This season could have been a game-changer for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs looked like they were in the clear to do something special, but stumbled in the end. The Rebels made sure their big rivals didn’t even have a shot at redemption, handing them a 31-17 loss, putting an end to any doubt about whether or not the Bulldogs will make the playoff.
After a humiliating loss to Arkansas, Ole Miss had to have a redeeming moment for themselves. Not a shot at winning the division or somehow climbing all the way back up to elite status after falling to #19 overall, but doing something memorable, and becoming the second team this season to beat Mississippi State, who needed to win themselves and for Auburn to beat Alabama in order to take the top spot in the division and go on to play in the SEC championship game. Both things didn’t happen.
Bo Wallace has been terrible in the second half of this season and wasn’t all that great in the regular season finish, but it didn’t matter. Ole Miss did the same thing Alabama were able to in their win over Mississippi State: Stop the runs through the middle, limiting them to only 84 yards between the tackles (almost half their season average) and 2.3 yards per carry on those runs while Ole Miss did a remarkable offensive job on first down, recording a season high of 368 yards, including six plays that went for 20 yards or more.
Dak Prescott, who looked like a definite Heisman trophy winner midway through the season fizzled in the end. Ole Miss blitzed him on 36.1% of his dropbacks, allowing only two yards per play when it blitzed. He was pressured on 53% of his dropbacks, almost 20 percentage points higher than Prescott’s average going into the game, clearly seeing the kind of pressure he isn’t really used to seeing. It didn’t completely throw him off his game, but it was enough to shake him up.
I was willing to throw everything we had at them. And we had some more if we needed it. It wasn’t about us spoiling the year for them as much as reclaiming what we think is ours. Mississippi State had a good season in a great league.
Hugh Freeze does have a point. For him personally this is his best season since becoming the head coach at Ole Miss, and has a chance at a 10-win season, depending on who their bowl rivals are. It also marks his second win in the Egg Bowl over the last three years, coming off an overtime loss last season. And yet, ruining the hopes of the season for Mississippi State weren’t such a bad part of the complete package.
Remember, even though the Bulldogs wouldn’t have been going to the championship game because Alabama beat Auburn, a 11-1 Mississippi State team had more than a legitimate shot at finishing in the top 4 according to the rankings, although it would have been difficult considering other conference champions below them would have been getting quite a boost. This could have been a game-changing, program defining season for the Mississippi Schools. It turned out to be a very good one, but nothing more.