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Ole Miss rolls past outmanned Penn State in Peach Bowl [updated]

ATLANTA — Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin credited Penn State coach James Franklin a few days ago for the small amount of transfers and opt-outs he’s had in recent years.

But the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions wound up playing without four All-Big Ten selections, three on defense and one on offense. Their glaring absences led to a 38-25 loss to the 11th-ranked Rebels before 71,230 Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“There were a lot of changes, but we’re not making excuses,” Penn State running back Nick Singleton said. “Everybody has to step up. Coach (Ty) Howle and Coach (Ja’Juan) Seider did a heck of a job (as co-offensive coordinators).

“We have no excuses. Ole Miss was a good team. They came ready to play. We just have to figure it out.”

Ole Miss (11-2) successfully attacked sophomore Cam Miller and freshman Zion Tracy, who saw extensive action in place of opt-out cornerbacks Kalen King and Johnny Dixon. Jaxson Dart passed for 379 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another for the Rebels, who won 11 games for the first time in school history.

“It’s tough as a freshman,” safety Jaylen Reed said. “Cam’s not a freshman but he’s still young. It’s hard going out there in a bowl game without as many reps as the older guys get. It’s a hard thing to do. They can learn from their mistakes and get better.”

Tight end Cade Prieskorn caught 10 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Tre Harris made seven catches for 134 yards against Penn State (10-3), which also played without end Chop Robinson, a projected first-round pick who also opted out.

Two hours before the game, the Big Ten availability report revealed that King and All-American left tackle Olu Fashanu, who were expected to see limited action, would not play.

Without Fashanu, Ole Miss often pressured quarterback Drew Allar and hampered the Penn State passing game. Allar finished 19-for-39 for 295 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and a lost fumble.

“Their D-line did a great job of getting a hand on the ball,” Allar said. “And I missed some throws that would have been easy completions for us to get the ball on the perimeter.”

In addition to playing without Fashanu, Robinson, King and Dixon, Penn State had other changes in the last several weeks. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz resigned to become head coach at Duke and was replaced on an interim basis by safeties coach Anthony Poindexter and analyst Robb Smith.

“We just had too many moving parts with the staff and the players against a good team,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “We had too many moving parts to have the type of success that we wanted to have today.”

The Rebels rolled up 540 yards and became the first team to top 500 against the Lions since Michigan gained 563 in a 41-17 win in Ann Arbor last year. Quinshon Judkins rushed 34 times for 106 yards for Ole Miss.

Penn State had held 17 consecutive opponents to 30 points or less before Ole Miss ended that streak. The loss prevented the Lions from posting their fifth 11-win season in eight years.

“They were very good,” Penn State cornerback Daequan Hardy said. “They have a well-oiled offense. I have nothing but respect for them.”

Singleton, the former Gov. Mifflin standout, was the Lions’ best player. He rushed eight times for 50 yards and caught four passes for 86 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown throw from backup quarterback Beau Pribula in the second quarter. He also caught a pass for a two-point conversion.

Tight end Tyler Warren caught five passes for 127 yards for the Lions, who finished with a deceiving 510 total yards.

“We’ve been great all year in the third quarter,” Franklin said. “Starting the third quarter today with two three-and-outs when the game was still very, very competitive was significant.”

In the first half, Dart completed 15-of-24 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

The Lions, though, opened the scoring when Alex Felkins capped a 64-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal after Singleton and Kaytron Allen rushed five times for 62 yards.

The Rebels, with their fast-paced offense, responded by driving to the Penn State 18 but had to settle for Caden Davis’ 36-yard field goal and a 3-3 tie. Then Dart began going to Prieskorn, who caught a 6-yard toss for a touchdown and a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter.

Penn State moved into scoring position on a strange play. Allar was forced out of the pocket and threw back over the middle to Warren, who made a one-handed catch. He rambled 75 yards to the Ole Miss 5.

“Our tight ends make plays happen, like the one to Tyler,” Allar said. “It was tipped and he made a really nice adjustment on it and broke a tackle.”

Allar finished the drive when he threw a 2-yard TD pass to Theo Johnson, another tight end, for a 10-10 tie early in the second quarter.

The Rebels went to Harris, their leading receiver, twice for 34 yards, which helped set up Davis’ 45-yard field goal that made it 13-10.

On Penn State’s next series, defensive end Jared Ivey, who was disruptive all afternoon, hit Allar as he threw a deep pass that Daijahn Anthony intercepted at the Ole Miss 17. It was just Allar’s second interception of the season.

“I just forced it,” Allar said. “Stupid mistake. Should have eaten it or gotten it to an outlet.”

The Rebels marched 83 yards behind Dart, who completed a 37-yard pass to the wide-open Prieskorn for a TD and a 20-10 advantage.

The Lions, however, made it close at the half. Pribula, who rarely passes, found Singleton open downfield. Singleton then cut across the field for a touchdown, which trimmed it to 20-17 at the half.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome the losses of Fashanu, Robinson, Kalen King and Dixon. In addition, three NFL-bound players sat out the second half: Johnson, defensive end Adisa Isaac and offensive tackle Caedan Wallace.

“Every loss is tough for me,” Allar said. “We have a lot of great leaders on our side of the ball and it was their last game. It was their last opportunity to put on the Penn State uniform, and it just sucks that we couldn’t end it on a higher note for them.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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