By JOEL COLEMAN
OXFORD – Vaught-Hemingway Stadium got painted maroon and white, Mississippi State left the Ole Miss Rebels black and blue and the Golden Egg is back in Starkville.
Behind 566 yards of total offense, including a whopping 457 on the ground, MSU dominated Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford on the way to a 55-20 win in the Battle of the Golden Egg. The win was the Bulldogs’ fourth-largest margin of victory in the history of the Egg Bowl and largest ever in Oxford.
“What an unbelievable feeling to come in and get that win and bring that trophy back to Starkville,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. “I know this game means so much to all of the fans, everyone in Mississippi. I am so happy to get that win for the Bulldog fans.”
After losing in back-to-back seasons to the Rebels, MSU wide receiver Fred Ross was elated to get a measure of revenge.
“I remember last year watching those guys run around our place with that (Egg Bowl) trophy,” Ross said. “I didn’t like it at all. It was a sour feeling. It feels so good to finally have that trophy back.”
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams were the driving forces behind the Bulldogs’ retribution on the Rebels. Fitzgerald broke MSU’s all-time, single-game rushing record with 258 yards on the ground. He also scored twice running the football.
“The offensive line was blocking their butts off,” Fitzgerald said. “We were running extremely hard. It really all goes to our offensive line. They really showed out. It’s a phenomenal feeling. It’s great when you’re running and no one is around you, but to do it in a big-time game like this and in front of this crowd is surreal.”
Fitzgerald also passed for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
Williams set new career highs with 191 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The former West Point star averaged 7.6 yard per carry and gashed the Ole Miss defenders time after time.
“Once I saw how the defense was going to play everything and my offensive line kept blocking, it just went well for me,” Williams said.
Williams got the ball rolling for Mississippi State (5-7, 3-5) in the first quarter. After Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6) grabbed a 3-0 lead courtesy of a 24-yard field goal from Gary Wunderlich, Williams’ 16-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs their first lead. After Ole Miss surged back in front just moments later on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to Damore’ea Stringfellow, Williams helped spark a run of 21-unanswered Mississippi State points.
Williams found the end zone on the ground for the second time, a 13-yard scamper, between a pair of touchdown passes from Fitzgerald, who threw one to Donald Gray from eight yards out and one to Malik Dear from 24 yards away. Suddenly, State had a 27-10 lead.
In the waning moments of the first half though, Ole Miss came to life to get back in the game courtesy of another Patterson-to-Stringfellow touchdown pass and a 38-yard field goal from Wunderlich.
That was where the Rebels’ offensive success would end. MSU’s defense kept Ole Miss off the scoreboard in the second half as the Bulldogs pulled away.
“It’s frustrating that we weren’t scoring,” Ole Miss offensive lineman Javon Patterson said. “We’re used to going fast and getting things going and when you get stopped, it gets frustrating.”
While Ole Miss spun its wheels, the Bulldogs cemented the win.
In the third quarter, Fitzgerald threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Ross, then later broke off a 61-yard scoring run.
In the fourth, Fitzgerald added a 30-yard touchdown run. Cedric Jiles then put the icing on the cake for Mississippi State with a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Just like that, the Golden Egg trophy was Starkville-bound after a two-year stay in Oxford following a decisive Bulldog win.
“I came in just thinking win by three points or one point because a win is a win,” MSU defensive end A.J. Jefferson said. “It’s unreal.”
Mississippi State still has slim hopes of making a bowl game following the victory. With just five wins this season, MSU didn’t get the six wins needed for bowl eligibility, but the Bulldogs could possibly sneak into a postseason game if there aren’t enough teams to fill all the open spots.
MSU isn’t worried about its future just yet though. Right now, the Bulldogs are just taking a moment to savor their lopsided win over their instate nemesis.
“They had a party on our field last year,” Jefferson said. “Guess what? We did it to them this year.”