OXFORD, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi State coach Mike Leach admitted the Egg Bowl series with Ole Miss is among the nation’s elite rivalries in terms of unpredictability.
“Both sides let the other think they won,” Leach said. “It was unpredictable on both sides. Just about the time you think it couldn’t get any crazier, it happened.”
Will Rogers passed for two touchdowns and Mississippi State stopped a potential game-defining 2-point conversion 1:25 to retain a 24-22 Egg Bowl win over No. 20 Mississippi on Thursday night.
“That game had the excitement of a whole season,” Leach said. “It was a wild game. Ups and downs.”
Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC), which has been on a two-game losing streak in the series, bounced back from a 16-7 deficit in the second quarter with a 10-point breakout in the fourth quarter. Massimo Biscardi hit a 34-yard field goal before Rogers connected with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas to extend the 24-16 lead with 7:58 remaining.
Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4 SEC) responded when Jaxson Dart threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dayton Wade with 1:25 left, completing a 99-yard drive and closing within 24-22.
After two timeouts by Ole Miss to set up the two-point try, Mississippi State defensive tackle Randy Charlton knocked down a shuttle pass from Dart to preserve Mississippi State’s advantage. JP Purvis recovered the safe onside kick to seal it, sparking a post-game celebration that wasn’t marred by torrential rain.
“It’s a great win. A great win,” said Leach. “We reacted in some really difficult situations. It’s a great win for the program, a great win for the players and they’re really excited about it.”
Rogers completed 27 of 39 passes for 239 yards and converted 8 of 16 in third place. Jo’quavious Marks led the Bulldogs with 74 yards rushing on 14 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
Dart was 30 of 38 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard touchdown against JJ Pegues in the second quarter. Ole Miss was limited to a season-low 331 yards. Quinshon Judkins had 87 yards on 21 rushes, but the Rebels finished with 74 rushing yards after two sacks.
“I really didn’t think we did a really good job in-game with customization,” said Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. “Credit Mississippi State too. They played hard.”
The buildup to the Egg Bowl has been dominated by conflicting reports as to whether Kiffin will leave to become the head coach at Auburn to replace Bryan Harsin, who was fired in October.
Kiffin met privately with his team on Wednesday and confirmed his plans to stay. However, WCBI-TV from Columbus, Mississippi reported that Kiffin will be announced as Auburn’s head coach as early as Friday. Kiffin denied the report on social media on Wednesday.
When asked at the post-game press conference if he plans on becoming the head coach at Ole Miss next season, Kiffin simply said, “Yes, I do.”
Mississippi State, down 1:55 in the first half, responded with a 75-yard, 12-play touchdown drive that was topped by a 19-yard pass by Rogers to Lideatrick Griffin, 8 seconds ahead Finally 1:55 remained.
“That was big. We struggled in the first half but mentally that drive helped us fight our way out,” said Leach. “The drive did a really good job of setting the stage for what we did in the second half.”
Rogers was 8 of 10 passes for 66 yards in the drive, made two third-down conversions to draw the Bulldogs 16-14 at halftime, and built 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 24-16 lead, which proved crucial.
THE TAKE AWAY
State of Mississippi: This win ticked a lot of boxes, especially for Mike Leach after back-to-back losses in a spirited interstate rivalry.
Since 2020, the Bulldogs have won seven games against AP Top 25 opponents, extended a double-digit streak of bowl appearances and have consistently ranked among the most prolific passing offenses in the nation.
Mississippi State tends to fly under the national radar, but over the past two seasons the Bulldogs are a solid 15-10 overall and 8-8 in the SEC.
Ole Miss: Just over a month ago, the Rebels were 7-0 at No. 7 in the AP poll, were mentioned as a dark horse in CFP talk, and Lane Kiffin’s head coaching status was unchallenged.
The Egg Bowl loss capped a disappointing 1-4 finish. What happened? More importantly, what about Lane Kiffin?
The loss to Ole Miss No. 20 jeopardizes a 29-week streak of holding a spot in the AP poll. The Rebels moved up to 7th place before losing four of their last five games.
Mississippi State received votes but would need a significant boost to overtake eight other similar teams to enter the AP poll.
Mississippi State: Awaiting bowl bid, marking 13 consecutive bowl appearances.
Ole Miss: Awaiting bowl bid, marks 40 bowl appearances, third straight under Kiffin.
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