The No. 6 Baylor Football team (12-2, 7-2) accomplished what no other Baylor team has in program history yesterday after they defeated No. 8 Ole Miss (10-3, 6-2), 21-7 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl as their 12th victory of the season and first ever NY6 bowl win in the CFP era! Few people could have expected that in only head coach Dave Aranda’s second year at the helm, the Bears would go from a 2-7 record and the eighth spot in the Big 12 Conference’s preseason poll to conference and NY6 bowl champions, but here we are! After winning the Big 12 Championship almost one month ago (read my recap of the game here!), Baylor notched a school-record 12th win on an absolute defensive masterclass that suffocated a usually quick and efficient Ole Miss offense. Although the Bears’ offense struggled on passing routes, senior RB Abram Smith continued his dominant running game and with 172 yards on 25 carries, he surpassed former RB Terrance Ganaway’s record for rushing yards in a single-season with 1,601. Junior QB Gerry Bohanon played his first game in almost two months and completed 7 of 17 passing attempts for 40 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. Despite totaling fewer offensive yards—319 to Ole Miss’s 322—the Bears averaged more yards per play than the “Rebels” (ick and racist) with 5.5 yards compared to their 3.6. Baylor won their fifth win over a Top 25 opponent for their most top-25 wins in a season since at least 1974 and they also picked up 5 penalties for a loss of 55 yards.
Ole Miss won the coin toss and got the ball first to start the game and after one rushing attempt for no gain, star QB Matt Corral threw an interception to senior S JT Woods (his fifth of the season and most in the Big 12) for the Bears to take over at their own 38-yard-line. Smith rushed for 8 yards on 2 carries, Bohanon threw an incomplete pass and on 4th and 2, Bohanon’s pass to senior WR R.J. Sneed only traveled 1 yard so the Bears turned the ball over on downs at their 46. Sophomore LB Garmon Randolph sacked Corral for a loss of 7 yards and the Rebels punted the ball back to the Bears for a start on their 8-yard-line. Smith rushed for 15 yards on 2 runs, Bohanon added 5 on the ground, and the QB connected with senior WR Tyquan Thornton for 11 yards, but a holding penalty pushed the Bears back. Bohanon passed a 4-yarder to senior WR Drew Estrada before rushing for 3 yards before junior P Issac Power sailed a 59-yard punt. Ole Miss moved the ball 48 yards, but Corral was sacked twice consecutively for a loss of 5 and 6 yards by senior S Jalen Pitre and senior DT Cole Maxwell, respectively before leaving the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Following Corral’s exit, the Ole Miss kicker missed a 49-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless. Bohanon, senior RB Trestan Ebner, and Smith rushed for 6, 1, and 1 yard(s), respectively, to close the 1st quarter.
At the start of the 2nd quarter on 4th and 2, Smith rushed for no gain and the Bears turned the ball over on downs. The Rebels, now starting backup QB Luke Altmyer, traveled 48 yards on the drive and on Baylor’s 12-yard-line, sophomore LB Matt Jones tipped Altmyer’s pass into the hands of junior CB Al Walcott who returned the pick to the house for a 96-yard score. After freshman K Isaiah Hankins made the extra point, the Bears went up 7-0 with 10:16 left in the 1st half. Ole Miss converted once in their next drive, but they were forced to punt the ball back to Baylor. On 1st down at their own 5-yard-line, Smith rushed for 49 yards before rushing for 0 on the next play. Estrada caught a 10-yard pass and ran for 1 prior to Bohanon’s 3-yard rush and Power’s 34-yard punt to the Ole Miss 8. Altmyer was sacked for the 1st time (and 4th of the game) for a loss of 10 yards, but the sack wasn’t credited to any player on the box score. Despite good field position at Ole Miss’ 39, Baylor had a quick 3-and-out with Bohanon throwing 2 incomplete passes and Smith rushing for 1 yard. After Ole Miss punted the ball to the Bears following the next series, Smith ran for 32 yards on 3 carries to end the 2nd quarter with the Bears still up 7-0.
Baylor got the ball first in the 2nd half and had another 3-and-out on 2 incomplete passes and Smith’s 5-yard rush. Senior LB Terrel Bernard (who was named game MVP) sacked Altmyer on the game’s 5th for a loss of 4 yards and the Rebels punted the ball. Smith gained 1 yard and Bohanon threw 3 incomplete passes before losing 1 yard on the ground for a 17-yard punt to Ole Miss’ 28. Ole Miss scored their first and only score of the game on a 37-yard pass to tie Baylor 7-7 with 9:13 left in the 3rd quarter. Smith rushed for 17 yards on 3 carries and Bohanon threw a 9-yard pass to Sneed. Smith made midfield with a 3-yard rush and after an incomplete pass, Bohanon connected with sophomore TE Drake Dabney for 8 yards. Junior LB Dillon Doyle carried the ball for 3 yards to convert on 3rd and 2 and Smith ran for 9 before Bohanon threw an interception in the end zone to give the Rebels the ball back. Sophomore Qualan Jones (listed as a RB but played on defense) sacked Altmyer for the 6th Baylor sack of the game near the end of the 3rd quarter.
Ole Miss attempted a second field goal for 35 yards and missed to leave the score 7-7 at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Smith rushed for 11 yards, Bohanon added 4, and Ebner ran for 17 before freshman WR Monaray Baldwin tricked the Rebels’ defense and ran untouched for 48 yards to the house and a Baylor 14-7 lead with Hankins nailing the extra point. Bernard sacked Altmyer for a loss of 10 yards (the 7th of the game) on the first play of the drive and Woods intercepted Altmyer’s pass for his second of the game (and 6th on the season) and returned the ball 16 yards to the Ole Miss 15. Bohanon rushed for 3 yards and threw a 6-yard pass to Smith who added 4 yards on 2 carries prior to Bohanon’s 6-yard pass to Thornton in the end zone for a 2-yard score and 21-7 lead. The Rebels moved from their own 25 to Baylor’s 25, but senior LB Bryson Jackson sacked Altmyer (the 8th of the game) for a loss of 11 yards on 4th and 10. Ebner rushed for 15 yards on 2 carries and Smith recorded 23 yards on 5 carries to run out the clock, leaving Ole Miss with 1:58 and 0 timeouts left on their own 7-yard-line thanks to a 36-yard punt by Power. Ole Miss moved into Baylor territory, but Altmyer was sacked twice by Jackson and junior DL Brayden Utley for a loss of 7 and 8 yards, respectively (and for the 9th and 10th sacks for Baylor) to end the game.
6 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Smith (25 carries for 172 yards and a Baylor single-season rushing record), Baldwin (1 carry for 48 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (5 carries for 33 yards), Bohanon (7 carries for 23 yards), Doyle (1 carry for 3 yards), and Estrada (1 carry for 1 yard). 5 received passes including Estrada (2 catches for 14 yards), Sneed (2 catches for 10 yards), Dabney (1 catch for 8 yards), Smith (1 catch for 6 yards), and Thornton (1 catch for 2 yards and 1 TD). The defense had a record-breaking day, amassing 80 tackles with 9 for a loss of 59 yards (Bernard, Randolph, Pitre, Utley, Jackson, Maxwell, Q. Jones), Sugar Bowl record 10 sacks for a loss of 69 yards (Randolph, Pitre, Maxwell, Bernard, Q. Jones, Jackson, Utley), 3 interceptions returned 112 yards (Woods, Walcott for 1 TD), and 7 pass break ups (Bernard, Woods, junior CB Mark Milton, sophomore LB Matt Jones, senior S Jairon McVea, senior CB Kalon Barnes, senior CB Raleigh Texada).
The Bears set records in their Sugar Bowl win and throughout the season and this 2021 squad will forever be remembered in Baylor history.