Fresh out of NCAA supermax prison and no longer having to check in with their guardian of the game parole officer, Ole Miss could be in an exotic location within the southeastern United States this December. Could is the key word, as the Rebels still have to find six wins and do so with a roster that is young and, ahem, lacking in key spots.
While I have filed Ole Miss’ bowl chances under “No, fam”, it would not be the most outrageous development if they climbed the mountain* to 6-6. Coaching upgrades and enough talent, particularly at quarterback and running back, gives them a shot.
*Maybe more like Woodall Mountain
If the team does achieve luxury in Birmingham/Shreveport/Nashville/Memphis, they will be adding to an extensive bowl history at Ole Miss. In 37 bowl appearances, Ole Miss holds the third-highest winning percentage in college football among teams with a minimum of 20 games played (.649; trailing Utah and USC, respectively).
With that success in mind, let’s take our first dive in to the work of Ole Miss teams from years past.
1936 Orange Bowl
Catholic University 20, Ole Miss 19
In its very first bowl appearance, Ole Miss gave bowl season the gift of a very Ole Miss loss. The Rebels outgained the Cardinal and had more first downs, but fell short because - (clears throat) - they threw four interceptions, lost two fumbles, had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, and missed an extra point in the fourth quarter.
Was that bad? Seems bad. Likely very bad. Erase from DVR.
BONUS FACT: There were a combined 24 punts in this game because, prior to WWII, quarters were 44 minutes long instead of 15.
1948 Delta Bowl
Ole Miss 13, TCU 9
Winners of the SEC in 1947, Ole Miss concluded Johnny Vaught’s first season with the first bowl win in program history. It was also the last game of Charlie Conerly’s college career. Not sure what happened to him after that. Perhaps sold insurance or something.
Setting the stage for future Liberty Bowls, the Delta Bowl was played on January 1, 1948 in Memphis, and you better believe the weather was crap.
For those of us who are not sailors on the high seas, a wind speed of 19.9 knots is about 23 miles per hour, which, combined with the snow/ice pellets, must’ve been a real treat for the 28,000 people in attendance.
1953 Sugar Bowl
Georgia Tech 24, Ole Miss 7
Facing Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets in the program’s first Sugar Bowl appearance, Ole Miss left quite an impression, scoring seven points and turning it over six times. The Rebels’ passing numbers that day (11-23, 150 yards, 3 INTs) gave fans a glimpse into the future of Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron’s USC offense.
1955 Sugar Bowl
Navy 21, Ole Miss 0
Paul Johnson’s Midshipmen outgained the Rebels 442-121 and dropped Ole Miss’ historical Sugar Bowl points per game to 3.5. After winning his second SEC Championship, I assume Johnny Vaught did not expect the season would end with him eating his hat during a 22-play, 41-minute touchdown drive.
1956 Cotton Bowl
Ole Miss 14, TCU 13
Two bowl games against TCU, two bowl game wins. Would Ole Miss ever lose to TCU in a bowl game? Probably not. I mean, who could image such!
Meanwhile, here’s your boy, Billy Lott, showing that SEC speed to the corner for the go-ahead touchdown.
The win was the final act of a season in which Ole Miss won its third SEC title.
1958 Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss 39, Texas 7
The program’s first Sugar Bowl win was a dismantling of Texas, which saw Ole Miss force eight turnovers and limit the Longhorns to 206 yards of offense. The highlight of the game came in the fourth quarter, with Ole Miss leading 26-7, John Vaught maybe called a FAKE PUNT OUT OF HIS OWN END ZONE?
Nothing says disrespect quite like a 92-yard touchdown run off a fake/broken punt out of your own end zone while leading by 19 in the fourth quarter. I NEED IT IN MY VEINS.
1958 Gator Bowl
Ole Miss 7, Florida 3
After Ole Miss scored on the opening drive, Florida kicked a field goal with 7:44 to play in the first quarter, which would end the day’s scoring festivities.
1960 Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss 21, LSU 0
At the end of the 1959 season, Ole Miss earned a fourth SEC Championship, another Sugar Bowl win, and a national title thanks to the very smart people behind the Barryman, Billingsley, Dunkel, and Sagarin ratings. Of note, Ole Miss allowed opponents to score only 21 points ALL SEASON, seven of which came on some punt return by a felon.
1961 Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss 14, Rice 6
Just another SEC Championship, Sugar Bowl win, and national title. Nbd. Really not that hard.
The 1960 national championship was awarded by the Football Writer’s Association. I have always said SPROTS writers know what they’re doing.
BOOM ROASTED PUT THEIR MELTED BONES IN AN URN AND SEND IT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.
1962 Cotton Bowl
Texas 12, Ole Miss 7
A good way to lose to a team you hold to 183 total yards is to turn it over six times, including five interceptions. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
1963 Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss 17, Arkansas 13
A fourth Sugar Bowl win, a sixth SEC title, a 10-0 season, and a third national championship. The Sugar Bowl in the 1950s/60s for Ole Miss was what the Independence Bowl would become to the modern era of Ole Miss football.
S I G H.
Meanwhile, let’s find out if you could throw wounded ducks down the seam for touchdowns against 1960s pass defenses.
1964 Sugar Bowl
Alabama 12, Ole Miss 7
How does an Ole Miss team close out the last SEC Championship season in program history in the most WAOM fashion? Let’s try fumbling 11 (ELEVEN; 10+1; 1+10) times and losing six of them. Double-digit fumbles in 60 minutes: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
Due to snowy conditions, the teams combined for 17 fumbles, which was very much I’M NOT LIKING THE BALL SECURITY OUT THERE, BOB. Really not sure I could’ve survived this game.
From 1959 to 1963 (five seasons), Johnny Vaught’s team gave up a total of 198 points over 53 games. That’s 3.7 points a game. Granted, I have no advanced stats in front of me, but that average could be good.
Last season, Wesley McGriff’s defense gave up its 198th point during the second quarter of the sixth game.
1964 Bluebonnet Bowl
Tulsa 14, Ole Miss 7
Shocked that a team fresh off SEC titles and Sugar Bowl appearances didn’t play well against a team going to a bowl game for the first time since 1953. Oh, and their QB was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy (Jerry Rhome).
1965 Liberty Bowl
Ole Miss 13, Auburn 7
Memphis weather check:
1966 Bluebonnet Bowl
Texas 19, Ole Miss 0
I, for one, do not care for Bluebonnet Bowls.
1967 Sun Bowl
UTEP 14, Ole Miss 7
109 total yards and four turnovers. Well, let’s see, a 6-3-1 season and spending December 30th in El Paso while playing the school who resides there. Yep, checks out.
1968 Liberty Bowl
Ole Miss 34, Virginia Tech 17
That day on December 14, 1968 when Ole Miss scored 34 unanswered points:
Sim to August 31, 2019 at 11 a.m.:
1970 Sugar Bowl
Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 22
I refer you to my extensive work on this game from 2015, which was 18 SEC losses ago. Ole Miss cheerleader, your thoughts on me leaning on previous work instead of writing something new?
Tough but fair.
1971 Gator Bowl
Auburn 35, Ole Miss 28
Archie Manning’s final game in an Ole Miss uniform ended with a loss, despite his 275 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Just a hunch, but the loss probably had something to do with spotting Auburn a 21-0 lead.
It was also Johnny Vaught’s last game as Ole Miss’ head coach*, as he retired at the end of the season. Surely there was no fallout from that!
*He came back in 1973 as interim coach when head coach Billy Kinard was fired** after the third game.
**Billy Kinard was hired by Bruiser Kinard, who was his brother and was promoted from offensive line coach to athletic director in 1971 because that seems like a perfectly reasonable thing an athletic department*** would do.
***Bruiser was fired from his AD spot in 1973 and reassigned to the position of assistant dean of student personnel. All of this is very normal.
The end of the Manning and Vaught eras seems like a good time to take a break, have a drink or 10, and mentally prepare for the extended bowl droughts over the next few decades. We’ll be back later this week to conclude the bowl history festivities.