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The Final Whistle: Ole Miss pisses away Egg Bowl, 21-20

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Sometimes, you just have to go.

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

Ole Miss lost to Mississippi State 21-20 on Thursday after Elijah Moore, in homage to DK Metcalf, lifted his leg and fake peed to celebrate the final touchdown of the 2019 Egg Bowl.

After bringing Ole Miss to within a point of the tie, Moore was penalized for excessive celebration, which caused a 15-yard penalty to be enforced on the extra point. Luke Logan missed the attempt, Mississippi State recovered the proceeding onside kick, and the clock expired.

Certainly one of the most bizarre endings in Egg Bowl, and college football history, it was the only way for a game of such hysteria to end.

Down 21-14 with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the game, Matt Corral entered at quarterback for Ole Miss.

He sat cold on the sideline for over two and a half hours without seeing a snap, but head coach Matt Luke turned to the redshirt freshman, who lost his starting job after an early-season injury, to win a rivalry game on the road.

After the Rebels attempted just 14 total passes through the first 52 minutes, Corral completed two consecutive attempts downfield into the red zone. He threw an interception on his next throw, but Luke stuck with him.

Mike MacIntyre’s defense stepped up when it mattered most and gave the ball back to Corral with two minutes and six seconds. On the back of a 57-yard reception by Braylon Sanders and an inexplicable series of penalties and near-game-ending moments, he found himself knocking at the end zone with under 10 seconds left.

In that moment, Corral showed composure and found Moore for the touchdown, to make it 21-20. Moore fake peed, Logan missed, Ole Miss lost.

Bummer.

Both teams initially took the field with true freshman quarterbacks at the helm, and a deep-rooted in-state rivalry detest for one another. Throw analytics out the window, it was to be a game of complete and utter chaos to be decided by who wanted it more.

Ole Miss won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving the ball to Mississippi State to begin the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Rebel linebacker Sam Williams broke through the line and popped quarterback Garrett Shrader for a loss of five, setting the tone for what was to be an all-out war of fervorous disdain.

After MacIntyre’s group forced a three-and-out, John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy picked up right where they left off on the ground with two consecutive first down runs, until an uncharacteristic fumble from Ealy stopped momentum dead in its tracks.

Both teams traded three-and-outs, then Mississippi State began to move. A couple of pass plays burnt the Ole Miss secondary down the sidelines (which had been a consistent theme all season) and a 27-yard rushing touchdown put the first points on the board in favor of the home team.

The defensive backs for the Rebels are inexperienced to begin with, Jaylon Jones was not playing and the group lost Myles Hartsfield to a rib injury early on— it happens. Conceiving a touchdown is part of the game, and the nature of its occurrence was predictable.

However, when the Bulldogs took their next possession 74 yards in almost eight minutes, Shrader and the SEC’s leading rusher Kylin Hill ran the ball on 11-of-13 plays with ease. Glaring issues with a Rebel front-seven that had played well in much of 2019 came to the forefront, and MacIntyre needed to find answers for a team averaging 7.2 yards per carry just past the first quarter.

It was a 14-0 hole from which Luke’s team needed to climb, and it needed to score, fast. Fortunately, a certain quarterback from Hattiesburg, Mississippi came to life.

Plumlee, who broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season in the first half, looked to spark the offense through the air. Though not a profound passer, or even a middle-of-the road passer for that matter, he began to sling the rock confidently and effectively, finding Moore for 27 yards on first down. That theme continued intermittently within the run, and Plumlee had his most balanced drive of the year. He checked down to second reads, and zipped the best throw of his collegiate career to Sanders inside the 10-yard-line.

On third-and-goal, he ran to the corner, as he has so many times before, and scored.

With a seeming jolt of momentum-induced energy, the Ole Miss front seven woke up and pressured Schrader into poor throws. On 4th-and-11, Mississippi State brought on Tucker Day to kick it away. With noted special teams enthusiast and former NFL punter Pat McAfee on the broadcast, it didn’t go so well.

Given the gift of a short field, another fairly-balanced run/pass attack put Ole Miss at the goal line. Notably, on fourth-and-3, Luke left the offense on the field, as opposed to sending a struggling field goal kicker on for a 41-yard attempt. Despite all efforts to blow the short-yardage, early-down situation with an illegal formation penalty on first-and-goal, Ealy scored two plays later.

The 14-14 score would hold to the half, and it was a brand-new ballgame out of the locker room. For Ole Miss, the focus would remain with stopping Hill, who recorded 84 yards in the first half. Stop Hill, stop State.

Both teams opened the final 30 minutes with punts, but Plumlee tried to do too much when he got the ball back in his hands. In the opponent’s half, he took a sack dancing around for a loss of five, and then fumbled on third-and-long.

Mississippi State scored off the turnover and it was 21-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.

As it has in many big moments all season, despite how it had played earlier in the game, the Ole Miss defense stepped up to begin the quarter and forced consecutive punts to keep the score within reach.

Never fail, a lack in creativity reread its ugly head on offense between the stops.

Three runs went nowhere. Mac Brown punted.

On the next drive, down 21-14 with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the game, Matt Corral entered the game at quarterback...