/A most perfectly imperfect Egg Bowl results in State’s thrilling 21-20 victory

A most perfectly imperfect Egg Bowl results in State’s thrilling 21-20 victory

If you didn’t know much about the history of the oldest Mississippi football rivalry you would have plenty of reason to think that the 114th Egg Bowl was a snoozefest to end all snoozefests. You would be wrong. Big-time wrong. Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 21-20 in one of the most thrilling, exciting, and imperfect Egg Bowls these eyes have ever seen. This was on a crisp, cold Thanksgiving night at Davis-Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs, who are the home team, took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. They threatened to run Scott Field. Ole Miss responded to tie the game at 14-14 at halftime. The third quarter saw State appear to be in control, with the mostly partisan crowd cheering and cowbell-clanging their approval. The Rebels came back to make the final two minutes, which seemed to have lasted 30 minutes, into a bizarre passion play. Listen: Ole Miss was down fourth with 24 yards remaining at its own 14 yard line. Just when you thought Jimmy Hoffa was dead, the Rebels were suddenly deadlier than Matt Corral. Matt Corral hit Braylon Sanders from 57 yards out to the State 29. It got really crazy. The long and short story is that Ole Miss ran 10 plays within the final 59 seconds. With four ticks left, Corral saw senior Elijah Moore open for a touchdown of two yards. Moore fought valiantly to get into the end zone. Moore’s next move was not heroic. Moore celebrated his victory by extending his leg and pretending to urinate in the end zone. This was exactly what DK Metcalf did here two years ago. Moore was thinking what? Beats me. He wasn’t. Thinking. Moore was immediately flagged as unsportsmanlike conduct. Joe Moorhead, State coach, wisely decided to have the penalty assessed prior to the additional point. This turned an almost automatic punt into a 35-yard field goal. Luke Logan missed the goal by a yard to his right. That was it. There are two ways to view it. (1) Moore “whizzed away” the game. State will now go bowling while Ole Miss heads home for the holidays. They will likely be accompanied there by a fired up football coach. Moorhead’s post-game comments were both emotionally charged and stern. The entire opening statement of Moorhead is here: “Obviously it’s a big win for the program on many different levels. This team is incredibly impressive, especially the 26 seniors. They fought the entire game, from the beginning to the end, in every phase, and up until the final seconds, and I couldn’t be prouder of them, the coaches, the administration, the state and most of our fans. In my 21 years as a coach and as a player, there has never been a season that was as difficult as this one. It started with 10 players out – some of our most talented players – and then we had to go through a quarterback rotation. We also suffered a lot of injuries. There were some ups, but the kids kept going. It’s more important than anything that it validates this team and our culture. It puts an end to the myth that I am not the right man for the job, the program, or the league. This is not true. This team is a source of pride for me. It was amazing to see how our children dealt with adversity. It was amazing to see how the coaches dealt with adversity. There were many ups and downs, and there were also bellyaches. Make sure everyone understands that this is my school. This is my team. This is my program. I don’t care about validation from anyone except the men in that locker room. They’ll tell you that I’m the man they think is best for the job. I can promise that. I won’t go into detail about what we did in the past and how we got to a bowl. It’s not possible to get it wrong. It’s a program that I fully understand and I’m here to help. This is my team. This is my team.” Moorhead stopped for a moment and then said: “You’ll need to drag my Yankee assout of here.” John Cohen, the state athletic director, was reached late Saturday night by text message. He stated that he didn’t want to comment. Matt Luke, Ole Miss’s press conference host, was more reserved. He expressed pride in his team’s fight, but was disappointed that it did not result in victory. Luke answered directly when asked about Moore’s penalty. “Just disappointed. This is not who we are. All year, we’ve been a disciplined group. It’s unfortunate that it happened.” Logan was already on field when the penalty was applied. Luke stated that he was positive about the Rebels’ chances in overtime. Perhaps because State had out-gained State 384-314 during regulation. *** After watching enough games, you start to believe you know everything. Then you discover something completely new. Moore made a great catch at his own 30 yard line in the fourth quarter. Moore raised his hand to signal that he had made a catch. But it doesn’t work this way. Marcus Murphy, State, slapped him. We didn’t say that the game was perfect. This is exhibit A. There were many others. These Egg Bowls are high-pressure, emotional games. Young people can sometimes scratch their heads. Moore and Ole Miss were not able to catch the fair catch signal.