No. 25 Mississippi St. 31, Mississippi 23

In two seasons at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen has earned a

reputation across the Magnolia State as a brash-talking coach who

never misses an opportunity to needle ”The School Up North.”

And after winning the Egg Bowl trophy for the second straight

season on Saturday, Mullen’s also earning the reputation that his

team can back up the rhetoric.

”We’ve got a real nice trophy case for it,” Mullen said. ”and

we’re going to put it back where it belongs.”

Chris Relf threw for a career-high 288 yards and three

touchdowns as No. 25 Mississippi State beat Mississippi 31-23,

dominating early and then holding on late for the Bulldogs’ first

win in Oxford since 1998.

After the game, MSU’s players circled Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

exchanging hugs and high-fives with the considerable amount of

Bulldog fans celebrating in the stands. MSU is bowl-eligible for

the first time since 2007 and only the second time in a decade.

”It’s an awesome feeling,” MSU linebacker Chris White said.

”I just don’t see how it can possibly feel better than this.”

The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) dominated for most of the 107th

meeting between the two teams, with a 498-326 advantage in total

yards. But Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7) nearly rallied from a 31-9 fourth

quarter deficit, scoring two touchdowns to pull within 31-23 with

4:21 remaining.

The Rebels’ comeback ended when Jeremiah Masoli desperately

scrambled for several seconds before being sacked on fourth-and-24

with 59.4 seconds remaining.

”Nobody gave up,” Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden said.

”I’m proud of my teammates and everybody for that. We just kept

pressing on. We almost came away with it.”

Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins caught three passes for 140

yards and two touchdowns. The freshman also rushed for 98 yards on

13 carries.

As usual, the Bulldogs’ were steady on the ground, rushing for

210 yards. But the potent passing game was a pleasant surprise, as

Relf completed 13 of 20 passes. He also added 66 rushing yards.

”Chris did a good job of managing the game,” Mullen said.

”Their plan was to take away the run. They were daring us to throw

the ball and we did.”

The road team has won only twice in the past 12 years of the

series.

Masoli, who ended a disappointing senior season in Oxford after

transferring from Oregon over the summer, led Ole Miss with 261

yards passing, one touchdown and one interception.

The scene in Oxford was far different than two years ago, when

Ole Miss destroyed MSU 45-0, a humiliating defeat that helped send

then-coach Sylvester Croom packing.

It’s another indication of just how far the Bulldogs have come

under second-year coach Dan Mullen, who has added some spice to the

rivalry with his refusal to call the Rebels by anything other than

”The School up North,” referring to Ole Miss’ location some 100

miles north and west of Mississippi State’s campus.

Some of the Ole Miss players said they felt disrespected by

Mullen’s comments. But they couldn’t do anything about it on the

field.

That’s mostly because the defense gave up big plays with

regularity – a trait that’s haunted it all season.

MSU blitzed the Rebels for gains of 71, 44, 33 and 36 yards in

the second quarter, helping the Bulldogs turn a 6-0 deficit into a

21-9 halftime lead.

For Ole Miss, it was an another tough loss in a season full of

them. It started with a shocking loss to Jacksonville State, a team

that plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and ended with their

hated arch-rival celebrating on their home turf after dominating in

nearly all facets.

Though the Rebels expected somewhat of a rebuilding season, the

complete freefall has been shocking. Coach Houston Nutt won nine

games and back-to-back Cotton Bowls in his first two seasons, but

tied with Vanderbilt for the worst record in the SEC this season,

beating only Kentucky.

”The only thing I know is to go back to work,” Nutt said. ”We

expected it to be a tough year, but we didn’t expect this.”

Bolden caught six passes for 78 yards and also rushed for a

team-high 45 yards and a touchdown. The Rebels, which came into the

game as the No. 2 rushing team in the SEC, gained just 65 yards on

the ground.

”We tried to do a good job of mixing pressure and coverage,”

MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. ”Masoli is a great player,

but I thought we stopped their run and that made them one

dimensional. That was the key.”