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Monday, September 1, 2014

Ole Miss falls to Mississippi St., 17-10, in OT

BLOG — The Golden Egg is going back to Starkville.

Ole Miss ended the regular season with perhaps its worst performance of the season against rival Mississippi State Thursday night at Davis-Wade Stadium. The Rebels’ defense did what it could, but the offense struggled to move the ball with any consistency and coughed it up when it did with four turnovers, the last one sealing the Rebels’ fate in a 17-10 overtime loss in this year’s version of the Egg Bowl.

Needing a touchdown to answer Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott’s 3-yard touchdown run on the first possession of overtime, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace darted up the middle on the Rebels’ fourth play of extra time and approached the goal line before safety Nickoe Whitley punched the ball out in the end zone. Jamerson Love covered up the loose ball for the Bulldogs to end the game.

“It opened up. I saw it, made a cut, and I thought I was in there,” Wallace said. “It’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. Your heart’s ripped out, especially in this game. It’s tough.”

It was the culmination of a night to forget for Wallace, who threw three interceptions to account for all four Rebel turnovers, and the rest of the Rebel offense. Ole Miss, which averaged 487 total yards per game entering the contest, mustered just 318 yards, including 117 rushing yards. Jaylen Walton’s 37 yards led the Rebels on the ground.

“When we’re struggling to run the ball, it’s very difficult for us to be real successful,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

With the setback, Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC) ended the season with back-to-back losses and could fall all the way to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5) will be going to a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year, the first time that’s happened in program history.

“We found a way to win the game,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “We found a way to win, and that’s what’s most important. Unbelievable job. Having this trophy back where it belongs is a special, special deal.”

The Rebels had multiple opportunities to seize momentum throughout, making three trips inside the red zone. But finishing those drives was a problem once again as the Rebels got just three points — an Andrew Ritter 22-yard field goal to put Ole Miss up 10-7 in the third quarter — out of those trips.

Mississippi State’s offense wasn’t any better, finishing the night with just 296 yards, but Ole Miss’ inability to put up points allowed the Bulldogs to make their comeback with Prescott, who had been ruled out of the game earlier in the week by Mullen only to come on in relief of starter Damian Williams in the fourth quarter and engineer a drive resulting in game-tying field goal from Evan Sobiesk with 2:21 left in the game.

Prescott, who accounted for 144 yards of offense, led a nine-play, 45 yard drive on the Bulldogs’ final possession of regulation to set up a 39-yard field goal for Sobiesk with two seconds remaining, but the kick went wide right.

Wallace threw all his interceptions in the first half, the last being pulled down along the sideline by defensive back Justin Cox to set the Bulldogs up with prime field position at Ole Miss’ 30. Six plays later, Mississippi State struck for the game’s first points on Josh Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 1:36 left in the second quarter.

It looked as if Ole Miss would go scoreless in the first 30 minutes for just the second time all season until Collins Moore broke through the line on the Bulldogs’ next possession to block Baker Swedenburg’s punt in the end zone. Terrell Grant, a fifth-year senior, recovered to draw the Rebels even at the half. (November 29, 2013)

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