Ole Miss Enters High-Stakes Egg Bowl with Momentum After LSU Win
It has been a long, exciting, tumultuous season of Ole Miss football. Hugh Freeze has the Rebels bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year. They have knocked off Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in the same season for the first time ever. They stand to place three or four playmakers in the first round of April’s NFL draft.
But it’s not over yet.
This Saturday, at 6:15 PM at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville, the Rebs will take the field for the 112th Battle for the Golden Egg, and there’s much at stake for both teams. Ole Miss and in-state rival Mississippi State both enter the game nationally ranked (the first time that’s ever been true in back-to-back seasons), and things like bragging rights and recruiting advantages merely add flavor to the always-fiery matchup.
“I know what it means to our fans and Mississippi State’s fans,” said Hugh Freeze in his Monday morning press conference. “It is a great competition. We will have to play our best against a really good football team when we go to Starkville Saturday night.”
Mississippi State Quarterback Dak Prescott has already commandeered the Bulldog record book and hopes to solidify his legacy as the greatest player in Bulldog history by returning the Golden Egg back to Starkville.
This will be the last time that Ole Miss will square off against quarterback Dak Prescott, who has put together one of the most remarkable careers in MSU history. Freeze called him “one of the most tremendous leaders we have seen in this conference,” and noted that Prescott “gives that offense a chance to be really successful – and special, at times.”
However, Prescott will be facing off against a Rebel defense that put together a refreshingly-complete performance against the LSU Tigers. Ole Miss forced three turnovers and held star running back Leonard Fournette out of the end zone en route to a 38-17 victory that was rarely in doubt. DE Marquis Haynes and LB DeMarquis Gates won SEC Defensive Lineman and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, for their efforts.
“Defensively, we were very, very good for the first 29 minutes, then we blew a coverage right before the half,” said Freeze. “We lost some momentum there. That can’t happen, especially in this week’s game.”
“They are very similar to us – they are probably as talented of a receiving corps as we have faced.”
As has been the case all season, though, the Rebs will be a little short-handed due to injury this Saturday. Defensive lineman Fadol Brown is listed as doubtful with a stress fracture, and DB C.J. Hampton is day-to-day with a stinger in his arm. Additionally, DB Cam Ordway will have to sit out the first half of the Egg Bowl due to an alleged punch thrown during a scuffle with some LSU players.
Senior LB Denzel Nkemdiche had to miss senior day at Vaught-Hemingway due to hospitalization for an undisclosed reason. He will likely miss the Egg Bowl, too, but Freeze indicated that his staff is doing “anything that they can do” to help the elder Nkemdiche back onto the playing field.
“We are under the doctor’s supervision as to what the next steps are; playing would be up to [the doctor],” Freeze admitted. “[Denzel] continues to be progressing very well… [We’ll] lean on the medical staff. Whatever they advise us to do, we’ll do.”
Key injuries aside, this year’s Egg Bowl will be loaded with star power; the two offenses boast arguably the best two quarterbacks in the conference in Prescott and Rebel field general Chad Kelly, who will likely be nos. 1 and 2 on most All-SEC ballots when votes are cast.
“It should be a great deal for Mississippi football,” said Mississippi native son Hugh Freeze. “For both of us to be in the positions that we are in speaks a lot for our state and for our high school coaches and players. It is something to be excited about.”
And don’t look now, but should Auburn pull off an improbable upset of Alabama earlier in the day, the Rebs could be playing for a spot in their first-ever SEC championship game just four years into Coach Freeze’s tenure.
Something to be excited about, indeed.
The 112th Battle for the Golden Egg will kick off at 6:15 at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. The game will be televised on ESPN2.