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Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State football 2017: Rebs survive State in Starkville, 31-28

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WHEW.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss really didn’t want to win a wild, chippy affair down the stretch, or at least the defense didn’t want to hold CLANGA to any semblance of working for it, but in the end the Rebels prevailed, 31-28, to nab their sixth win of the season and a singular triumph over No. 16 in-state rival, Mississippi State. Grief.

Ole Miss shot out of the gate quickly on the opening drive of the game, requiring just three plays — one an incompletion — and 39 seconds worth of game clock to score the night’s first touchdown. CLANGA’s ensuing drive stalled out close to Ole Miss’ red zone after Nick Fitzgerald threw an ill-advised pass off to the right and Kendarius Webster undercut the route to haul in his second interception in as many weeks.

That momentum didn’t fully transfer over to the offensive side of the ball for the Rebs, however, as the run game couldn’t get going after a bad false start call on first down. That led to a three-and-out and the bad guys had the ball again on their own 20. On the second-and-seven that followed, the right side of the Rebel defense brought down Fitzgerald in twisting fashion, resulting in a gruesome injury to the quarterback’s lower leg.

He would eventually be carted off the field and replaced with true freshman Keytaon Thompson, who’s previously seen playing time this season after Fitz was previously out with another, unrelated injury.

The remainder of the first half saw herky-jerky play from both teams, and some seriously questionable football in general on Mississippi State’s final drive of the half, including a dubious decision by Ole Miss to call a late timeout, which left enough time on the clock for CLANGA to kick a quarter-ending field goal to bring the score to 10-6, advantage good guys.

The second half was a near total disaster, with Ole Miss launching out to a 26-6 lead thanks to a pair of splendid touchdown catches by A.J. Brown the D.K. Metcalf, but State clawed their way back into it, adding a late touchdown while down 10 to narrow the line to 31-28. From there, a Dawgs onside kick attempt floundered and the Rebs were able to kneel it out to seal the win.

A.J. Brown was already elite, and on Thursday he became the best single-season receiver in Ole Miss history.

Brown is officially a better single-season receiver than Laquon Treadwell in the category of total yards.

We already knew A.J. was elite, and on Thanksgiving he grabbed a piece of Ole Miss history for himself, and that was only in the first quarter. Not to be outdone, field goal kicker Gary Wunderlich slammed through his 64th career field goal, which also set a school record for career field goals.

Congrats to both.

A.J. Brown declared that Starkville is his city, and honestly, who are we to disagree with him?

I dare you to disagree with this man.

A.J.’s final line on the night: six receptions for 167 yards and one touchdown. His longest of 77 yards also went for that very touchdown. GIVE HIM THE BELT.

Ole Miss’ offensive line played a miserable first half.

Like, four false starts on first-and-tens in the half bad. Just incredibly, totally frustrating, and calls that immediately killed any type of momentum the Rebs may have been building (like, dunno, out of a key interception). Either way, the second half offense shored up and plastered over those mistakes for the eventual win. Like for instance ...

D.K. Metcalf raised a leg and “peed” all over CLANGA’s end zone.

Never change, D.K.

So much for respect and civility. GIVE HIM THE BELT.

Breeland Speaks nearly lost this one for the Rebs.

On Ole Miss’ final punt attempt with a little over two minutes remaining, Speaks decided to swat a player’s face a few times, thus drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejection. The ensuing yardage penalty moved CLANGA up to near their own 50, whence they proceeded to carve Ole Miss into pieces for the touchdown that would put them to within a field goal of tying the game.

On his way out of the stadium, he decided to taunt the home crowd by waving at them.

Fine — to an extent — if you’re winning by, say, four touchdowns with two minutes to go, but that sudden fit of madness on the field forced your defensive compatriots, of which you are a major piece, into trying to keep your foe in front of you from just over their own 50. State drove down and scored. The only thing that kept State from possibly tying and forcing overtime was a fortuitous recovery of their onside kick attempt.

The Rebs thus finish the year with a 6-6 record, an improvement over last year’s 5-7 under an interim coach and chaos surrounding the team at both season’s opening and season’s end. The off-season will bring who knows what, but at least we can wake up tomorrow and know that the Egg is safely back in Oxford. Or is it?

We’ll have more from this wild, whacky game over the next few days. Hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday, and let’s enjoy the Basketsharks.