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The Final Whistle: Ole Miss holds off Mississippi State 31-24, returns egg to Oxford

It wasn’t a boat race, but it a win is a win.

Ole Miss Athletics

Oxford, Miss. played host to the 117th meeting of the Egg Bowl and Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss team took down its in-state rivals 31-24 on Saturday. It was a game that shouldn’t have been close but came down to the final minutes.

Mississippi State received the opening kickoff and the score sheet would imply an uneventful beginning to the game. However, between a pair of Bulldog three-and-outs, the Rebels went 64 yards on eight plays and should have scored. Elijah Moore kicked off his night with a 53-yard snag and the offense was knocking on the door until Braylon Sanders dropped a touchdown pass on fourth down. Remember that.

It was the next Ole Miss possession where the offensive fireworks began. Matt Corral picked up right where he left off, looked off a safety and dropped a dime in the bucket for Dontario Drummond, who hauled it in and scored the game’s first points. Watch Matty Ice keep his eyes toward the flat, which keeps the last line of defense at bay, and then unleash a bomb. Remember when the fanbase from Starkville called him the state’s second-tier quarterback? Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

Mississippi State took over and Mike Leach’s offense dinked and dunked its way into the red zone before Tylan Knight and the Canadian killer came in clutch for the Landshark defense. Knight, who was playing running back to start the season, forced a fumble up against the goal line and Deane Leonard took it 84 yards down the sideline.

Snoop Conner punched it in from a yard out five plays later and the Rebels had a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. That lead quickly diminished to seven points after the Bulldogs hit on a couple of big plays and scored, Mac Brown got some action after a turnover on downs, and the visitors matched the turnover on downs with one of its own.

With the ball back in Corral’s hands, it was time to let one loose. Sanders, who dropped his first opportunity to score, redeemed himself on senior night and blew past his defender for his second touchdown of the season. Iceman flicked his wrist and put it in the breadbasket.

On the other side of things, quarterback Will Rogers took a seat. He’s a true freshman, so the love taps from his big brother isn’t something he’s familiar with quite yet.

The visiting offense got its groove back at the end of the half and drove the length of the field in three minutes to make the score 21-14 at the break. It felt as though the Rebels could have been up 28-7 and Kiffin was not pleased as he went into the locker room.

Nothing changed in the third quarter as both teams struggled to find any semblance of the explosive big-play offenses that were supposed to be squaring off in a high-scoring matchup. The officiating crew made a few bad calls (one holding penalty on Ben Brown in particular was abhorrent), a fumble was (wrongly?) overturned and the game remained 21-14 with 15 minutes left to play.

When the broadcast came back from commercial, Ole Miss faced a 2nd-and-goal at the 1-yard-line. The Rebels ran consecutive plays out of the shotgun and lost seven yards on a tackle for loss and a sack. Luke Logan came on to kick and the entire Rebel fanbase held its breath. He knocked in a 26-yarder to go ahead 10 points. It was an extremely disheartening finish to a productive drive and points were again left on the field.

The ugh continued as Mississippi State drove 75 yards and a pair of defensive penalties set up an easy touchdown to bring the game within three points.

With a scoring drive all but mandatory to have a chance at winning the game, Corral took over at the Ole Miss 23-yard-line. He hit Jonathan Mingo for 31 yards and Jerrion Ealy added a first down. The SEC officiating picked up a flag after blatant facemask and Conner was wrapped up for a loss of six, but the call was rectified on a pass interference moments later. With 2nd-and-goal at the eight-yard-line, Royce Newman and Ben Brown pushed Ealy into the end zone to take a 10-point advantage.

Things got hairy for a moment as Mississippi State converted a fourth down to keep the game alive. With its backs against the wall, facing 1st-and-goal, D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge’s group stepped up when it mattered most and forced a field goal.

The proceeding onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and Ole Miss took over with 2:08 remaining. Three straight runs took the clock down to about 30 seconds and a touchback gave Leach’s offense the ball back with 23 seconds at its own 20-yard-line, down seven without a timeout.

A delay of game pushed the Bulldogs back to the 15, but a big gain left five seconds on the clock with 37 yards to go. The Hail Mary attempt landed on the turf and the Golden Egg returned to Oxford.