STARKVILLE, Mississippi – The only way to make this Egg Bowl win even better for Ole Miss would have been if Coach Lane Kiffin had pledged to block phone calls from Florida and Louisiana area codes and signed a lifetime commitment to the Rebels.
Enjoy this sweet ride, Rebels. How nice? Maybe sweet Sugar Bowl.
Number 8 Ole Miss tied a single-season winning schedule record with her 31-21 triumph over Mississippi State Thursday at Davis Wade Stadium in cold, rainy and windy conditions.
If the 12-team playoffs that college football officials have debated in recent months were in place today, the Rebels (10-2, 6-2 SEC) would be tied to the playoffs. As it stands, they are waiting for a New Year’s bowl supply after placing second in the country’s toughest division.
For Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4), a few moments that could have kept a good season from turning into a great one.
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The Bulldogs’ defense admirably contained one of the best offensives in the country during three quarters, but Mississippi State wasted one chance after another when he had possession. Each of MSU’s four first-half possessions hit at least Ole Miss’s 22-yard line, but six halftime runs and a pair of missed baskets was all the Bulldogs had to show.
Will Rogers knocked down an open Makai Polk in the end zone on a red zone opportunity that turned into three runs. Just before half-time, Jo’quavious Marks and Lideatrick Griffin dropped what should have been touchdown receptions on back-to-back games before Nolan McCord attempted a wide field goal attempt amid swirling rain.
When Mississippi State had the opportunity to reduce the Rebels’ lead to one possession in the third quarter, two back-to-back detention penalties derailed the race, which ended when Sam Williams sacked Rogers on the fourth down. .
Kiffin and his star quarterback Matt Corral are getting a lot of praise, and rightly so, but what about Ole Miss’s defense? This unit ranked among the worst in the country last season. Now it’s just to medium – a useful addition to Ole Miss’s high scoring offense.
The Rebels’ defensive formula on Thursday was to drop eight defensemen in cover, give Rogers short passes under it, and wait for Mississippi state to collapse into the red zone.
Corral and his cronies took care of the rest.
I don’t think Corral’s 229 passing yards and 45 rushing were enough to establish him as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy – all eyes will be on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and a few others that weekend – but he once again turned out to be a tough customer. .
With Ole Miss’s running game stalled early in the first half, Corral threw himself into a battering ram that lowers the Rebels’ shoulders. He got the win in the fourth quarter by slipping into the end zone on a 3-yard rush.
The Egg Bowl often takes center stage in college football on Thanksgiving, although brawls or celebratory antics have been known to overshadow performances on the field.
Not this time.
It was a brawl between two rising programs amidst gloomy weather. Hours before kick-off, a fan walked down a sidewalk near the stadium. As the rain fell on him, he held a Bud Light in one hand and a bottle of Buffalo Trace whiskey in the other, as if to say this match was made for two people. Even 45 minutes before kick-off, a din of cowbells filled the stadium.
Ole Miss withered in rough road environments earlier this season – first in a three touchdown loss to Alabama, later in a two-goal loss to Auburn.
Not that night.
The Golden Egg will stay with the rebels, and the Lane Train rumbles around New Years Six.
Blake Toppmeyer is SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.