Ole Miss wins Egg Bowl, spoils MSU’s playoff hopes

Oxford, MS (SportsNetwork.com) – Mississippi State’s hopes for a berth in the
inaugural College Football Playoff have likely been cracked like an egg.

Jaylen Walton rushed for a career-high 148 yards and a highlight-reel
touchdown, and 18th-ranked Ole Miss kept the No. 4 Bulldogs’ high-powered
offense mostly in check to hand their bitter rivals a damaging 31-17 loss in
the latest edition of the Egg Bowl.

Walton’s spectacular 91-yard touchdown run and Evan Engram’s career-best 176
yards on five catches each played huge roles in the Rebels denying Mississippi
State a possible appearance in the SEC title game — and probably a spot in
the four-team playoff as well.

The Bulldogs (10-2, 6-2 SEC), who stood fourth in the most recent College
Football Playoff rankings, were eliminated in the SEC West race with the
costly defeat, which vaulted Alabama into the conference championship game
opposite Missouri.

Dak Prescott completed 22-of-37 passes for 282 yards while running and
throwing for a touchdown, but Mississippi State allowed 24 second-half points
and 532 yards to the Rebels to have their title chances all but dashed.

Bo Wallace hit on just 13-of-30 throws with an interception for Ole Miss
(9-3, 5-3), but still put up 296 yards through the air while adding a rushing
score.

De’Runnya Wilson finished with 117 yards and a touchdown on eight catches in
the loss, with Fred Ross compiling 103 yards on six grabs for the Bulldogs.

After managing just a field goal during a defensively dominated first half,
Mississippi State appeared to have righted itself after putting together a 9-
play drive that Prescott finished off with a 1-yard run for a 10-7 lead early
in the third quarter.

However, the Rebels answered with 17 straight points behind a slew of huge
plays — mostly between Engram and Walton.

Ole Miss had a swift response to the touchdown, as Wallace split two defenders
with a dart that Engram hauled in on the next play from scrimmage, then broke
a tackle and raced upfield before being brought down from behind at the 2-yard
line. The 83-yard connection set up Jeremy Liggins’ 1-yard plunge out of a
Wildcat formation that put the Rebels back in front.

Prescott hit Ross in stride for a 53-yard gain to begin the subsequent series,
but Ole Miss held from there and the Bulldogs came up empty when Evan Sobiesk
pulled a 34-yard field goal try wide right.

Engram then came through once again, producing a 35-yard catch-and-run that
was followed by Wallace’s 24-yard completion to Quincy Adeboyejo. The two
receptions led to Gary Wunderlich’s 39-yard field goal that increased the lead
to 17-10 with 3:37 to go in the third quarter.

Mississippi State promptly went three-and-out before Walton delivered a
crushing blow that will likely be mentioned for several Egg Bowls to come.

With Ole Miss pinned back to its own 9-yard line, the diminutive running back
took a pitch to the right that was blocked off, cut back inside and bounced
off a defender before breaking loose and outsprinting the defense all the way
to the end zone to place the Bulldogs at a 14-point deficit.

Mississippi State kept on battling, though, and pulled within 24-17 just 1:02
into the fourth quarter when Wilson won a battle with Kendarius Webster to
make a leaping 32-yard touchdown grab.

The Bulldogs were forced to punt on their next two possessions, however, and
Ole Miss pulled out a trick play to seal the outcome.

Jordan Wilkins ripped off a 41-yard run into MSU territory before having the
ball pitched to him on the next snap. The running back stopped and lofted a
pass down the sideline that Cody Core snared for a back-breaking 32-yard
touchdown with 9:14 remaining.

The Bulldogs’ last gasp at a comeback was snuffed out when three straight
Prescott incompletions near the goal line turned the ball over on downs with
less than two minutes to play.

Ole Miss had the game’s first scoring chance, but its second drive of the day
ended in Wallace being intercepted by Taveze Calhoun in the end zone. He
atoned for the miscue by hitting Engram down the seam for a 46-yard gain to
the Mississippi State 1 to begin Ole Miss’ subsequent series, then fought off
a hard hit to barrel into the end zone on the following play for a 7-0 Rebels’
edge with four minutes left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs countered with their best possession of the half, a 10-play, 47-
yard trek that positioned Sobiesk for a 45-yard field goal 15 seconds into the
second quarter.

Neither offense could make any progress over the remainder of the period. The
Rebels went three-and-out on their final three drives, while Mississippi State
crossed midfield just once before being stopped on the Ole Miss 35 when
Prescott was stuffed by Keith Lewis on a 4th-and-3 run.

Mississippi State, which came in averaging an SEC-best 511.5 total yards per
game, was held to 128 yards through the first two quarters.

Game Notes

The home team has now prevailed in 10 of the last 11 Egg Bowls, with
Mississippi State losing in seven of its past eight visits to Oxford … The
game marked only the fourth meeting between the in-state foes in which both
teams were ranked, and the first time since 1999 … Ole Miss had a nation’s
best streak of 34 straight games of forcing at least one turnover end …
Engram’s previous career-high was 118 yards, set against Auburn on Nov. 1 …
Walton smashed his previous personal-best of 106 rushing yards, which came
against Southeast Missouri State last season … Wilson recorded his first
career game with over 100 receiving yards.