The Rebels pulled out all the stops against Mississippi State, and they ultimately prevailed with relative ease.
Sure, the score was only a two touchdown difference, and MSU threw into the end zone on a fourth down play in the fourth quarter. But State wasn't going to win the game. Because of the style of offense State was forced to run at that point, it was going to be difficult for them to march down the field and score a touchdown even if they scored on that fourth down pass AND recovered an onside kick. Dan Mullen simply could not get the passing game going at the right times against he Rebels, his team averaging just over 7 yards per attempt.
That, and a multitude of huge plays for the Rebels, was the difference. Jaylen Walton's 91 yard touchdown will be shown over and over again before every Egg Bowl in the future. Evan Engram's two huge receptions that ended up downed at the one were stellar plays by a flex tight end who is finally being featured in the offense. Jeremy Liggins' plunge through two MSU defenders in the end zone was a thing of beauty. Jordan Wilkins' touchdown pass to Cody Core was a perfect spiral after a great run-sell.
But, much like the majority of the season, the defense is the reason the Rebels won. Dak Prescott ran the ball 24 times for 48 yards. That's the stat of the game. He found some success through the air, passing for 282 yards, but if Prescott can't run, the Bulldogs have trouble winning games. All through the contest yesterday, Dak was running into groups of Rebels who, unlike most of his opposition this season, weren't tripping over their own feet while trying to tackle him. They were gang-tackling, and it worked. The defensive line got tons of pressure (Robert Nkemdiche was particularly disruptive), and they were in State's head all game. Marquis Haynes' sack was seemingly effortless even though it obviously wasn't.
The end of the game wasn't supposed to be that anti-climactic. Mississippi State was supposed to pound it into the end zone and then recover the onside kick or force a three and out. But... they didn't. The Rebel defense stepped up in the red zone like it had so many times this season, and they held strong.
We'll be talking more about this game over the course of the next week, but for now, we're just basking in the excitement of a 9-3 season and a pending bowl announcement. All things considered, it has been a good year.