Mississippi State entered Egg Bowl week at 5-6 in 2011 and managed to defeat Ole Miss 31-3 in Starkville to become eligible for the Music City Bowl.
Dan Mullen is hoping for a similar scenario this year as the Bulldogs enter the rivalry week one win shy of bowl eligibility.
The new aspect added back to the Egg Bowl this year will be that the game is played on Thanksgiving. It will be the first time since 2003 that it will be played on the holiday.
Mullen remembers watching his first Egg Bowl in 1999 while working his way through the coaching ranks.
“My first experience with the Egg Bowl was being in a hotel room in Palo Alto, California as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame,” Mullen said. “I remember watching the ball getting kicked up into the air and seeing Mississippi State score 10 points in the last 30-seconds of the game and that was on Thanksgiving night.”
The fifth-year Bulldogs head coach is 3-1 in Egg Bowl games and is glad to see the contest back on Thanksgiving.
“To me, I just assumed that the Egg Bowl was on Thanksgiving just like the Cowboys and the Lions are on Thanksgiving,” Mullen said. “When I came here I was kind of disappointed to find out that it wasn’t anymore. Now that it is, I’m excited. Not that the rivalry needs more, but I think it makes it more unique.”
Mullen lost the Egg Bowl for the first time last year in Oxford. Ole Miss erased a 17-17 halftime stalemate by outscoring the Bulldogs 24-7 in the second half.
“It doesn’t make me happy,” Mullen said. “I’ll be honest, I’m just as mad today about losing last year as I was a year ago.”
Although Mullen relies heavily on signing in-state recruits, he does not feel the outcome of the game has had a huge affect on how recruiting has gone for either program.
“I don’t think it’s had that much of an impact,” Mullen said. “I haven’t seen it have a huge swing one way or the other whether you come out on top or not. We’ve won and got a lot of great players and lost and got a lot of great players. They’ve done the same so to me I don’t know that it really turns much.”
MSU’s injury situation has gotten worse, especially at the quarterback position. Sophomore Dak Prescott has been ruled out for the Egg Bowl and has missed the past two contests with a nerve injury to his left shoulder. Senior quarteback Tyler Russell had to leave during the fourth quarter of the last two outings with a shoulder injury of his own.
Russell’s status is questionable for this week’s game against the Rebels.
“Tyler’s the same as he was last week,” Mullen said. “We’ll see as the week goes on. He’s day-to-day. Dak will probably be ready for a bowl game at this point. Our doctor were hoping he’d progress faster but he hasn’t so we’re hoping to get him back for a bowl game.”
Russell was named State’s starter for the Arkansas game following pre-game warm-ups. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interceptions before being knocked out of the game on the final drive in regulation.
“I think he had one of the best performances of his career on Saturday,” Mullen said. “He came in as a fifth-year senior and wasn’t 100-percent. He had half a practice during the week and stepped in a tough environment against one of the best pass rushing defenses in the league, went 18-for-28 with two touchdowns and led the team. It was a cold, windy day for a guy who wasn’t 100-percent and he went out and led the team to a win.”
If Russell cannot play, true freshman Damian Williams will get the nod at quarterback. Williams has appeared in only four games this season but sparked the Bulldogs 24-17 win over Arkansas by scoring on a 25-yard run on the first play of overtime last weekend.
“Hopefully Tyler’s ready to go,” Mullen said. “If he’s not we’ve got Damian. For the last two weeks he’s had his number called at some interesting times. His first play was at the minus-3 yard line last Saturday and his next play was in overtime and didn’t get many snaps in between. The week before he comes in during the fourth quarter to try and lead a comeback against the No. 1 team in the country. We’ve thrown him in that fire the last coupe of weeks.”
Mullen also mentioned that walk-ons Sam Cowart and Josh Hand would be available at quarterback and junior Jameon Lewis could take some snaps out of the Wildcat formation.
Mullen expects senior running back LaDarius Perkins to be available for action this week. Perkins left Saturday’s game with a rib injury after being hit in the midsection while leaping across the goal line on a 30-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
True freshman wide receiver Fred Ross will miss the rest of the year after sustaining a broken collarbone against Arkansas.