There was a lot of quarterback drama going into Thursday’s rival game, but most of it was centered on Mississippi State.
MSU coach Dan Mullen played quarterback games till the end, before starting freshman Damien Williams.
The Bulldogs’ upset – yes, an upset but a mild one – will be remembered for Dak Prescott’s triumphant return, but it will be remembered as much for the poor first half of Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace’s which left the door open, and the Rebels’ inability to master the Bulldogs’ defense and steal momentum in the second half.
When it looked like Ole Miss would extend play and perhaps survive, Wallace had his fourth turnover of the night in the end zone on what should have been the tying touchdown.
Prescott’s late entry was well-timed in that there was no time for Ole Miss to adjust when the Bulldogs gained a lift with his presence.
Williams hurt Ole Miss with the option a couple of times in the first half, but by and large the Rebels controlled the MSU offense until Prescott was in the game.
It was a solid defensive effort by Ole Miss, and the Rebels did not expect the MSU defense to hold serve.
The Bulldogs did a good job of taking away Donte Moncrief. If he was well-fed in Oxford last year, he was starving this Thanksgiving.
Wallace had thrown only six interceptions all season but threw three in the first half in Starkville. Two of them were poor-decision picks, one simply a bad pass on which an MSU defender made a great diving play.
It’s not a great year for Conerly Trophy candidates, and Wallace figured to be the leader. He may win it, but he certainly gave voters reason for pause.
His three first-half interceptions were not only a season-high, they totaled five picks against MSU in only six quarters of play.
On his way to the locker room, Freeze called out his quarterback for poor play.
That changed somewhat in the second half. Decisions and ball-protection were better, but two quarters lost is a lot of time in a football game.
It was time not recovered.
So now the emotional release of the Rebels’ Egg Bowl win in 2012 is wiped away.
Ole Miss can claim improvement in the journey with a seven-win regular season. It is impressive given the state of affairs Hugh Freeze inherited, but what a statement one more win would have made, not only for the record but for the mindset in Mississippi.
The Rebels will have to wait for their bowl game to provide that exclamation point.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc .com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.