After squandering opportunities to secure a surprise bowl birth two straight weeks, the Ole Miss football team will have one last chance tonight as it hosts bitter rival Mississippi State at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Kickoff for the ESPNU-televised game against the No. 25 Bulldogs is set for 6 p.m.
GAME DAY PREVIEW: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze made life a little difficult on the EAGLE‘s sports staff this week by clamping down on player interviews leading up to the Egg Bowl, but we were able to work through it to put together our final 20-page magazine of the year. Inside the digital pages of the Game Day Preview you’ll find, among other things:
—Rebs have been ‘waiting for this game all season’
—Know Your Opponent: Mississippi State
—Have we seen a softer side of Mullen?
—Lookback: Rebs send Vaught out a winner
—Rebel Q&A: Bo Wallace
—LB Kight has no regrets
—Hodge likes Rebels’ chances Saturday
—By The Numbers: Ole Miss
—Through it all, Shackelford still passionate about football
—McGriff doesn’t miss a beat after heart surgery
—Recruiting File: Moore paying attention to OM-MSU heavyweight bout
For more articles from tonight’s matchup and other EAGLE write-ups from throughout the season, click HERE.
HOW’D WE GET HERE? The Bulldogs (8-3 overall, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) enter tonight’s 85th edition of the Battle for the Golden Egg having already locked up a bowl birth six games into the season. Since that 41-31 victory over Tennessee, Mississippi State has gone 2-3 down the stretch but is coming off of a lopsided 45-14 victory against Arkansas.
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5), meanwhile, has had a rather surprising season according to most. The Rebels start the Freeze Era with a 49-27 victory against Central Arkansas and a 28-10 win against UTEP. After getting thumped by Texas 66-31, Ole Miss cruised to a 39-0 win at Tulane. With a 3-1 record, the Rebels opened the Southeastern Conference schedule with back-to-back losses at Alabama (33-14) and then at home in a heartbreaking 30-27 loss to Texas A&M. Ole Miss bounced back by taking advantage of down programs in Auburn and Arkansas, defeating the Tigers 41-20 and the Razorbacks 30-27 in back-to-back weeks. Since then, however, with a surprising bowl birth in grasp, the Rebels have stumbled three consecutive weeks. After allowing Georgia to distance itself with a superb second-half effort in a 37-10 showing, the Rebels lost to Vanderbilt 27-26 and at LSU 41-35 in the waning moments.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tonight’s showing the 109th meeting between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, dating back to 1901, and is the 85th Battle for the Golden Egg dating back to 1927. Ole Miss leads the all-time series 60-42-6 and holds a 54-25-5 advantage in the Egg Bowl. The rivalry is tied with Michigan-Ohio State for the 15th-longest in NCAA Division 1A history … Tonight is senior night for 22 members of the Ole Miss football team. … Ole Miss has surpassed last year’s total number of wins, points, touchdowns and yards. … The Rebels have scored in 25 of their 38 red zone trips (92.1 percent), which is second-best in the SEC and tied for seventh in the NCAA. … The Rebels rank second in the SEC and top 15 in the NCAA in TFLs-per-game (7.6) and sacks-per-game (2.8). … Perhaps the biggest number in the rivalry is “three,” the number of consecutive wins Mississippi State has against the Rebels since head coach Dan Mullen took over. The last time MSU took four in a row was 1939-42. … In 112 years of playing football, five previous Mississippi State teams won nine games in a single season and only three posted nine regular-season victories. This year’s team was the 16th Bulldog squad to win eight games. … Mullen has won 29 games in the better part of four seasons, putting him in a tie for fourth-most in school history. Mullen’s .592 winning percentage ranks eighth all-time and third among any coach who amassed more than three years of experience in Starkville. MSU quarterback Tyler Russell is the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 274 yards and four touchdowns in Mississippi State’s 45-14 win over Arkansas last week. In the game, Russell broke the single-season school record for completions (201), yards (2,523) and 200-yard passing games (seven). He also extended his single-season record of 21 passing touchdowns.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING (Ole Miss & Miss. State ranks in the SEC):
Scoring offense: MSU 7th (30.8); Ole Miss 8th (30.0)
Rushing offense: MSU 10th (150.7); Ole Miss 7th (163.9)
Scoring defense: MSU 7th (20.7); Ole Miss 11th (28.9)
Rushing defense: MSU 11th (159.9); Ole Miss 8th (142.7)
Total offense: MSU T-7th (394.5); Ole Miss 5th (417.7)
Pass offense: MSU 6th (243.8); Ole Miss 5th (253.8)
Total defense: MSU 8th (377.5); Ole Miss 11th (289.7)
Pass defense: MSU 7th (217.5); Ole Miss 12th (247.0)
OLE MISS REBELS (5-6 overall, 2-5 SEC)
WR (X) Donte Moncrief
LT Emmanuel McCray
LG Aaron Morris
C Evan Swindall
RG A.J. Hawkins
RT Pierce Burton
TE Jamal Mosley
WR (Z) Vince Sanders
WE (H) Ja-Mes Logan OR Korvic Neat
QB Bo Wallace
RB Jeff Scott OR Randall Mackey
DE C.J. Johnson
DT Bryon Bennett
NT Gilbert Pena
DE Cameron Whigham
MLB Mike Marry OR Joel Kight
OLB Denzel Nkemdiche
NIKEL Mike HIlton
FCB Senquez Golson OR Louis Covington
ROVER Trae Elston
FS Cody Prewitt
BCB Charles Sawyer
DIME Quintavius Burdette
PK Bryson Rose
P Jim Broadway
KO Bryson Rose
LS Will Denny
KR Jaylen Walton OR Randall Mackey
PR Korvic Neat
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (8-3, 4-3)
WR Arceto Clark
WR Chad Bumphis
WR Chris Smith
LT Blaine Clausell
LG Gabe Jackson
C Dillon Day
RG Tobias Smith
RT CHarles Siddoway
TE Marcus Green
FB Sylvester Hemphill
RB Ladarius Perkins
QB Tyler Russell
DE Kaleb Eulls
DT Josh Boyd
DT Curtis Virges
DE Denico Autry
LB Deontae Skinner
LB Benardrick McKinney
LB Cameron Lawrence
CB Johnthan Banks
SS Corey Broomfield
FS Nickoe Whitley
CB Darius Slay
PK Devon Bell
P Baker Swedenberg
SN Winston Chapman
H Chris Cameron
KR Ladarius Perkins, Jameon Lewis
PR Johnthan Banks
OLE MISS 7, Miss. State 0 (13:17/Q1): Ole Miss didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard, driving 71 yards in four plays. Quarterback Bo Wallace hit tight end Jamal Mosley for a 25-yard touchdown. After faking the handoff, Wallace lofted a pass down the Ole Miss sideline to Mosley, who was in single coverage with MSU cornerback Johnthan Banks. Two plays earlier, Wallace connected with receiver Donte Moncrief for a 42-yarder down to the Bulldogs’28.
MISS. STATE 7, Ole Miss 7 (13:02/Q1): Jameon Lewis struck back for the Bulldogs, returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. After picking of a few critical blocks, Lewis was able to find a seam up the middle of the field.
MISS. STATE 14, Ole Miss 7 (2:46/Q1): Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell put the Bulldogs ahead with a great improvised touchdown strike to receiver Chad Bumphis. After being flushed from the pocket to his right, Russell pulled up just before the line of scrimmage and lofted a pass to Bumphis, who had snuck behind the Ole Miss cornerback, down the Ole Miss sideline. After a quick review, the play on the field was confirmed.
Miss. State 14, OLE MISS 10 (13:36/Q2): Ole Miss got back on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. After Wallace had thrown interceptions on two of three possessions — one of which was in the end zone — Rebel kicker Bryson Rose booted a 43-yard field goal.
OLE MISS 17, Miss. State 14 (5:19/Q2): Wallace connected with Moncrief over the middle for a 77-yard touchdown strike to put the Rebels back ahead. Moncrief caught the ball with a Bulldog on either side of him but was able to out-run the defenders to the end zone.
MISS. STATE 17, Ole Miss 17 (3:21/Q2): State quickly responded. After a 60-yard pass-and-catch from Russell to Bumphis, the Rebels’ defense clamped down and held the Bulldogs to a 23-yard field goal by Devon Bell.
OLE MISS 20, Miss. State 17 (10:08/Q3): After the Ole Miss defense forced its first three-and-out to start the third quarter, the Rebel offense marched down the field and Rose booted a 41-yard field goal to put the home team back ahead 20-17.
OLE MISS 27, Miss. State 17 (6:47/Q3): Ole Miss extended its lead to 27-17 on its next possession. After Denzel Nkemdiche intercepted Russell and returned the ball to midfield, Wallace hooked up with Moncrief four plays later. Set up at the Bulldogs’ 21, Wallace threaded a pass between two Bulldog defenders and the sophomore receiver made a nice dive into the end zone to come up with the ball.
OLE MISS 34, Miss. State 17 (3:40/Q3): Wallace connected with Moncrief yet another touchdown on Ole Miss’ next possession. After the Rebels’ D forced another three-and-out, Wallace threaded a pass over the middle to Moncrief for a 16-yard touchdown strike.
OLE MISS 41, Miss. State 17 (11:44/Q4): Ole Miss bridged the third and fourth quarters with an 11-play scoring drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Vince Sanders.
Ole Miss 41, Miss. State 24 (:07/Q4): Following 24 unanswered points by the Rebels, Mississippi State scored a garbage time touchdown with seven seconds remaining when backup quarterback Dak Prescott found Bumphis from 8 yards out for a touchdown.
FINAL: Ole Miss 41, No. 25 Mississippi State 24
FINAL STATS: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace completed 15 of 22 passes for 294 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble; Tyler Russell completed 18 of 33 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions; Jeff Scott had a game-high 111 yards rushing on 28 carries; LaDarius Perkins led Mississippi State with 45 yards rushing on 16 carries; Donte Moncrief had a career game, hauling in seven passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Vince Sanders caught three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown; Former Tupelo standout Chad Bumphis caught six passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns; Bryson Rose converted 2 of 3 field goal attempts. The senior Rebel cashed in from distances of 43 and 41 yards, but missed a 42-yarder with 3:27 remaining; MSU freshman kicker Devon Bell was 1 of 2. He missed from 41 yards and made a 23-yard attempt.
POST-GAME NOTES: Moncrief’s 173-yard performance is the fourth-best in school history, the most ever against Mississippi State and the most since Eddie Small racked up a school-record 210 yards against Vanderbilt in 1993. … It was Moncrief’s fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, which ties him for second in school history for a season. … Moncrief tied a school record with his three touchdown receptions of 77, 21 and 16 yards. … Moncrief’s 10 touchdown receptions this season ties him with Chris Collins for the school record. He also moved into fifth place in school history with 14 career grabs. … Moncrief’s 948 yards this season move him into third place behind Shay Hodge (1,135) and Collins (949). … Moncrief’s 60 receptions this season is third-best, behind 77 from Collins in 2003 and 70 from Hodge in 2009. … Bo Wallace is the second player in school history to eclipse 3,000 total yards in a season. Eli Manning did it twice, in 2002 (3,281) an 2003 (3,572). … Wallace moved into fourth place in school history with 2,843 passing yards. … Wallace’s five touchdown passes ties him for third-most in school history (Eli Manning passed for six touchdowns twice). … Jeff Scott rushed for 111 yards to move past Kayo Dottley, Dou Innocent, Freddie Lee Williams and Junie Hovious and into 10th place in school history with 2,926 all-purpose yards. … He also moved past Charlie Flowers and into 10th place in career rushing with 1,788.
HE SAID IT: “I think our coaches did a great job of going through the week and making sure that whether a kid was from Tennessee or Alabama or Florida or Illinois or California that they better understand that the University of Mississippi has signed them on and is paying for their scholarship here and that this game is important. Our kids proved that tonight.” — Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.
“They have a really good defense so it’s not like we really planned on doing that type of thing, but we watched a lot of film. As coaches, the offensive staff really put in extra time this week, the players did, and we talked about it earlier in the week and felt like we were about ready to explode.” — Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner after being asked if he expected Ole Miss to rack up 527 yards of offense.
PARTING VIEWS: Ole Miss redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche talks about the Rebels’ victory and also mentions his brother’s recruitment towards the end of the clip (about the 2:20 mark):
Ole Miss sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief talks about his performance:
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze discusses his team’s victory against No. 25 Mississippi State:
Ole Miss fans storm the field following the Rebels’ first win against Mississippi State in four attempts (unfortunately, a few seconds in I turned my phone sideways… and the video doesn’t adjust. Just turn your head.):
It’s probably worth posting this as well. Following Moncrief’s touchdown receptions, the stadium pumped in the audio from this YouTube original:
PHOTO FINISH: Click HERE for photos from the EAGLE’s Bruce Newman.
UP NEXT: Ole Miss must now play the waiting game, which, considering where many — myself included — thought they’d be during the preseason is a good thing. The talk around the press box was that the Rebels are likely headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
For more on Saturday’s game, checkout Monday’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE. (November 24, 2012)