Since 1999, home teams have won every Egg Bowl (with the exception of when the home teams are terribly overmatched). Tonight, Ole Miss kept up the home-team record to knock off No. 4 Mississippi State, 31-17.
With a spate of injuries suffered by Ole Miss over the second half of the season to Denzel Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and, last week, Bo Wallace, among others, Ole Miss limped into the game coming off a meltdown loss at Arkansas, while Mississippi State came in flying high, with hopes of winning the SEC and earning a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Yet, Hugh Freeze and the Rebels had other ideas. The much-maligned Ole Miss rushing game gained yardage to the tune of 205 yards on 31 carries. A new wrinkle was put into the offense with a Wildcat running game with Jaylen Walton and Jeremy Liggins, and running back Jordan Wilkins threw a 31-yard pass for the game-capping touchdown.
The invigorated rushing game was able to keep enough pressure off the injured Wallace, and the Mississippi State pass defense yielded 327 passing yards on only 14 completions. Adding to the injury crisis for Ole Miss in the first half, senior wide receiver Vincent Sanders went down with an apparent knee injury and would not return. Tight end Evan Engram stepped up and caught five receptions for 176 yards.
Mississippi State moved the ball as well; Dak Prescott threw for 282 yards on 22-of-37 with a touchdown, with Fred Ross and De'Runnya Wilson both piling up more than 100 receiving yards. But the Mississippi State rushing game only accounted for 3.5 yards per carry. Prescott was limited to 48 rushing yards on 24 carries, while Josh Robinson had 44 yards on 12 carries. With the running game struggling, Ashton Shumpert stepped up for 68 yards on 10 carries, including a fourth-quarter run of 23 yards that gained a first down after appearing that it was going to be a loss.
Largely, however, Ole Miss' defense held Mississippi State in check. Mississippi State did not reach the red zone until the third quarter and, in five scoring opportunities, was held to 17 points (for 3.4 points per opportunity, over a point below the national average).
Ole Miss opened the scoring with four minutes remaining in the first quarter off a one-yard Wallace touchdown run. The Bulldogs would add a field goal before halftime to enter the intermission down 7-3.
After halftime, Prescott ran for a one-yard touchdown to give State their only lead of the evening, but Ole Miss would respond with a touchdown on their ensuing drive. After Ole Miss added a field goal, Jaylen Walton scored from 91 yards after appearing stuffed behind the line of scrimmage to allow the Rebels to take a 24-10 lead before the end of the third quarter, and Mississippi State would be unable to overcome the deficit.
With the loss, Mississippi State will finish second in the SEC West, but has likely lost all hope for a playoff berth. The Rebels will finish 5-3 in the SEC and third or fourth in the West, pending the Iron Bowl result.