide-open Harrison Wallace for the TD. The Nittany Lions made it a 13-point game with the two-point conversion. Penn State attempted an on-side kick to make it an interesting last four minutes. However, the ball was recovered by arguably the player of the game, Caden Prieskorn.
Penn State got the ball back for one final drive but failed to make the game look closer than it should. The scoreline justified by the second-half performance from the Rebels.
Heading into 2024, there is genuine optimism that Lane Kiffin could bring a national title to Oxford.