OXFORD, MS — Ole Miss saw its 2018 season come to a close Thanksgiving night in Oxford with a 35-3 loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
(Click here for box score.)
The game marked the ending of the collegiate careers of 19 seniors—players who in their freshman year were a part of the 2015 Sugar Bowl winning squad. The seniors, who have given an immeasurable level of dedication and time to the Ole Miss Rebel family, were honored before the game.
Rebels fall behind early
To start the 115th Battle for the Golden Egg, the Rebels opened with possession and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu quickly went to the air on the first play, completing a 15-yard pass to A.J. Brown. Later in the game, the talented junior wide receiver broke the single-season Ole Miss reception record, previously held by Laquon Treadwell, before later setting the new benchmark at 85 receptions.
With that said, the first Ole Miss possession ended with a three-and-out, and the Rebels handed the ball over to the Bulldogs and their senior quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald. The once Heisman-hopeful carried the ball for 28 yards on two attempts. However, State’s drive was stalled on a Keidron Smith pass breakup that forced the Bulldogs to punt the ball back to Ta’amu and company.
Ole Miss fumbled, unfortunately, giving the Bulldogs the ball in good field position on the Rebels’ 45-yard line, and it did not take long for the Bulldogs to put the ball in the end zone to score the opening points of the game on a 6-yard rush by sophomore running back Kylin Hill.
With five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Ole Miss offense trotted back on the field with a 7-point deficit and true freshman quarterback Matt Corral at the helm. Ta’amu was banged up on the previous drive with a finger injury, and because Corral had one game left before giving up his redshirt eligibility, the coaching staff was able to make the call to insert him in the game without it affecting his future eligibility. The Rebs, however, were unable to convert and once again punted to State.
The obvious difference in the game at that point was the ability of the Bulldogs to run the ball, as they tallied 122 rush yards on the ground in the 1st quarter, alone, and took a 7-0 lead into the 2nd quarter–and were driving for more. That Bulldog series ended with an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Fitzgerald that put Mississippi State up 14-0 with 14:04 remaining in the second period.
Following the Bulldog score, Rebel fans saw Ta’amu take the field after making practice throws on the sideline for the previous several minutes as he tested out his injured finger. Unfortunately, the drive came to a quick halt for the fourth time in as many tries, and the Rebels handed the ball right back to the Bulldog offense.
The Ole Miss defense forced a three-and-out for State, and the Rebels looked to put points on the board in their fifth possession of the game. Ta’amu found Dawson Knox, A.J. Brown, and DaMarkus Lodge on the series, eventually placing Ole Miss kicker Luke Logan in position to give the Rebels their first points of the game, which he converted, cutting State’s lead to 14-3.
Following Ole Miss’ field goal, the teams traded three-and-outs, until a Bulldog drive essentially ended the first half of play with a 9-yard touchdown toss from Nick Fitzgerald to Deddrick Thomas, giving State a 21-3 as the rivals headed to intermission.
At the midway point, Mississippi State had out-gained the Rebels in total yards, 247 to 131. The biggest disparity came on the ground as the Bulldogs out-rushed the Rebs, 184 to 18.
Bulldogs pull away in the second half
The Bulldogs received the opening kick of the second half, and the Ole Miss defense stopped State and forced a punt. However, on the Rebels’ ensuing possession, Ta’amu threw an interception that gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line. Fitzgerald soon took the ball in for his second rushing touchdown of the contest, giving State a 28-3 lead with 10 minutes left in the third.
On the next Ole Miss possession, Corral made his second appearance of the game, as Ta’amu was unable to play due to what was later described as a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. The drive ended on a failed 4th down attempt.
Later, in what could possibly summarize the 2018 season in a nutshell, Corral threw a bullet 48-yards down the field in what appeared to be a touchdown to Lodge—only to have the ball ripped away at the last second by a Bulldog cornerback in the end zone, in what was the first interception of Corral’s young career.
If that wasn’t crazy enough, the following possession saw pure madness on the field for both teams. After a thorough review by officials and SEC replay staff, here is a summation of what happened on what turned out to be a “no-play” that truly defines this game (if not, season) as a whole.
- Corral found A.J. Brown on the left sideline for what seemed to be another incredible touchdown catch.
- Following what appeared to be an Ole Miss touchdown, a bench-clearing brawl sent both teams flying onto the field, with punches being thrown by each.
- After the field was cleared, the referees charged every single player on both teams with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul. Mississippi State’s Jamal Peters, Cameron Dantzler and Willie Gay were all ejected. Ole Miss’ injured cornerback C.J. Moore, who was lost for the season with a torn biceps earlier this year, was ejected. Penalties offset. Touchdown—or so it seemed.
- The original touchdown was soon reviewed, and it was ruled the Rebels did not snap the ball before the third-quarter clock expired. Therefore, the A.J. Brown touchdown was reversed.
- What were we left with? – four ejections, no touchdown, and an end of the quarter.
The result of the Ole Miss drive, after all of that craziness, was a three-and-out that gave the ball back to Mississippi State who led Ole Miss, 28-3, at that point.
State’s ensuing drive and touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 35-3 lead that put the nail in the coffin on both the 2018 Egg Bowl and the Rebels’ season. The final play of the game involved unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both sides, as well as the image of a gathering of Mississippi State players as they watched their teammate plant a MSU flag on the 50-yard line.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
“I am really disappointed for the seniors. They’ve been through a lot and I hate for them to go out this way. I am grateful for those guys. Several guys came back that had opportunities to leave and they didn’t. I am just really, really grateful for those guys. As we move forward and move out of these sanctions, start going to recruit, and build this thing to get it back on track, I think those guys will have pride in knowing that they helped keep this thing together. The message going forward is that it is time to go recruit and get this thing back to full strength.”
On the battle at the lines of scrimmage:
“I felt like we would compete along the lines of scrimmage. The turnovers got away from us early and we had a chance to make some big plays but we had a couple of drops. Give them credit because they played well defensively.”
On the fight:
“I know that it started when A.J. (Brown) scored, something happened in the far end zone. It got out of control and I was trying to get everybody off of the field.”
On Jordan Ta’amu’s injury:
“Jordan, on the first fumble, dislocated his finger. We taped it up, he came back, but he just couldn’t go. We put Matt (Corral) in as they taped it up for one drive in the first half. He (Ta’amu) struggled to throw it when he came back so we put Matt back in.”
On Corral’s performance:
“That was a really good defense to go against. He came right in and made a big play to Lodge right off the bat. He didn’t look intimidated or scared, he was going around and making plays. He will just continue to get better. He is going to be the quarterback of the future and we are really excited about him.”
On the state of the program:
“It’s a work in progress. When you are down scholarships and with all of the things that have happened, we are just trying to recruit and get this thing back to full strength. We’ll continue to get better and continue to build that tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football team that is what we want to get to. Nights like this will motivate them.”
On the lack of big plays:
“Early there, we missed one to Elijah (Moore) and one to (DeMarkus) Lodge. We had another opportunity to Lodge at the end zone and they kind of took it away from him. Then A.J. (Brown) made one, so they were there to be made, we just kind of got out of sync. But they are a good defense so you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get because you aren’t going to get many.”
On what to work on in the offseason…
“I think in terms of numbers, recruiting to get back to full strength. Getting guys that are injured back and to full strength so you get your numbers. I think that is the best way to improve.”
On Scottie (Phillips’) health…
“He tried but he just couldn’t go. We were hoping that he would be able to go but he wasn’t himself. And Sean Rawlings pre-game couldn’t really push off so those were similar situations.”
Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox
On the MSU defensive line:
“They’re definitely pretty strong up front. They ran some stunts that were hard to block. They’ve got some good D-ends who are athletic and were moving around. They did a pretty good job.”
On the fight:
“Emotions just got the best of our guys. We’ve got to be smarter than that. Obviously, this is a rivalry game and everyone is pretty hyped up going into it. We just have to be smarter.”
On coming back after the TD being called back:
“It was definitely frustrating. We at first didn’t really know what was going on with the clock expiring. It was a hit to our offense, because that was kind of the first big, explosive play we had. That set us back a step. We came back out there trying to do the same thing again, we just couldn’t get our feet back under us.”
On his NFL Draft prospects:
“I don’t really have an answer for you on that yet. Now that the season is over, I can really focus on making a decision. I’ll be visiting with my family and a bunch of different people who I trust will advise me the right way. I’ll be making a decision here in about a month or so.”
On the red zone offense:
“I don’t have an opinion on that. We have a good scheme going into every game. We’ll check it out on film again. I’ve never questioned Coach Longo or Coach Luke with their play calling. It’s a combination of us not executing and a bunch of different things.”
Ole Miss DT Josiah Coatney
On Mississippi State’s physicality on the line:
“They’re a great team, like I said a previous day, we just had to make plays, to be physical and strong at the point of attack. We had some good drives, some good three and outs but to be a great defense in the SEC you’ve got to put it all together with more consistency.”
On improving for next year on defensive side of the ball:
“We just need to keep grinding, keep improving when guys get older get more mature. I know we’ve got a lot of young guys playing, a lot of guys injured. A lot of guys stepped up who didn’t think they’d be playing a lot that hadn’t played before. Coach will go out and recruit to bring in some guys to help us. There is definitely a bright future for this program.”
On the fight:
“I’m not going to lie, I was on the bench. My energy was in the game. It’s a rivalry so things happen. You never encourage a fight in those games, that’s not the way to go, but it’s just a rivalry everything gets heated.”
On the mood after the touchdown taken away:
“We knew we had to go back to work no matter what. The game’s still going on, we still have time on the clock so we had to do whatever we need to do put it in the end zone and get another stop.”
On this season:
“There were a lot of close games. We’ll go into the offseason knowing that we have to be more disciplined throughout the whole game. A lot of games came down to the fourth quarter and we didn’t end up getting the win. Coach McGriff tells us, if you want to be at the next level and be an elite team you have to prepare, you’ve got to lift, you’ve got to get stronger. You have to develop mentally, physically. It’ not just about physical, a lot of people are physical it’s all about mental preparation things like that. Teams like Alabama, LSU, playing in the SEC west, it’s a tough division so we need guys who are going to come in, guys who are already here, just to mature up, get ready mentally just as much as physical.”
On being a senior next year:
“We just need leadership at every position, every part of the team. It can’t just be with one person, we’ve got to play with everybody. Next year we’ll be able to go to a bowl and really contend the way we want to, this year just to learn a lesson, no one wants to lose like this, especially a rivalry game. We just have to piece everything together just to move on in the future.”
O• QB Jordan Ta’amu, who was limited due to an injury, finished the game 8-of-17 for 87 yards.
• Ta’amu passed for 3,918 yards in 2018, finishing second on the single-season charts in passing yardage.
• Ta’amu finished his career ranked sixth in program history with 5,600 career passing yards.
• Matt Corral was 5-of-8 for 65 yards filling in for Ta’amu.
• WR A.J. Brown caught four passes for 61 yards.
• Brown passed Laquon Treadwell’s single-season receptions record with 85 catches on the year.
• Brown finishes the season with an Ole Miss single-season record of 1,320 receiving yards.
• Brown is No. 1 on Ole Miss’ career receiving charts with 2,984 yards.
• WR DaMarkus Lodge hauled in three catches for 54 yards.
• Lodge finished in ninth place in Ole Miss’ record books in single-season receving yards (877).
• Lodge finishes his career with 1,790 receiving yards.
• Lodge tied for eighth in single-season receptions (65).
• RB Isaiah Woullard carried 11 times for 63 yards.
• DT Josiah Coatney had a team-high and career-high 12 tackles.
• DB Zedrick Woods tallied nine total tackles in his final game as a Rebel.
• DE Ryder Anderson set a career high in both tackles (nine) and tackles for loss (1.5).
• LB Mohamed Sanogo registered eight total tackles … The sophomore finished the season with 112 tackles
• Sanogo is just the second Rebel in the last 12 years to tally 100-plus tackles in a season.
Special Teams Notes
• K Luke Logan was 1-of-1 on field goal attempts and finished the season tied for second in school history with 22 field goals on the season.
• Logan finished the season with 111 total points scored, the third-most in a single-season by a Rebel.
• P Mac Brown punted six times for an average of 43.7 including a career-long of 65 yards.