TAMPA, Fla. — Not all fairy tales end “happily ever after.”
After a dream season, with wins over ranked Big Ten blue bloods, and weeks of outrage after a New Year’s Six bowl snub, Indiana (6-2, 6-1 B1G) couldn’t keep up with Ole Miss’ (5-5, 4-5 SEC) high-paced offense in a 26-20 defeat. IU’s bowl win drought will extend to at least 30 years.
From the start, the Rebels offense, called by Lane Kiffin, kept Indiana’s defense off-balance. Dual-threat QB Matt Corral, who entered this game as the 2nd-most talented QB that IU had faced all season (other than Justin Fields), used his strong arm to hit eight different receivers on the day. Corral ran for 37 yards in the game, but his passing ability stood out against an IU secondary that has limited opposing passing attacks all year.
On a humid, swampy day in central Florida, Ole Miss jumped out in front thanks to a seven play, 57-yard drive that ended in a Luke Logan field goal. After that point, the Hoosiers never led. IU frequently substituted on both sides of the ball to stay fresh on a difficult weather day following a four-week layoff, but the Rebels looked better suited in these conditions. Ole Miss ran 41 of the game’s first 59 plays, and a Corral touchdown pass to an open Casey Kelly in the end zone gave the SEC squad a 13-3 lead going into the break.
IU’s offense clearly missed the explosiveness that it once had with Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback. Jack Tuttle, who led IU to a win at Top-25 Wisconsin in his last start, was under pressure all afternoon and took frequent hits from the Ole Miss defense. As early as the 2nd quarter, TV cameras picked up Tuttle holding his right shoulder and grimacing in pain. After the game, Tom Allen confirmed that Tuttle separated his shoulder during the ballgame.
Tuttle never lacked toughness. He frequently targeted Whop Philyor on the afternoon, throwing him the ball on the first five passes of the game and connecting with him 18 times in the Outback Bowl. The 18 receptions was a career-high for Philyor and set a new Big Ten bowl record. Philyor also topped 2,000 career receiving yards, the 10th Hoosier to do so.
However, Philyor was one of a few Hoosiers to make mistakes throughout the game. On a drive in the 3rd quarter, Philyor had the ball knocked out of his hands by Ole Miss DB Tylan Knight, ending an IU drive at midfield. Tuttle was hit on an interception he threw late in the second quarter. Peyton Hendershot dropped an easy completion over the middle. Indiana was caught with 12 men on the field and committed an illegal shift penalty. IU also missed a higher number of tackles than usual. In a game where the Hoosiers were expected to win comfortably, the Rebels’ fast pace on offense, combined with IU’s errors, proved to be fatal.
After Snoop Conner ran in a five-yard score to give Ole Miss a 20-6 lead, Indiana turned it up a notch. Stevie Scott did his best to get IU back into the game. His two rushing scores, the 29th and 30th of his career, tied the game with 5:58 left. On Charlie Campbell’s PAT, OL Tim Weaver picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave Ole Miss good field position on the following drive. It was another mistake that showed Indiana’s level of focus was not at the same level than what they showed all year during Big Ten play.
Corral remained unfazed even though it seemed the tide was turning in Indiana’s favor. He hit fellow quarterback/athlete (and birthday boy) John Rhys Plumlee for back-to-back passes that took Ole Miss down to the IU 5. Corral connected with Dontario Drummond for the game-winning score. Corral finished the day 30-of-44 for 342 yards. He threw two touchdowns, and most impressively, didn’t turn the ball over.
After Ole Miss’ extra point went wide left, Indiana got the ball back down six with over four minutes to go. Tuttle connected with Philyor and David Ellis to move the ball to the Mississippi 33-yard line, but a big sack pushed IU back. Tuttle couldn’t connect with Philyor on a 3rd-and-18 jump ball, and was hit on the 4th down attempt.
Player of the Game:
On a day where many Hoosiers didn’t stand out, kicker Charlie Campbell had an outstanding afternoon for IU. He nailed field goals from 50 and 53 yards that were the brightest spots for Indiana until Scott scored two touchdowns. The 53-yard boot was a career-high for the redshirt sophomore. On a day where Indiana played in an NFL stadium, Campbell looked like a guy who will be kicking on Sundays in the near future.
Up next: Basketball season
Featured Image: Indiana University Athletics