It was a crazy scene inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday night as Ole Miss fans celebrated the Rebels’ 41-24 win in the Egg Bowl over Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC), which snapped the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak in the series. Students rushed the field after the win and surrounded players, coaches and the Golden Egg trophy.
“The feeling was unreal,” redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. “The locker room was ecstatic, it was like, ‘Yes, we did it.’ We were proud of each other, and we really played for each other and played out of love. The fans were completely in it, and it was a good feeling to see the Mississippi State fans leave. The fans were awesome, and I’m glad we were able to get that win for them and for Rebel Nation and for them to be able to rush the field, that feeling was unreal, and I loved every minute of it.”
The victory secured bowl eligibility for the Rebels, who improved to 6-6 overall and 3-5 in conference play. Not only did the win secure a bowl, it also secured another game for the 22 Ole Miss seniors.
“It’s so important,” Freeze said. “I hate to keep saying it, but those seniors have had to go through two or three years of having to hear what they’ve had to hear everywhere they go, and you know how social media is and even how our own people talk about how bad it is. To send them out to a bowl game somewhere will be really nice.”
Many players on the team were a part of the recent struggles against Mississippi State and said that the feeling to finally get over the hump and beat their in-state rival felt great.
“It’s a great feeling,” junior cornerback Charles Sawyer said. “It’s like we worked so hard and you know you deserve it, but then again you have to be thankful for it. “It’s three years in a row, not just us, it’s the fans too. It’s great for them to experience what we experience, and I’m glad through all the hard times we had this year and the good times that they stayed by our side.”
The win also helps the program build for the future. With a first-year head coach and a young team, the future looks bright for the Rebels. Players stressed the importance of winning that sixth game to become bowl eligible and how big it is for a program going forward.
“It is huge,” sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace said. “We have all these recruits here, and they wanted to see that, and they saw how awesome of an atmosphere it was. We’ll go to a bowl game and try to get momentum going into the offseason.”
Nkemdiche added that the success of this season was judged on whether or not Ole Miss was able to get the win over its in-state rival to become bowl eligible.
“This year being a successful year was depending on whether we made it to a bowl game or not,” Nkemdiche said. “We competed all year, competed against the best, but that’s not good enough. We needed to take the next step and practice in December, and that’s what we are going to be doing.”
Now, all the Rebels can do is wait until Sunday when the bowl matchups are released to see where they end up in the bowl season.
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