Postgame Points: Mississippi State Game
Point No.1: Egg Bowl Champions
The first postgame point this week is that the Ole Miss Rebels are the 2014 Egg Bowl Champions. After a convincing 31-17 win over #4 Mississippi State, the Rebels have brought the Egg Bowl Trophy back to Oxford for the second time in three years under Coach Hugh Freeze and staff. As well, Ole Miss eliminated the Bulldogs from the SEC West race, while claiming sole possession of third place behind Alabama and State.
Further, the Rebels certainly improved their bowl profile with another signature win and spoiled the Bulldogs’ hopes of a playoff berth. This victory, along with the bragging rights and trophy, was a perfect way to send out the senior class who has done so much to put Ole Miss football back on the national map.
Ole Miss accomplished some significant things this season, and there is still a bowl game to be played next month. The Rebels claimed a pair of wins over top-five ranked teams in Alabama and Mississippi State. It is the first time the Rebels have beaten two top-five ranked teams in a season since 1969, when the legendary Archie Manning was commanding the Ole Miss offense under another legend, Coach Johnny Vaught.
At 9-3, the Rebels finish with their best regular season record since 2003. The 5-3 SEC record is the best by a Rebel squad since 2008. The 6-1 home record is the top mark since the 2002 season.
Ole Miss moved up from #18 to #13 this weekend in the AP Top 25 Poll. The Rebels will have a chance to finish this spectacular season with 10 wins and, perhaps, a top-ten ranking with a victory in their bowl game. Ole Miss will learn of its bowl destination next Sunday night.
Point No.2: Offense
Ole Miss ran up 532 yards of total offense in the win over #4 Mississippi State. The Rebels got 205 yards and 3 touchdowns from the running game. Ole Miss produced 327 yards and 1 touchdown through the air. The most impressive part of the 327 passing yards is that the Rebels only completed 14 passes in the game. Thus, Ole Miss averaged more than 23 yards per completion.
In the ground game, the Rebels averaged more than 6 yards per carry. With offensive balance and some explosive plays, Ole Miss found success moving the ball down the field, scoring points, and winning the Egg Bowl.
Point No.3: Defense
The Ole Miss defense deserves some major credit for the victory over #4 Mississippi State. The Landsharks held the Bulldogs to a season-low 17 points on Saturday. When the defense can smother a top-notch offense, it sets the tone for a potential upset.
The Rebel defense may have played its best game of the season in shutting down Dak Prescott and the very potent, high-scoring Bulldogs. Given how dominant the defense has played all year, that statement says a lot about the performance turned in by the Landsharks on Rivalry Saturday.
Ole Miss recorded 3 sacks against the Bulldogs. The Rebels allowed Mississippi State to score just once in 3 trips into the red zone for a total of 7 points. Likewise, the Landsharks held the Bulldogs to just 1 of 3 fourth-down conversions.
Without a doubt, the Rebel defense must be commended for limiting Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott to just 48 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Prescott has torched opponents all season with his ability to run the ball, but Ole Miss held him in check like no other team has done this year. Putting the clamps on Prescott was a huge reason Ole Miss was able to claim the Egg Bowl Trophy.
Finally, it was fitting that the defense that has been so stout all season finished off this win with a red zone stand in the final minutes. With the Bulldogs threatening to cut the lead to 7 and then have a chance for an on-side kick, the Landsharks stood tall on 4 straight plays to get the ball back and seal the upset.
Point No.4: Evan Engram
Evan Engram was the offensive player of the game for Ole Miss in the big win over archrival Mississippi State. With Laquon Treadwell out for the season, Engram has showed Rebel fans that he is capable of being the go-to-guy by stepping up and making some tremendous plays.
Against the Bulldogs, Engram hauled in 5 receptions and a career-high 176 yards. His receptions of 46 and 83 yards, respectively, set up a pair of Ole Miss touchdowns. Yet, his most impressive catch of the night may have been his one-handed grab that went for a mere 5 yards but was highlight-reel material.
Engram’s 176 receiving yards is the fourth-most in a game in Ole Miss football history. Engram extended his school record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season to 651 yards. Further, with 919 yards in just 2 seasons, Engram moved into second place in all-time receiving yards for a tight end at Ole Miss. The sophomore from Powder Springs, Georgia continues to show why he is regarded as one of the top tight ends in the country and is a finalist for the John Mackey Award.
Point No.5: Jaylen Walton
Like Evan Engram, running back Jaylen Walton had a career night that helped Ole Miss grab a victory in the most important game of the season. Walton ran the ball 14 times against Mississippi State for a career-best 148 yards and a touchdown.
Walton’s incredible 91-yard scamper to the endzone late in the third quarter proved to be the winning points for the Rebels. Yet, that touchdown run will be remembered for years to come by Ole Miss fans not because it went for 91 yards as much as for the fact that it appeared to be a run seen only in a video game. After running right and seeing a wall, Walton cut back to the left, where a slew of Bulldog defenders had a shot to take him down. To the amazement of the Rebel faithful, Walton somehow slipped past 5 would-be tacklers, dodging his way through traffic and into the open field, where no Bulldog defender was going to catch him.
Much like Jeff Scott’s run in the closing seconds at Vanderbilt a year ago, Walton’s run will live on in the annals of Ole Miss football for a long, long time.