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OXFORD, Miss. – Not only is it Egg Bowl week in Mississippi, it is rivalry week throughout the country. I love rivalries.
The first college football game my father took me to was the 1970 Florida-Florida State game. This was pre-Bobby Bowden, so at the time it was not rivalry it would become. I was at the 1983 Iron Bowl when Bo went over the top to lead Auburn to its first win over Alabama in ten years.
I have seen Georgia-Florida, Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, Florida State-Miami, Ole Miss-LSU and on the smaller school level, I have seen Troy-Jacksonville State and Alabama State-Tuskegee.
Still, there is nothing like the Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl is important in Alabama, but like this year, the Crimson Tide plays in the SEC championship game next week. Not that Bama will not give its all to beat its arch rival, but should Auburn win, Tide fans would gladly let that go if Alabama could win the league title.
UF-Georgia is cool, but it takes place too early in the season. Miami-FSU and to some extent Florida State-Florida has diminished over the years.
Not the Egg Bowl. I have heard fans say if their team only won one game in a season and it was against its rival, it would be okay with them. The Egg Bowl is kind of like that.
I also love the Egg Bowl is on Thanksgiving night again. The nation can witness just how much this one means to both schools. To steal from the SEC, “It just means more.”
While the Egg Bowl is being played, fans will hope it lives up to what happened exactly 50 years before it.
Nov. 25, 1971 was the date of one of the “Games of the Century.” That day in Norman, Okla., undefeated Nebraska played unbeaten Oklahoma. Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers ran back a punt 72 yards for a touchdown and it turned out to be the margin of victory for the Cornhuskers.
I covered a game at Nebraska in 2003 on my sister’s birthday. Her gift that year? A Johnny Rodgers’ bobblehead doll.Nebraska went on to beat Alabama, 38-6, in the Orange Bowl to win its second consecutive national title.
What is better about that day is my nephew was born that day just after the game. Happy Birthday, Shane.
In 1983, I was a sophomore at Ole Miss. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I made the trek to Jackson from Oxford for the Egg Bowl. The Rebels fell behind early, but I told my friends, “If we score before the half, we will have momentum.”
Tim Moffett ran back a punt late in the second quarter and late in the game, Ole Miss held a 24-23 lead over State. I was prolific at the time.
But the Bulldogs had time to mount a game-winning drive. It looked like MSU was doing just that. It all came down to a State field goal. I could articulate what happened next, but instead, allow me to use the words of the Jackson Daily News writer Billy Watkins:
Mississippi State freshman kicker Artie Cosby, with his team trailing Ole Miss, 24-23, with just 24 seconds left, booted a 27-yard field goal attempt. It went straight and long and over (?) the crossbar, and Sate fans went wild.
But just as the ball reached the goalposts, a 40 mph gusting wind made the biggest interception of the day. It suspended the ball, inches from the crossbar, in mid-air for what seemed like hours, then sent the ball back to earth, a good 10 yards shy of its intended destination.
Rebel fans went bananas.
Afterward, Ole Miss quarterback Kelly Powell took one snap and fell flat on his face at the Rebel 10-yard line, giving the Rebels a 24-23 win in front of a Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium crowd of 59,758.
Of all those people in that stadium, I may have been the only Rebels’ fan to miss seeing it. My face was in my hands knowing Ole Miss had lost. When the crowd around me erupted, I knew I had missed history. Where I had been prolific before, I was mortified at that moment I should have witnessed.
I never doubted Ole Miss again.
Tuscaloosa News columnist and sports editor Cecil Hurt died Tuesday from complications of pneumonia in Birmingham. There are certain journalists associated with certain programs. Even though he did not write for papers in Birmingham nor Montgomery nor Mobile, Cecil was Alabama athletics.
I ran into Cecil on several occasions. Most often at the Alabama Sportswriters’ Conventions. He was a wealth of information, a treasure trove of stories and a great man. No one ever spent an hour talking with Cecil and then walked away and thought, “Well, those are 60 minutes I will never get back.”
Where many writers are assigned to a beat, Cecil was born for the Alabama beat. He was born in Tuscaloosa, worked in the Bama sports information office as a student and earned his degree from the Capstone.
The view from the pressbox at Jordan-Hare Stadium is pretty good. Cecil will have a better view of the Iron Bowl this week.
And Auburn, if you do no pay tribute to Cecil in that pressbox Saturday, you will regret it forever.
No. 22 Texas-San Antonio has been a really cool story this season. The Roadrunners have come out of nowhere to have a thus-far undefeated season. But this time, Wile E. Coyote wins.
I will take North Texas in the upset. Sure, the Mean Green is only 5-6, but they have won four straight.
Besides, I once covered a game in Denton. It is not an easy place to play.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.