by Chris Burrows, Associated Press
Snoop Conner ran for two touchdowns and No. 8 Mississippi scored 21 straight points to beat Mississippi State 31-21 on Thursday night in a windy, rainy and cold Egg Bowl.
“What a cool night. What a cool win. We’re happy and relieved,” Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin said. “It wasn’t easy. But our players found a way to win and that’s what matters. We’re at 10 wins and that sounds really cool.”
Matt Corral ran for a touchdown and passed for 229 yards to help Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) overcome an early 6-3 deficit for a 24-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. Corral was 25 of 33 with an interception.
“I was with this team when we were 5-5 and we had losing records. It was in us. We just needed people to bring it out of us,” Corral said. “We bonded together and we’re stronger. And it shows.”
The Rebels had 388 yards of total offense, with Connor scoring twice on 1-yard runs during the decisive outburst. He rushed for 60 yards on 16 carries.
Dontario Drummond had 13 receptions for 133 yards, and Jerrion Ealy scored on a 15-yard run to make it 31-13 lead with 5:35 left.
Mississippi State’s Will Rogers was 38 of 58 for 336 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Walley from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs (7-5, 4-4) added an 11-yard touchdown run by Jo’quavious Marks with 2:27 remaining, but could not pull within single digits.
“The stat sheet looks pretty good,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “We played hard. But they made more key plays and that’s the difference.”
The Bulldogs had 420 yards of total offense, primarily in the final period in the belated rally, but had trouble translating yards into points.
Makai Polk had 10 receptions for 98 yards and added a two-point conversion. Nolan McCord had field goals of 34 and 29 yards.
Trailing 10-6 in the second period, Mississippi State missed an opportunity to take the lead before halftime, dropping three potential touchdown passes. Lideatrick Griffin and Jo’Quavious Marks could not hold on to accurate tosses from Rogers inside the red zone, followed by a missed field goal attempt. The empty scoring drive loomed large as Ole Miss built a 24-6 cushion early in the fourth quarter.
“Let me say it right now. Ole Miss has a defense,” Corral said. “That’s something we couldn’t say in the past. But they’ve carried us during these last five weeks, made some breaks and they showed that this is a team thing.”
Mississippi: Winning a high-risk, high-reward match, was capped by the usual bragging rights. The Rebels won a school-record 10 regular-season games and wrapped up second place in the SEC West race. A New Year’s Six appearance appears likely, accompanied by a Top 10 ranking. Corral, already declared for the NFL draft, remains a dark horse in the Heisman Trophy chase.
“It’s not about me, it’s about us,” Corral said.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs exceeded expectations in Leach’s second season, beating No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 24 North Carolina State and winning four of the last six starts. Rogers passed for 300-plus yards for the 10th time this season as Mississippi State trends upward toward postseason play.
“I think we improved more than any team in the conference and we steadily improved each week,” Leach said. “We beat some ranked teams and lost to a few, too. But we left a lot of meat on the bone in our opportunities.”
Mississippi: Awaits a bowl bid, most likely a New Year’s Six appearance. “We don’t care where we’re going because they’re all great,” Corral said. “The main thing is we are still playing”
Mississippi State: Awaits a bowl bid.
(Photos by Byron Swetman)