Postgame Points: Ole Miss 31, Mississippi State 28
Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining the top five takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are the Postgame Points from the Egg Bowl win. Hotty Toddy!
1. State Champions
Ole Miss pulled off a 31-28 upset of No. 14 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night. The Golden Egg Trophy is back in Oxford, and the Rebels are Mississippi state champions once again. Ole Miss defeated the Bulldogs for the fourth time in the last six seasons. It was a perfect ending to a tumultuous season.
With the victory, Ole Miss now leads the all-time series against MSU by a margin of 64-44-6. Maybe more impressive is that the Rebels own a record of 22-14-3 in Starkville. Also, Ole Miss has won 17 of the 29 Thanksgiving day matchups between the rivals.
2. Successful Season
While outsiders projected Ole Miss to win 3 or 4 games, at best, the Rebels fought their hearts out from start to finish to have a successful season. Ole Miss finishes the year at 6-6, 3-5 in the SEC. The Rebels conclude the season sitting sixth in the SEC West and tenth overall in the conference.
Ole Miss ends the year ahead of teams like Florida and Tennessee in the conference standings, and both of those squads spent time early in the year ranked in the Top 25.
Coach Matt Luke deserves a lot of credit for keeping this team together all year while facing so much adversity.
The coaches and players faced an uphill battle even before the season began with a coaching change and the NCAA investigation hanging over the program. Throw in a couple of rough patches in September and October, and it is easy to see how many chances this team had to quit on the season.
Yet, they chose to fight through the challenges and to stay together as a team. The end result was that this team exceeded expectations and finished 6-6 with 3 SEC wins and an Egg Bowl victory. For certain, Ole Miss had a very successful season.
The Ole Miss defensive unit created 5 takeaways in the huge win over in-state rival Mississippi State. The 5 turnovers forced by the defense are the most for the Rebels in a game since the 43-37 upset win over #2 Alabama in 2015.
Ole Miss had created just 8 turnovers in the first 11 games this season. The 5 takeaways in this game were critical to getting the victory over the Bulldogs, as the Rebels got 10 points off the turnovers. Considering this contest ended up being decided by 3 points, those 10 points from takeaways can be viewed as the difference in winning the Egg Bowl.
4. Star Players
Ole Miss had many standouts in the thrilling win in Starkville. Guys stepped up in the biggest game of the year on both sides of the ball. Several of the star players were seniors who played their last game in a Rebel uniform.
Senior Jordan Wilkins rushed 14 times for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in his final go-round as a Rebel. It was the sixth game this season in which Wilkins has surpassed the 100-yard mark. He ended the year with 1,111 yards, which ranks fourth in rushing yards in a season at Ole Miss.
Wilkins is the first running back since Dexter McCluster in 2009 to reach 1,000 yards in a season.
Sophomore A. J. Brown had a huge game in his return to Starkville. Brown caught 6 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Like Wilkins, it was the sixth time this season that Brown topped the 100-yard mark in receiving yards. Brown established a new school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,252 yards.
Senior DeMarquis Gates wrapped up his Rebel career with 13 tackles against the Bulldogs. It marks the seventh time this year that he has recorded double-digit tackles in a game.
Gates concludes the season with 114 stops, the most tackles by an Ole Miss Rebel since Patrick Willis notched 137 tackles in the 2006 season.
Junior Breeland Speaks was a force all night against Mississippi State. Speaks recorded 12 tackles, 1 sack, and recovered a fumble. Like Speaks, senior A. J. Moore and sophomore Montrell Custis each recovered a fumble.
Sophomore Myles Hartsfield and junior C. J. Moore intercepted passes for the Rebels. Freshman Ryder Anderson and sophomore Austrian Robinson each recorded a sack for Ole Miss.
5. History Books
Placekicker Gary Wunderlich etched his name in the history books in his final appearance in a Rebel uniform. By scoring 7 points against Mississippi State, the senior from Memphis finished his Ole Miss career with a school record for points scored with 350.
As well, Wunderlich established new school records for field goals made in a career (64) and PATs made in a career (158). He has been a valuable weapon for Ole Miss on special teams for the past four seasons and will be missed come next autumn!
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)