BY JOE B. COATES
The renewal of the Battle for the Golden Egg– or, as we Mississippians know it, the Egg Bowl–will be nationally televised by ESPN on Thursday evening. The game pitting Ole Miss against Mississippi State is back on Thanksgiving this year for the first time since 2003 and right where many of us believe it should be, so families–who are already together to celebrate Thanksgiving– can air out their grievances during the ball game and get it out of the way before Christmas….just kidding. But, the holiday feels more like the holiday when the Egg Bowl is played that day.
My memories of the Egg Bowl begin when I was nine-years-old, which was the first I ever attended. That was the year Bulldog QB John Bond and Co. dashed through the Rebel defense and beat UM 19-14 in a steady cold rain. The next year, the Rebs’ John Fourcade–the main most Rebel that Bulldog fans love to hate–drove his team down the field in 3 plays with less than one minute on the clock and dove over from the one for an Ole Miss 21-17 win. One play earlier, an MSU defensive back intercepted Fourcade’s pass in the end zone for what the Bulldog faithful thought was the deciding play, but officials flagged the defender for pass interference – which, to this day, many Bulldogs believe was incorrect – placing the ball at the one for Fourcade’s heroics. What many ‘Dog fans don’t remember is that State had driven for the go ahead field goal to go up 17-14 on their previous drive. But, head coach Emory Bellard had chosen to kick the FG on third down instead of fourth, leaving Fourcade plenty of time to work his magic.
I attended several other Egg Bowls growing up and into my college and young adult years, though I haven’t been back to one since 1999–the Pick, the Kick, the Score game which was by far the most exciting I’ve been to in person. There was the Immaculate Deflection in ‘83, where State kicker Artie Cosby’s last second field goal attempt to beat UM was blown back by a sudden burst of wind. Then-Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer said something like ‘God was on our side today’ afterward. In reality, State blew a 23-0 halftime lead and let the Rebels come back for 24 unanswered points in the second half to lose by one point.
One of my favorites was the ‘91 Egg Bowl, which was the first played on either campus since the early ‘70s. State won 24-9 that day. It was cold and wet and windy, much like this week has been. Best memory of that game: MSU quarterback Sleepy Robinson ran slam over UM cornerback Chauncey Godwin at the goal line for the first score of the game, knocking Godwin out and igniting the Scott Field crowd.
The next year was The Stand in Oxford. UM won 17-10 and kept State out of the end zone late in the fourth quarter, stopping the Bulldogs 11 times inside the Rebel 10 yard line. I think my fingers froze to my bourbon and coke in the second half in that one.
A few years later the ‘Dogs shut out the Rebs 17-0 in Oxford on another blustery, wet day. In ‘97, the Rebels broke the hearts of Bulldog fans at Scott Field in Starkville with a late TD and two-point conversion to win 15-14 and knock State, who had finished 7-4, out of a bowl game. State had missed a field goal that got the final Rebel drive started just moments earlier. Instead, the Rebs, also 7-4, went on to the Motor City Bowl and defeated the Marshall Thundering Herd and superstar receiver Randy Moss.
The very next year, State and super tailback J. J. Johnson went to Oxford and ran through the Rebels for a 28-6 win and sealed the SEC West for Bulldogs, sending State to Atlanta for their first and only appearance in the SEC championship game.
At least this year’s game now has some significance that wasn’t there before last Saturday when 4-6 State won at Arkansas and improved to 5-6. A win over Ole Miss in Starkville puts the ‘Dogs at 6-6 and bowl-eligible. At 7-4, the Rebels are playing to improve their allotment in the post-season.
But it is just a game and is a fun way to wrap up spending time with your family and enjoying the cornucopia of blessings from the past year.
BY JOE B. COATES