Egg Bowl Week: High stakes for Rebels when MSU visits

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Ole Miss will be good and angry for the Egg Bowl.
The annual clash between Mississippi State and Ole Miss is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. The No. 25 Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3 SEC) have won the last three meetings, all under fourth-year coach Dan Mullen.
The Rebels (5-6, 2-5) are coming off a heart-breaking 41-35 defeat at LSU and must beat State to gain bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009.
“It gives us that (ticked off) edge,” Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. “We’re mad, we’re hurting. The only thing we can do is take it out on the next team we play, and I feel like me and my teammates, we’re going to be prepared and ready to play State this coming up weekend.”
This game promises to be more competitive than the last three Egg Bowls, which MSU won by a combined score of 103-53. First-year coach Hugh Freeze has Ole Miss playing at a higher level, and Mullen can see that on the film.
“To me, it’s going to be a very different team than we’ve faced in the last couple of years in that it’s different schematically, different attitude-wise, their different approach to doing things,” Mullen said.
“It looks like to me that Hugh has their guys playing hard, and they’ve been playing real hard and battling right down to the end in most of their games this year. We expect a four-quarter fight.”
Seniors go for sweep
Prior to the season, MSU senior cornerback Johnthan Banks said that “it’s going to be a great feeling to go out and be 4-0 against the school up north.” That moniker for Ole Miss – “the school up north” – is one Mullen has used since he became MSU’s coach, and it epitomizes the swagger he’s brought to this rivalry.
The results, of course, have backed up the talk, much to the chagrin of Ole Miss and its fans.
“I’ll be honest with you, I think since the day I’ve gotten here they’ve wanted to get a win against me,” Mullen said. “We’re going to expect it to be a pretty wild, hostile environment like it is wherever you go on the road in this league, and probably even more so because of the fact that it is a big rivalry game.”
If the Rebels are to silence Mullen, Banks and the rest of the Bulldogs, they’ll need to play like they did against LSU and put that painful loss behind them.
“These guys will be ready,” Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said. “I promise you, we’re going to be ready to play.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com