Mississippi State win finds place in rivalry's history
By By Rocky Higginbotham/Special to The Star
Nov. 23, 2001
STARKVILLE In 100 years of an in-state rivalry that has been everything from magical to downright nasty, it's hard for any new chapter to top the list of memories.
But Thursday night's 36-28 win for Mississippi State over Ole Miss in the 98th Egg Bowl certainly left its place in history:
State, reeling with a 2-7 record and sporting the Southeastern Conference's least-productive offense, scored a season-high 36 points and rolled up 462 yards;
Sophomore sensation Eli Manning of Ole Miss came into the contest having thrown just three interceptions in nine games, but threw three in a little more than nine minutes;
The Rebels, 6-1 and talking about the SEC championship and a New Year's Day bowl game just a month ago, lost a third straight game in which they held the lead.
It was the Bulldogs who were playing like a bad football team just a few weeks ago. But State, which lost fourth-quarter leads at Alabama and Arkansas the last two weeks, blew past Ole Miss with 24 unanswered points Thursday night in front of a record crowd of 51,112 and a national television audience estimated at more than 2 million on ESPN.
The Turkey Day comeback was a tribute, as well, for State. The Bulldogs were down 21-12 at halftime, but came roaring back in the third quarter.
State's first drive of the second half was a successful one, but resulted in a 50-yard field goal attempt by John Michael Marlin that fell short. The Bulldogs stopped Ole Miss and got the ball back quickly, getting a 48-yard screen pass from Kevin Fant to Dicenzo Miller that set up a 32-yard field goal by Marlin.
That cut the gap to 21-15, and after another defensive stop by MSU, the big crowd at Scott Field and Davis Wade Stadium began rocking.
The momentum continued on the Bulldogs' next drive, one which included a 22-yard strike from Fant to Terrell Grindle on a flee-flicker, and one which ended on an 8-yard touchdown run by Dontae Walker. Marlin's kick made it 22-21.
Jonathan Nichols missed a 31-yard field goal attempt that would have put the Rebels ahead early in the final quarter, then Korey Banks picked off a Manning pass at the 10:51 mark. That set up a 1-yard plunge by Walker, giving State a 29-21 advantage.
Banks' second interception led to another State score that made it 36-21 with 5:27 left. Wide receiver Ray Ray Bivines, a star quarterback during his high school days at Gautier, lined up in the shotgun with Fant spread out wide. Bivines took the snap and scored from 7 yards out.
Ole Miss' last-ditch attempts included a 19-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Ross Barkley with 3:14 left and an onsides kick by former Lamar School standout Lee Rogers that was recovered by Charlie Anderson. But the Rebels' threat ended with 1:38 left when Manning was intercepted by Demetric Wright on a fourth-and-9.
A pair of touchdown runs that covered 1 and 2 yards by Joe Gunn and a 5-yard scoring toss from Manning to Charles Stackhouse provided Ole Miss with its 21-12 first-half lead. State's first-half scores came on a 1-yard dive by Walker and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Fant to Miller.