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Ole Miss rides Cowboys in Sugar Bowl

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Like the other five “New Year’s 6” bowls, the Sugar Bowl resulted in a knockout rather than a decision. Playing inspired football, the Mississippi Rebels steamrolled Oklahoma State 48-20 on Friday in New Orleans.

The Rebels scored early and often to decide the contest early. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was on target to eight different receivers, generating four touchdown passes. The nephew of former Miami Hurricanes’ and Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Jim Kelly also ran for 73 yards.

It started off badly for Kelly, but got much better. His second pass was intercepted by the Cowboys’ Ashton Lumpkin.

After spotting the Cowboys a 3-0 lead, the Rebels put points on the board on their final five possessions of the first half to take a 34-6 lead into the locker room.

The final play of the half was a perfectly executed trick play. Offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, a junior from Lake City, Florida, took an overhand lateral from Kelly on a misdirection play and walked into the end zone, extending the lead to four touchdowns.

The second half was more of the same as Mississippi extended their lead to 48-13 on a Jordan Wilkins run and Kelly’s fourth touchdown pass, this one a 14-yard toss to Laquon Treadwell.

The victory by Ole Miss was their first in the Sugar Bowl since Jan. 1, 1970 when the Rebels defeated Arkansas, 27-22. Mississippi was led that year by quarterback Archie Manning, who attended Friday’s game.

To no one’s surprise, Kelly was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. Treadwell caught three of Kelly’s touchdown passes and also accumulated 71 receiving yards.

With Treadwell on the stage, Kelly accepted the trophy and gave credit to his teammates.

“It means the world to me to have these coaches and these players,” he said. “They mean the world to me.”

He also joined in the chant urging Treadwell to come back next year instead of going to the NFL.

The Rebels’ defense held Oklahoma State to 63 yards rushing. The potent Cowboys’ offense was also held without a touchdown pass.

Mississippi’s 29-point margin of victory was in line with nearly all of the six major bowls. Florida State’s 38-24 loss to Houston in Thursday’s Peach Bowl was the closest of the six. The others had margins of 20, 38, 16 and 29 points.

After the four bowls on Saturday, the main event of the national championship game between Clemson and Alabama is all that remains. With luck it will be a game worthy of the hype.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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