There are two ways to look at Mississippi's 14-6 victory over Rice in the Sugar Bowl game—a game that started as a rout and ended with the issue in doubt until the last play. One is to believe that Mississippi took advantage of the few chances that came its way, as might have been expected of a team ranked second nationally—and Rice did not. But another and probably more accurate view is that Mississippi had Jake Gibbs—and Rice did not. The All-America quarterback scored both of his team's touchdowns on roll-out runs of eight and three yards. They climaxed 65-and 57-yard drives—led by Gibbs personally.
On the other hand, sophomore Quarterback Randall Kerbow of Rice had two passes intercepted deep in Ole Miss territory to break up potential touchdown marches, and Butch Blume, a substitute quarterback, lost one pass to Mississippi defenders who were all but impossible to move when their goal was threatened.
Oddly enough, this was not a good day for Gibbs, and at least part of the reason was the special defense put in by Coach Jess Neely in the days before the game. The Rice strategy was to keep the pressure on Gibbs by relentless rushing, mostly red-dogging, while giving the other Mississippi backs short gains on the ground. "They can beat you, all right," Neely said, "but he [Gibbs] can humiliate you."
The tactics reduced Gibbs from incomparable to merely superb. He gained only 15 yards rushing and completed only five of 15 passes for a total of 43 yards. But 11 of Gibbs's 15 yards were made on the two touchdown runs, and at least five of his passes were in the hands of receivers but dropped.
January 9, 1961
Mississippi started the game as though it were going to run Rice clear back to Texas. In six plays, only one of them a pass, Ole Miss had a touchdown. Gibbs, Bobby Crespino and James Anderson riddled the right side of the overanxious Rice line, which was still stunting as Mississippi got its plays away. Then Rice settled down, got its defenses established before the ball was snapped and began to throw one scare after another at the Rebels. But each sortie ended in failure until, late in the third period, Blume skirted right end to score on fourth down. At this point Rice elected to play for a tie instead of a two-point conversion ("We were the underdogs," a coach explained), but the conversion was missed.
After the game Assistant Coach Bo Hagan said that the missed conversion came as a bad psychological blow to Rice. It may have. Mississippi took sudden heart and soon scored again as the Rice line faltered for the only time after the first four minutes of the game. But in the end it was Gibbs and not the kick that made the difference.