Ole Miss fell 21-20 in the 2019 Egg Bowl thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a missed extra point in the final seconds of Matt Luke’s final game as head coach.
Quarterback Matt Corral led the Rebels on their final drive of the game, a drive that included a conversion on 4th-and-24 and a passing touchdown with less than 10 seconds left to cut the score to 21-20. Elijah Moore, who caught the touchdown pass from Corral, was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after lifting his leg to mimic a urinating dog in homage to former wide receiver D.K. Metcalf’s touchdown celebration during the 2017 Egg Bowl.
The Rebels were pushed back 15 yards from the typical extra-point distance, and kicker Luke Logan missed the PAT wide right, keeping Ole Miss from a fifth win. Head coach Matt Luke was disappointed with Moore’s lapse in judgement.
“(I’m) just disappointed,” Luke said. “That’s not who we are. We’ve been a disciplined team all year, and (I’m) just disappointed that happened. Elijah’s a good kid. He just got caught up in the moment.”
Moore and Logan were not made available to media after the game. Luke’s disappointment extended beyond the fateful penalty to the game’s end result. With a final record of 4-8, Ole Miss failed to qualify for a bowl game in its first season after a postseason ban, meaning the Rebel seniors never got to have a bowl-game experience.
“I’m disappointed, especially for our seniors,” Luke said. “This will be the last time they put on the Ole Miss uniform. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for those guys.”
John Rhys Plumlee started at quarterback and remained in the game until the fourth quarter when the Ole Miss offense needed a spark after trailing 21-14. Corral threw an interception on his first drive but came back for another possession after a Mississippi State punt.
Corral completed a pass to Braylon Sanders to convert a 4th-and-24, and Ole Miss had life until the Rebels scored to almost tie the game.
“We had kind of gotten into a rut there and felt like we needed to throw it,” Luke said. “Matt (Corral) kind of gave us the spark. He made the mistake in the red zone, but (I) credit him in battling back and leading us on a touchdown drive.”
Luke cited the Rebels’ three in that category as the largest reason they lost the game.
“The biggest thing that hurt us were turnovers,” Luke said. “We had a couple in the red zone that they were able to capitalize and score off of, and — to me — that was the difference in the game.”
Luke was also asked after the game about potential staff changes, but he deferred to evaluating the program from top to bottom this offseason.
“We’ll evaluate all of that,but right now, we’ve just got a bunch of disappointed guys in that locker room that all wanted to win,” Luke said. “Again, we’re going to get through this thing together. We’re going to go on the road and recruit, and we’re going to build this thing. I told them that this isn’t the end; it’s the beginning.”
The elephant in the room concerning Ole Miss’ quarterback situation has revolved around whether or not Corral will enter the transfer portal after being supplanted as the starter part way through the season. Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said that he hopes Corral, along with other key players, stay with the program into next season.
“They’re our freshmen; I hope they’re all back,” Rodriguez said. “This day and age — particularly in the quarterback position — it seems like if guys are young, and there’s another guy there, and they don’t think they’re going to be the guy, then they leave. They haven’t said anything to me, but I would love for everyone to stay because they’ll all have a role, and I’m not opposed to playing two at a time.”
Ole Miss will head into the offseason facing a tough start to its 2020 schedule, opening its slate at a neutral site against the Baylor Bears who sit at 11-1 this season.