OXFORD – The egg bowl becomes the egg bowl.
At the annual Thanksgiving reunion between Mississippi State Football and Ole Miss, one thing was certain: this rivalry would stir up excitement once again.
Such was the case in Thursday’s 95th edition of the matchup, and it was MSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) who found a way to pull off a 24-22 win.
Mike Leach, behind a two-point stoppage in conversion with 1:25 in the game, earned his first Egg Bowl win over Lane Kiffin.
The opening drive was met with silence
Mississippi State reacted immediately after allowing an Ole Miss field goal on the opening drive. The Bulldogs went 61 yards in 10 games – six passes and four carries – on their opening run to take a 7-3 lead.
Cruel struggles stood in the way of early success.
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MSU had minus 3 yards on the following four drives. Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4) put pressure on quarterback Will Rogers with no planned blitzes. Often it only needed a three-man rush as cover stayed tight, forcing Rogers to hold on to the ball. The Bulldogs only named five drafted runs on those four drives. One of those came on a third and 34th.
The fifth drive after the first touchdown ended with a Rogers interception.
The short offensive trips forced the MSU defensive back onto the field again and again. The Bulldogs were able to limit the Rebels to three field goals for most of the half before Ole Miss finally broke through for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Lideatrick Griffin gets his revenge
Last season, Mississippi State had a brutal sequence just before halftime.
Jo’quavious Marks dropped a touchdown pass to first-and-goal with 44 seconds left and MSU trailed 10-6. He dropped another touchdown pass on the next play. Then receiver Lideatrick Griffin dropped a touchdown pass. MSU had to kick a field goal that Nolan McCord missed.
The Bulldogs reversed the script on Tuesday in Oxford, and Griffin got his revenge. After Ole Miss’ touchdown to make it 16-7, MSU had a 12-play drive for 75 yards to put the game 16-14 at halftime.
The drive was capped by Griffin, who caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in 3rd and 10th place.
Rogers was 8-for-10 on the drive with 67 passing yards.
Defense keeps MSU alive
The touchdown drive late in the first half didn’t translate into success in the second half.
Mississippi State opened the second half with a turnover on downs, with Rogers scrambling over the limits just short of the line to win in the final game. The next drive went minus 6 yards. The third drive of the second half lasted a game, with Rogers fumbling and giving the ball to Ole Miss in MSU territory.
The defense kept it from getting out of hand for the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss went 30 yards to put the ball in the MSU 5-yard line after Rogers fumbled. There, linebacker Tyrus Wheat broke into the backfield on a fourth and a 1 to rush darts and force an incomplete pass.
In their first four trips to the red zone, the Rebels scored just one touchdown.
Pedaling in the state of Mississippi comes to the clutch
MSU’s troubles during Leach’s tenure are well documented. Massimo Biscardi broke the spell with a clutch field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Rogers climbed a third descent and came up a meter short of the first descent. Leach went for a 34-yard field goal, and it proved worthy.
Biscardi shared the posts to give MSU a 17-16 lead — their first lead since the start of the second quarter. A touchdown by Rara Thomas midway through the fourth proved to be the winning point.
MSU is now waiting to see which bowl game assignment to see. The College Football Playoff Committee will announce its final standings at 11:00 am on December 4th. The bowl announcements follow shortly thereafter.
Predictions suggest that MSU could compete in a variety of games ranging from the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. to the Vegas Bowl.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: How Mississippi State’s Mike Leach Beat Ole Miss’s Egg Bowl