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Ole Miss defense stifles Georgia Tech for Music City Bowl win

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Synjyn Days (10) rushes against Mississippi Rebels defensive end Cameron Whigham (55) and teammate Mississippi linebacker Serderius Bryant (14) during the first half at LP Field. (Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Synjyn Days (10) rushes against Mississippi Rebels defensive end Cameron Whigham (55) and teammate Mississippi linebacker Serderius Bryant (14) during the first half at LP Field. (Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace had a simple strategy Monday.

"Sometimes, I try to make too many plays," he said. "All day, I was thinking, 'Just make the plays that are there.' I think that's what I did. I got the ball to our receivers, and they made the stats look good."

Self-deprecation aside, Wallace was a key contributor to the Rebels' 25-17 victory over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field.

A junior from Pulaski, Tenn., just over an hour south of Nashville, Wallace accounted for all three of his team's touchdowns. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 256 yards with one scoring pass and an interception, and he ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.

Ole Miss (8-5) won its second consecutive bowl game under second-year coach Hugh Freeze.

"You get a lot of criticism when you play quarterback in the Southeastern Conference," Freeze said. "I know Bo didn't play as well as he would have liked in the last two losses, but we wouldn't have won 15 games and two bowls the last two years without him."

Freeze also acknowledged the Rebels wouldn't have won Monday without their defense, which had its way with the Yellow Jackets' triple-option ground game after allowing a 15-play, 74-yard touchdown drive on Georgia Tech's first possession.

Georgia Tech (7-6) rushed for just 151 yards -- less than half its per-game average -- on 49 carries. Ole Miss made adjustments after the first drive, crowding the tackle box and using its quickness to take away the pitch game.

"We knew there would be an adjustment period to how they operate their triple option," Freeze said. "You can't ask your scout team to do it at the pace they do it at. But the kids made great adjustments. I couldn't be prouder of them."

Forced to throw, the Jackets couldn't make enough plays to overcome a 23-7, third-quarter deficit. Quarterback Vad Lee connected on just five of 17 passes for 147 yards, although he did hit on a 72-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darren Waller with 13:25 left in the game to slice the margin to 23-17.

Jackets coach Paul Johnson cited a variety of factors for his team's inability to generate its normal yardage on the ground.

"We never really got in sync on offense," he said. "Just didn't have enough consistency."

The Rebels' biggest defensive play came with 4:22 left in the game. Georgia Tech called a reverse pass, with wide receiver Corey Dennis looking for A-back Robert Godhigh on a first-and-15 play from the Jackets' 15.

Dennis gave ground and eventually fumbled after being hit by linebacker Serderius Bryant at the 3. Yellow Jackets right tackle Ray Beno fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety, giving Ole Miss an eight-point margin.

"There was no one around Robert," Johnson said. "If that play works, you call me a genius. When it doesn't work, you call me a (dummy)."

By the time Georgia Tech regained possession, it had just 37 seconds to go 80 yards with no timeouts. Cornerback Senquez Golson intercepted a Lee pass at the Jackets 37-yard line with 25 seconds left to end it.

Both teams ripped off 15-play touchdown drives to start the game. Ole Miss won the coin toss, took the ball and went 75 yards in less than five minutes. Wallace ran the last 17 yards on a quarterback draw for a 7-0 lead.

Georgia Tech then went 74 yards, overcoming a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Godhigh. He covered the final 8 yards around left end for a 7-7 tie.

The Rebels established a 13-7 lead with 7:59 left in the second quarter when Wallace and wide receiver Donte Moncrief hooked up on a 28-yard scoring strike. Moncrief (six receptions, 113 yards) tightroped the right sideline over the last 10 yards, breaking the goal line's plane just before falling out of bounds.

Ole Miss expanded the lead in the third quarter. Wallace kept the ball on a read-option and went 10 yards up the middle for his second rushing score and a 20-7 advantage with 8:13 remaining. The touchdown occurred five plays after rover Trae Elston recovered Lee's fumble at the Jackets 44.

Rebels placekicker Andrew Ritter extended the lead to 16 with a 29-yard field goal with three minutes left in the third quarter.

NOTES: Mississippi played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since meeting Wake Forest in 2008, when the Rebels lost 30-28. ... Rebels defensive coordinator Dave Wommack filled the same position at Georgia Tech from 2008-09, the first two years Paul Johnson coached the Yellow Jackets. ... Georgia Tech averaged 311.8 rushing yards per game this year, good for sixth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Yellow Jackets led the nation in rushing since Johnson was hired.