Corral, Ole Miss take down No. 7 Indiana in Outback Bowl

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TAMPA, Fla. — Even before Mississippi took the field for the Outback Bowl, the Rebels felt good about the direction they’re headed.

Coach Lane Kiffin was rewarded with a new contract despite having only been at the school one season. There also was no guarantee one of the nation’s lowest-ranked defenses would be able to slow down No. 7 Indiana enough to ensure the team’s first non-losing record since 2017.

“It’s really only up from here,” quarterback Matt Corral said Saturday after throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns to pace a 26-20 victory that ruined the finish to surprising Indiana’s breakout season.

Corral’s 3-yard pass to Dontario Drummond put the Rebels (5-5) ahead for good with 4:12 remaining.

The Ole Miss defense, which allowed 535.7 yards and 40.3 points per game during the regular season, came through with one more stop to clinch the school’s first bowl win since beating Oklahoma State in the 2016 Sugar Bowl.

“We talked about it all week. We’re going to need that,” Kiffin said. “We were not going to go score 60 points. … We knew it was going to be a struggle, and it was great to see the defense play like they did.”

Drummond finished with six catches for 110 yards. Corral completed 30 of 44 passes without an interception, including a 5-yard TD throw to Casey Kelly that put Ole Miss up 13-3 midway through the second quarter.

Jack Tuttle was 26 of 45 for 201 yards in his second start in place Michael Penix Jr. for Indiana (6-2), which lost its star quarterback to a season-ending knee injury in late November.

Stevie Scott III rushed for 99 yards and scored on runs of 3 and 2 yards to help Indiana wipe out a 20-6 deficit in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss missed the extra point after Drummond’s go-ahead TD catch. leaving Indiana with an opportunity to pull out its first bowl win in nearly 30 years.

The Hoosiers, who don’t have a postseason win since the 1991 Copper Bowl bowl, drove to the Rebels 33 before stalling and turning it over on downs.

“They made enough plays to come up with the win. I’m disappointed for our players,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “They have been through so much, sacrificed so much and worked hard. This one is going to hurt for a while.”

UNIFORM STATEMENT

Indiana created a stir by removing Big Ten logos from their uniforms before the game, sparking speculation of a rift between the Hoosiers and the conference after the team did not receive a berth in a New Year’s Six game.

The Big Ten logo was replaced by an Outback Bowl logo on jerseys, and the letters “LEO” were added to helmets.

Allen issued a statement to clarify “what we are wearing on our uniform and helmet,” noting that ever since he took over as coach at Indiana the program’s mantra has been “LEO, Love Each Other.”

“This season has been the most trying we will ever experience, and we felt it was appropriate to showcase LEO, which has carried us through one of the most historic years in Indiana football history,” Allen said. “We did not intend to show any disrespect to anyone. We are a proud member of the Big Ten and are always representing our conference.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Ole Miss: The Rebels appeared in a bowl for the first time since in five years, finishing on a winning note despite playing without two of its most productive offensive players – receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah – who opted out of the remainder of the season to focus on the NFL draft.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were not happy about not being selected to play in a New Year’s Six game. Saturday’s loss concluded a season in which they turned heads by beating traditional Big Ten heavyweights Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin and losing narrowly to CFP finalist Ohio State on the way to their best start since 1993.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The loss could cost Indiana what likely would have been a Top 10 finish in the final AP Poll.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”