They call it the Egg Bowl, but the annual Mississippi State-Ole Miss football game has nothing to do with the state’s agricultural prowess. According to data from the Department of Agriculture, Iowa is actually the top producer of eggs in the United States (15%), followed by Ohio and Indiana (both 9%). Mississippi doesn’t even get a mention in this “Egg-STAT-ic” post from 2021.
So what’s the deal with the nickname? Well, that’s what happens when fans need something shiny to distract them from malicious thoughts and the magazine’s headline writers decide to take matters into their own hands.
Let’s start with the trophy and the original nickname. Although the rivalry dates back to 1901 — State won the first game, Ole Miss won the second — no postgame prize was awarded until 1927. And the reason for the change was practical: Officials needed something to hold the audience’s attention once the game was over. A year ago, there was a huge fight between the fans. So both student bodies, in an effort to foster “pure sportsmanship”, commissioned a trophy to be called the “Golden Egg”. It was gold and shiny and beautiful … and because it was sharper than a regular football and had no raised edges to mimic the seam of a football, it looked exactly like a golden egg.
Fast-forward half a century and it’s 1978 to the game day edition of The Clarion-Ledger. Executive editor Tom Patterson — perhaps tired of the redundantly worded nickname, perhaps intended as a certain style of pun — wrote the headline, “Egg Bowl Is Up for Scramble.” And the Egg Bowl evolved from shorthand to a kind of official-unofficial nickname that both schools use interchangeably with The Battle for the Golden Egg.
But all this is a past story. They could call it The Battle for the Fuzzy Soybean (the state’s top agricultural export) and it would still be compelling. Although Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State and Florida-Florida State have more national relevance in terms of impact on the national championship race, the game of any rivalry week is Mississippi State-Ole Miss. (An SEC power broker once told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that the rivalry “makes Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama look like Sunday school.”) The first time they played, it was delayed an hour because Ole Miss State was accused of playing non-students.
A lot of fights and a lot of pettiness are shared between the two schools. When Dan Mullen was the head coach of the Bulldogs, he refused to call the Rebs by their names. Instead, he simply referred to “The School Up North” in interviews. The intramural game schedules were a bit of a bummer at TSUN for Ole Miss.
The two current coaches are actually pretty chummy these days, but the two programs can’t help but antagonize. They don’t even agree on basic facts. Although they both cite Ole Miss as the series leader with a record of 64-48-6, Mississippi State says the game has been played 27 times on Thanksgiving, and Ole Miss puts the number at 30.
No matter which record book you subscribe to, the rivalry will be played for the 119th time this Thanksgiving (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). To get you ready, here are some interesting games in Egg Bowl history.
1983: The Immaculate Deflection
Sometimes nicknames are misleading. The “immaculate deflection” wasn’t really a deflection — unless you believe in cosmic events. Mississippi State, having surrendered a 17-0 lead and trailing 24-23 with 24 seconds left, had the game-winning field goal in its grasp. Artie Crosby attempted a 27-yard kick and it seemed to be well on its way — good height, good line, good everything. The state fans started celebrating. But then the ball stopped at his end. It was as if Mother Nature had struck it herself, a strong gust of wind sending the ball to the left of the goalposts.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard marveled, “I’ve never seen a kick come back in all my years of coaching. It’s like something reaching down and stopping the ball in flight.”
1999: Pick and Kick
This game may be the best in the history of the rivalry. It was one of the rare occasions when both schools were ranked: Ole Miss 23rd, Mississippi State 18th. The Rebs jumped out to a 20-6 lead, but the Bulldogs battled back to tie the game with just 27 seconds left.
And instead of playing for overtime on the road, Ole Miss’ Romaro Miller aired downfield. Except Robert Bean deflected the pass and kicked it in the air. Eugene Clinton got under it and grabbed an interception around the 50-yard line and returned the ball to the 27 with 8 seconds left. Scott Westerfield then connected on a 44-yard game-winning field goal. Once Ole Miss went out of bounds on a kickoff return, fans rushed the field.
2013: Doc announced his arrival
Legends are made in competitive games. Dak Prescott ranked Mississippi State in 2014 as the no. 1 and set school records en route to becoming a fourth-round draft pick a year later, he was a sophomore in his first season as a starter. A hand injury ruled him out of two games before the Egg Bowl. And for the first three quarters against Ole Miss, he stood on the sideline.
But, with the Bulldogs trailing by a field goal with 11 minutes remaining, Prescott persuaded Mullen to leave the game. After fumbling on his first drive, he drove the offense 59 yards in 13 plays to secure a game-time field goal. Then, in overtime, he ran for the winning touchdown.
2019: Expensive dog pee fines
Mississippi State escaped with a 21-20 win after Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore was penalized for celebrating a touchdown by pretending to pee like a dog, and the Rebels missed the ensuing extra point.
First, we need a scenario about the egg bowl to end all egg bowls. Because if you thought the 2019 game was the first time an Ole Miss player faked a pee on Mississippi State’s field, you’d be wrong. Two years ago, after a pregame brawl, DK Metcalfe, who scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, raised his leg to mimic dog urination and suffered a 15-yard penalty.
And let’s not forget AJ Brown’s touchdown late in the third-quarter blowout in Oxford and the pushing and shoving turned into a bench-clearing brawl, just to make sure the fire was still burning before heading back to Starkville. . To signal a lack of civility, the referees assessed a penalty to each player on both teams.
Well, now to 2019. There have been wild plays and wild finishes throughout Egg Bowl history, but no game has produced more fireworks in 2019. After being tied in the first half, the Bulldogs took the lead on Garrett Schrader’s 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And it looked like that as Ole Miss punted twice and threw an interception in the fourth quarter. But then, with 2 minutes left, Matt Corral, coming on in relief of starter John Rice Plumlee, drove the Rebs 80 yards in 11 plays. At the 2-yard line with just 4 seconds left, Corral found Elijah Moore in the end zone for the tying score. Aside from Moore repeating Metcalfe’s antics, he raised his leg sharply in front of the referee and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. A touchdown ensued, but you can guess what happened next. Pushed back 15 yards from the penalty, Luke Logan missed the point after the try and won the state.
In a game where both coaches were on the hot seat, neither survived. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke days later and replaced him with headline-grabbing Lane Kiffin. Not to be outdone, Mississippi State fired Joe Moorhead and got a big name of its own in Mike Leach.