Ole Miss wrapped up the regular football season on Thanksgiving night with a loss to dreaded rival Mississippi State by a score of 24-22.
Despite starting 7-0, the Rebels lost four of their last five games with the only win coming against the SEC West last-place Texas A&M Aggies. Speculative play-calling and a heap of rumors regarding head coach Lane Kiffin possibly exiting the program are among the possible factors for the Rebels’ drop in form.
The Rebels were coming off a loss last week away at Arkansas that saw them have 703 total yards of offense but score only 27 points. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the inability to punch it into the end zone from the final third of the field continued for against State.
In the first half, the Rebels had four scoring drives to State’s two but led by just two points. Ole Miss relied on the leg of Jonathan Cruz to get them nine points despite moving the ball well in that first half. The Rebels wouldn’t score their first touchdown until the 1:55 mark in the second quarter.
Not just offensive play calling, but the defensive scheme for the Rebels the whole season also has been under scrutiny.
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge favors a three-man defensive line over four, leaving opposing quarterbacks with plenty of time to dissect the secondary.
That being said, the Rebels got to State quarterback Will Rogers fairly well, sacking him four times, including a strip sack. On the night, the Rebels forced Rogers to turn it over three times, one of which being a crucial fumble to keep the Rebels alive late.
State took an early lead in response to the Rebels getting three on their opening drive with a Jo’quavious Marks touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up 7-3.
It seemed to be a repeat of last week for the Rebel defense, but they would allow just two scores on State’s first and last drives of the half. The Rebels would go into halftime with a two-point lead at 16-14 feeling disappointed the scoring difference wasn’t greater. They squandered some good opportunities, one in particular that would come back to haunt the Rebels.
The third quarter was a bit of a snooze-fest. Both teams hit an offensive wall and weren’t able to get into any sort of rhythm, coupled with solid rainfall and both defenses playing well. Neither State or Ole Miss was able to scratch any points across in the third, leaving the game to be decided in the fourth quarter (in true Egg Bowl fashion).
From there, the Rebels’ stalling offense is ultimately what hurt them.
State would score 10 points in the final quarter, with a 22-yard pass from Rogers to a wide open Rara Thomas to put the assumed final nail in the coffin for the Rebels.
The ensuing drive, a controversial call on a “backwards pass called dead with inadvertent whistle but somehow reversed” play (yes, THAT ol’ normal thing) gave State the ball deep in Ole Miss territory.
But the Rebels weren’t finished. A fumble recovered at their own two gave them a chance, and first-year starter Jaxson Dart led a 98-yard touchdown drive that put the Rebels down by just two and needing a two-point conversion to tie it.
Ole Miss took two of their three timeouts before running the play just to have a shovel pass intended for Jonathan Mingo swatted down at the line to deny them.
The Bulldogs prevailed 24-22 and would bring the Egg Bowl trophy back to Starkville for the first time in three years and the first time in the Kiffin era.
Following the game, Kiffin did note he anticipates returning for the Rebels next season even if an offer from Auburn comes in.