Then he made headlines after the game by saying of the team's No. 4 ranking, "I'm glad it's gone."
There was also the mystery surrounding then-starter Jevan Snead, who was vastly inconsistent all season. Snead threw 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, including three in a humiliating loss to in-state rival Mississippi State to end the regular season.
Some pointed blame at Sowell and a struggling offensive line. Sowell, meanwhile, did his best to take the criticism in stride. He knew he was getting better.
"I wasn't down on myself," he said. "I was down because I love Ole Miss so much. I felt I was hurting our program. I was more for Ole Miss than anything and I said a few things that came out the wrong way a few times. So I really pushed myself, because I want Ole Miss to be as best as possible."
He graded out best of all offensive lineman against Alabama. And as the year wore on, he became, arguably, the team's most consistent lineman. But rather than tout of his improvement or grow content, he only worked harder and didn't give away much to the media.
By the time the Rebels had knocked off Oklahoma State for the team's second-consecutive win in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, he felt vindicated. Not only did he help the Ole Miss offense rank second in the conference and 14th in the nation in sacks allowed (17), but he played a major part.
All the ups-and-downs, most notably in Columbia, were well worth it. They're what led him to the Wynfrey Hotel. Better yet, they're what made him the team leader he is today.
"I got beat a few times at the beginning of the year, but I grew up," Sowell said. "I wasn't going to let it happen. I worked my hardest, never gave up and my coaches believed in me."
Senior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe couldn't help but crack a smile as he entered the elaborate Wynfrey ballroom for the conference's annual Media Days. This was a surreal moment.
Not to mention a long time coming.
He originally signed with Ole Miss as a member of the 2005 recruiting class, but failed to meet initial eligibility requirements. So he enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy, but would soon face a two-year fight with the NCAA clearinghouse, before finally earning clearance to play in 2008.
Now he's entering his final season at Ole Miss. Perhaps more importantly, he's a year away from graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice.
And while Powe is sure to see NFL millions as one of the top defensive linemen in the country, he hopes to one day be the sheriff of Wayne County, where he earned a five-star national ranking, according to Scout.com.
He's become the vocal and emotional leader for Ole Miss – a veteran presence both in the locker room and on the field.
"Jerrell Powe is a wonderful story," head coach Houston Nutt said. "To me, that's what college football is all about. What you love about him is his perseverance. Anybody could have given up. Anybody could have stopped after the first time or second time or third time when he couldn't get in school. But this guy keeps going. He has a real drive for excellence, whether it be in the classroom, on the football field, the weight room. This guy is a real leader.
"I just love that guy."
Ole Miss was picked to finish last in the SEC Western Division, but Powe doesn't care. He said the team's goal remains Atlanta, site of the conference title game, where Ole Miss has yet to appear.
"Nobody gave us a chance when Coach Nutt first came in... I think we do really well when we don't have a lot of expectations"
Lockett relishing leadership role