Mississippi State coach Mike Leach conceded that the Egg Bowl series with Ole Miss ranks among the nation’s elite rivalries for unpredictability.
“Both sides let the other think they had won,” Leach said. “It was erratic on both sides. Just when you think he couldn’t get any crazier, he did.”
Will Rogers threw two touchdowns and Mississippi State stopped a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 1:25 remaining to preserve a 24-22 Egg Bowl victory over No. 20 Mississippi on Thursday night.
“This game had all the excitement of a season,” Leach said. “It was a wild game. A game of ups and downs.”
The buildup to the Egg Bowl was dominated by conflicting reports about whether Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin will leave to become head coach at Auburn, replacing Bryan Harsin, who was fired in October.
Kiffin met privately with his team on Wednesday and confirmed his plans to stay. However, WCBI-TV of Columbus, Mississippi, reported that Kiffin will be announced as Auburn’s head coach as soon as Friday. Kiffin denied the report on social media Wednesday.
When asked after the game if he planned to be the head coach at Ole Miss next season, Kiffin simply said, “I do.”
Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC), snapping a two-game losing streak in the series, rallied from a 16-7 second-quarter deficit with a 10-point explosion in the fourth quarter. Massimo Biscardi hit a 34-yard field goal before Rogers connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas to build the lead 24-16 with 7:58 remaining.
Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4 SEC) responded when Jaxson Dart threw a 23-yard TD pass to Dayton Wade with 1:25 left, capping a 99-yard drive and pulling within 24-22.
After two Ole Miss timeouts to set up the two-point attempt, Mississippi State defensive tackle Randy Charlton denied a pass from Dart to preserve Mississippi State’s lead. JP Purvis recovered the clinched onside kick to seal it, kicking off a postgame celebration that wasn’t marred by the constant rain.
“It is a great victory. A great win,” Leach said. “We responded in some really difficult situations. It’s a great win for the program, a great win for the players and they’re very excited about it.”
Rogers finished 27 of 39 passing for 239 yards, converting 8 of 16 on third down. Jo’quavious Marks led the Bulldogs with 74 rushing yards on 14 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
Dart completed 30 of 38 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard touchdown run to JJ Pegues in the second quarter. Ole Miss was held to a season-low 331 total yards. Quinshon Judkins had 87 yards on 21 rushes, but the Rebels finished with 74 rushing yards after two sacks.
“I really don’t think we’ve done a good job of coaching in the game with adjustments,” Kiffin said. “Give credit to the state of Mississippi too. They played hard.”
GAME CHANGING SERIES
Trailing 16-7 with 1:55 remaining in the first half, Mississippi State responded with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 19-yard pass from Rogers to Lideatrick Griffin, with 8 seconds remaining.
“That was big. We struggled in the first half, but mentally that momentum helped us fight our way out of it,” Leach said. “The momentum did a really good job of setting the stage for what we did in the second half.”
Rogers completed 8 of 10 passes for 66 yards on the drive, converting twice on third-down situations to pull the Bulldogs within 16-14 at halftime, setting up 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 24-16 lead that it was decisive.
THE TO TAKE
Mississippi State – This win ticked a lot of boxes, especially for Mike Leach after back-to-back losses in a spirited in-state rivalry.
Since 2020, the Bulldogs have won seven games against AP Top-25 opponents, extended a double-digit bowl appearance streak, and consistently rank among the most productive passing offenses in the nation.
Mississippi State tends to get under the radar nationally, but over the past two seasons, the Bulldogs are a solid 15-10 overall and 8-8 in the SEC.
Ole Miss: A little over a month ago, the Rebels were 7-0, ranked No. 7 in the AP poll, mentioned as a dark horse in CFP conversation, and Lane’s head coaching status Kiffin was unquestionable.
The Egg Bowl loss capped off a disappointing 1-4 finish. What happened? More importantly, what about Lane Kiffin?
IMPLICATIONS OF THE SURVEY
The loss to No. 20 Ole Miss jeopardizes a 29-week streak of ranking in the AP Poll. The Rebels advanced to No. 7 before losing four of the last five games.
Mississippi State received votes, but would need a sizeable increase to pass eight other similar teams to make the AP poll.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Mississippi State – Awaiting bowl bid, marking 13 consecutive bowl appearances.
Ole Miss: Awaiting bowl bid, marking 40 bowl appearances, third in a row with Kiffin.
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This story was originally published November 24, 2022 11:34 PM.