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Dart leads No. 11 Ole Miss to 38-25 Peach Bowl rout of No. 10 Penn State’s proud defense

Dec 30, 2023, 2:09 PM

Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins (4) runs into Penn State defensive end Jameial Lyons (19)...

Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins (4) runs into Penn State defensive end Jameial Lyons (19) during the second half of the Peach Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA (AP) — Lane Kiffin wants Mississippi’s dominant win over Penn State to be seen as just the start of more success to come for his Rebels.

Jaxson Dart passed for 379 yards and three touchdowns, including two to tight end Caden Prieskorn, and ran for a score as No. 11 Ole Miss bullied No. 10 Penn State’s proud defense 38-25 in the Peach Bowl on Saturday.

“I really do believe we’re just getting started,” Kiffin said. “I think that we’re doing something. We’re on our way to something really special.”

Ole Miss (11-2) gained 540 yards against Penn State (10-3), which led the nation with its average of 223 yards allowed. It was the most yards and points allowed by the Nittany Lions this season.

“Too many moving parts, staff and players, to have the type of success that we wanted to have today,” said Penn State coach James Franklin, referring to the combination of players opting out to prepare for the NFL draft and recent changes to his offensive and defensive coordinators.

The victory gave Kiffin’s Rebels their first 11-win season.

Prieskorn had 10 receptions for 136 yards. He added a 2-point conversion catch to his touchdown receptions of 6 and 37 yards.

The dominant performance by Prieskorn was a surprise. Prieskorn had 20 catches, including two for touchdowns, for 313 yards in the regular season.

Dart visited the injury tent following the Rebels’ first possession and had his left ankle taped on the sideline. He remained in the game and added a 2-yard scoring run for a 38-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss chanted “S-E-C! S-E-C!” as it celebrated the Southeastern Conference’s win in the matchup against the Big Ten’s Nittany Lions.

Ole Miss defensive tackle Zxavian Harris blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt by Alex Felkins early in the fourth quarter.

Each team used tight ends in prominent roles. Prieskorn’s 6-yard touchdown catch gave Ole Miss a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. Penn State pulled even on Drew Allar’s 2-yard scoring pass to tight end Theo Johnson on a fourth-down play early in the second.

Prieskorn’s second scoring catch, a 37-yarder, gave Ole Miss a 20-10 lead. The Penn State defense bought in on Dart’s fake pitch to Judkins, leaving Prieskorn open on the right sideline.

2 TURNOVERS FOR ALLAR

Allar shared time at quarterback with Beau Pribula, who threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Singleton late in the first half.

Allar threw an interception in the second quarter and lost a fumble when sacked in the fourth. He completed 19 of 39 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns.

PRIESKORN’S PROMISE

Kiffin said he had to check after the game to make sure some of his players including Prieskorn, who have promised to return next season, would stick with their pledge after their success in the bowl game.

Kiffin joked that Prieskorn agreed to return for his final year of eligibility in 2024 only if he would be featured in the Peach Bowl.

“He said ‘Coach, I’ll come back, but you’ve got to make sure I’ve got 10 catches in the Peach Bowl,’” Kiffin said with a smile.

THIRD-QUARTER DOMINANCE

The Rebels led 20-17 at halftime and then scored the first 18 points after halftime. Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins provided balance to the offense in the second half.

Judkins had 34 carries for 106 yards and added a 14-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Before the bowl game, the Nittany Lions had outscored opponents 115-3 in the third quarter.

MISSING STARTERS

Each team had top defensive ends, Cedric Johnson for Ole Miss and Chop Robinson for Penn State, opt out to prepare for the draft. The Nittany Lions also were missing their usual starting cornerbacks, Johnny Dixon and Kalen King.

“When you watch their game plan, they went after some guys that had not played a lot for us this year,” Franklin said.

Said Kiffin: “They pay us a lot of money as coaches, so I would think we wouldn’t be really good coaches if we didn’t realize that and obviously go in and attack where they’re missing guys.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Ole Miss: The Rebels, who were beaten up front in their losses to Alabama and Georgia in the regular season, appeared to have similar problems with Penn State’s offensive line early in the game. The Ole Miss defense gave up 85 rushing yards in the first quarter before gaining strength. DT J.J. Pegues gained 8 yards on a fourth-and-1 run on a direct snap from the Ole Miss 36 late in the third quarter.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions gave up more than their average of 223 yards allowed by the midpoint of the second quarter. Ole Miss had 340 yards by halftime as Penn State struggled to defend Prieskorn and wide receiver Tre Harris, who had seven catches for 134 yards. Linebacker Abdul Carter left the game with an apparent right ankle injury and appeared limited when he returned in the second half.

UP NEXT

Ole Miss: The Rebels, bolstered by a top-ranked transfer portal class, open their 2024 season at home against Furman on Aug. 31.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions open their 2024 season at West Virginia on Aug. 31.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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Dart leads No. 11 Ole Miss to 38-25 Peach Bowl rout of No. 10 Penn State’s proud defense