Dec. 30—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…