Mississippi State players on lopsided Egg Bowl win: ‘Don’t think we’ll come down off that high’
Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017
HOOVER, Ala. — Nearly eight months have passed since Mississippi State pulled off its largest margin of victory in the Egg Bowl in 97 years, but the Bulldogs’ players are content with letting the rivalry win linger.
MSU ended Ole Miss’ two-game winning streak in the series with a convincing 55-20 win at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last November that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze called embarrassing. The emotions were on the opposite end of the spectrum for MSU, which posted its largest margin of victory against its in-state rival since a 33-0 win in 1919 and scored its most points in the game since 1915.
Those emotions haven’t faded for the Bulldogs.
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“I don’t think we’ll come down off that high because from that night on, we had 365 days of bragging rights to be on a high as much as we wanted,” MSU linebacker Dez Harris said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to come down.”
MSU set numerous school records in the win, including rushing yards against an SEC opponent (457), individual rushing yards (quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran for 258 of those) and yards per rush (9.7). Feasting on an Ole Miss defense that finished 120th nationally against the run, it was the first time in school history MSU had a 200-yard rusher and a 100-yard rusher in the same game.
“Everybody was locked in that week. We wanted to bring that trophy back to Starkville,” MSU offensive tackle Martinas Rankin said. “It’s a great rivalry and a prideful rivalry for me because I’m from Mississippi. Just going into that week and knowing you wanted to get those bragging rights, it was a fun game. It was a good environment to play in. I loved every minute of it.”
MSU receiver Donald Gray recalled that focus leading to a sharp week of practice ahead of the game. He added he wasn’t surprised that MSU, which racked up 566 total yards and turned it over just once, executed as well as it did, but even he had to do a double-take when glancing at the scoreboard that night.
“Whoever it was, when you put in the work that week, you kind of already expect it,” Gray said. “It’s kind of in awe of the scene like, ‘Dang, that’s the score right there? We did that?'”
Both teams will start fresh in less than two months looking for more after finishing in the cellar of the Western Division standings. Ole Miss is coming off its first losing season under sixth-year coach Hugh Freeze while MSU posted the same 5-7 record in the regular season but received a bowl invitation based on its APR score.
“We’re focused on going into this season,” Rankin said. “It was a great win to finish the season, but it’s new challenges ahead and we’ve got to prepare for them.”
They’ll get to do it with bragging rights in tow.
“Just holding up that trophy,” Harris said. “It was a great feeling to get it back.”