One of the primary questions leading up to the Sugar Bowl on Friday night was how Oklahoma State would utilize its two quarterbacks.
As it turned out, Ole Miss’ defense made it much ado about nothing in the Rebels’ 48-20 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Rebels shut down both Mason Rudolph, who returned to his starting position barely four weeks after undergoing foot surgery, and senior captain J.W. Walsh, whose running ability had been the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ short-yardage and red-zone offense.
Rudolph completed his first three passes for 29 yards on OSU’s first possession before a sack ended a scoring threat.
On the Cowboys second possession, they reached the Ole Miss red zone before Walsh got his first opportunity, but he was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 from the 8. OSU settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but the Rebels scored the next 27 points.
OSU finally reached the end zone with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Sankey on bowl tour
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has been on a whirlwind tour of bowl games this week.
His travels began with a trip to Nashville for a dinner Monday night before he returned to SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, before lunch Tuesday. He then headed to Houston to watch LSU beat Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl Tuesday night.
Sankey came to New Orleans for Sugar Bowl business Wednesday morning, then went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to watch Mississippi State beat North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl and returned after to the Crescent City.
On Thursday, he attended Alabama’s victory against Michigan State in the College Football Playoff at the Cotton Bowl. On Friday, he caught parts of Tennessee’s victory over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., and Florida’s loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., before arriving in time for the start of the Sugar Bowl.
Another notch in SEC belt
Ole Miss’ victory improved the SEC to 5-2 in bowl games/CFP playoffs with three games involving SEC teams remaining.
On Saturday, Georgia plays Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl and Arkansas plays Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl, the only postseason game besides the Sugar Bowl and the LSU-Texas Tech Texas Bowl that matches SEC and Big 12 teams.
Alabama will face Clemson in the CFP national championship Jan. 11.
Big 12 teams dropped to 1-3 with three teams yet to play Saturday. In addition to OSU’s loss and Texas tech’s loss, Oklahoma lost to Clemson 37-17 in the CFP playoff at the Orange Bowl on Thursday and Baylor defeated North Carolina 49-38 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
On Saturday, in addition to the Liberty Bowl, TCU faces Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl and West Virginia plays Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
Kelly streak ends early
OSU was one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers, ranking ninth with 27 during the regular season.
Ball security was one of Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly’s strength late in the season as he did not throw an interception in any of the last three games and entered the Sugar Bowl with a streak of 105 consecutive passes without throwing an interception.
The Cowboys’ trend continued, and Kelly’s streak ended abruptly as his second pass was intercepted by Ashton Lampkin.
But that wound up being a rare bright spot for OSU and a rare downer for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss fans searching for former Rebels QB Archie Manning’s place in the New Orleans Saints Ring of Honor were out of luck Friday night.
Manning and three other former Saints players have their names and jerseys numbers engraved on the facing of the terrace level of the Superdome, but for the Sugar Bowl they were covered up by Sugar Bowl banners.
The other honorees are LB Rickey Jackson, OL Willie Roaf and K Morten Andersen.
Advocate sportswriter Ted Lewis contributed to this report.)