Mike Leach’s first Egg Bowl experience didn’t go the way Mississippi State football fans were hoping for. The Bulldogs trailed throughout the game and were unable to catch up, despite a stellar performance from true freshman quarterback Will Rogers.
Ole Miss was able to take an early, commanding lead over Mississippi State thanks to a fast start from the Rebels offense.
After a pair of punts from the Bulldogs to start the game and an Ole Miss drive that ended thanks to a turnover on downs, the Rebels jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Matt Corral completed a 48-yard pass to Dontario Drummond.
The Bulldogs attempted to tie things up on their next drive. State drove down 75 yards and was set to score, but Austin Williams fumbled at the one yard line. That fumble was returned deep into State’s territory, setting up a quick score for the Rebels, putting Ole Miss up 14-0.
On the very next drive of the game, Mississippi State moved quickly down the field. The drive started with a 44-yard pass from Rogers to Jaden Walley, which ended what was an otherwise disastrous first quarter.
State’s fortunes turned around in the second quarter. Despite the slow start to the game, MSU’s offense found some life.
The Bulldogs took that hot start to its drive and made it into the end zone thanks to a penalty from Ole Miss and three more pass plays. A six-yard pass from Rogers to Heath capped the drive off and got MSU back in the game, setting the score at 14-7 in Ole Miss’ favor.
After trading punts, the Rebels tacked on another score, reclaiming a 14-point lead over State at 21-7, but MSU’s offense would soon strike again. State punted on its next drive, forced a turnover on downs when Ole Miss reclaimed the ball, and then Rogers and company got back to work.
On a 13-play drive, Mississippi State moved down the field methodically and scored after gaining 93 yards. An 11-yard pass from Rogers to Malik Heath got State into the end zone and set the score at 21-14 in Ole Miss’ favor.
After a back and forth first half, the Rebels and the Bulldogs were both unable to get into the end zone in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rebels took a 10-point lead thanks to a field goal, but State quickly moved into striking distance with another touchdown. A 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off with a seven-yard pass from Rogers to Williams cut the Ole Miss lead to 24-21.
And with just under eight minutes to play in the game, it appeared as if the Bulldogs would have a solid chance at winning a game in which they once trailed by two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Ole Miss responded with a touchdown of its own.
The Rebels reclaimed a 10-point lead and the Bulldogs were left with fewer than five minutes to try and make up the difference.
Mississippi State got to work at its own 25 yard line. The Bulldogs were able to get to their own 48 yard line before they ran into trouble and MSU was forced into a fourth down. Needing eight yards on the play, Rogers tossed a 22 yard pass which was caught by Geor’quarius Spivey.
MSU made it all the way down to the Ole Miss 7 yard line when the drive stalled out and State was forced to take a field goal.
With the score at 31-24 in the Rebels favor, State tried to recover an onside kick, but fell short of making that happen. Still, the Bulldogs stopped Ole Miss on the ensuing drive and took over with just 23 seconds remaining in the game.
After a delay of game and an incomplete pass, Rogers hurled the ball down the field and connected with Spivey once again, this time for a 41-yard completion. Rogers spiked the ball and then completed an eight-yard pass to Spivey, getting MSU to a point where it would attempt a Hail Mary to tie the game.
And despite Rogers getting the ball into the end zone where it could have theoretically been caught, MSU was unable to tie things up.
The Bulldogs fell 31-24.
Despite the disappointing finish, several young players showed their potential to excel within Leach’s offense. Rogers finished the game after completing 45 of his 61 pass attempts for 440 yards and three touchdowns.
Out of the backfield, MSU’s freshmen running backs combined to catch 14 passes, providing only a handful of receiving yards but proving to be reliable options when Rogers ran into trouble and needed to check down.
Freshman receiver Jaden Walley truly showed that he could be a star in Leach’s offense as he caught nine passes for 176 yards. Spivey, a sophomore, caught five passes for 97 yards.
A depleted MSU roster appeared to have plenty of potential with its young core. While the Bulldogs have to be disappointed with the result of the game, they have to be proud with how they competed.