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“Disappointed”: Rebels react to Elijah Moore’s late-game gaffe

STARKVILLE – One single word has led off more Ole Miss postgame press conferences than any others this season: “Disappointed.”

Thursday night in Starkville, that word led for head coach Matt Luke, just like so many others this season. Following the Egg Bowl loss, the word had a little different meaning.

Following scoring what could have been the game-tying touchdown near the end of the game, Elijah Moore did the unthinkable. In a clear imitation of what D.K. Metcalf did in Starkville just two years earlier, Moore got on all fours, hiking his leg up in a depiction of a dog urinating.

The play was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, backing the Rebel extra point back to a 35-yard kick. Luke Logan missed wide right.

Simply put, the penalty may have lost Ole Miss the game, and coaches and teammates had things to say.

“I’m disappointed. It’s not who we are. We’ve been a disciplined team all year and I’m just disappointed that it happened,” Luke said. “I told him I was disappointed. That’s not who he is. Elijah is a good kid and he got caught up in the moment.”

Luke said he couldn’t see exactly what happened from his position on the sideline. Players made available to media seemed to think the penalty was not something that was planned, but was something that happened in the moment.

Moore, typical of nearly any situation like the one that went down at the end of the Egg Bowl, was not made available to media afterwards to talk. Some of his teammates were.

“We were a little down. The whole team, we’re were still down,” said linebacker Lakia Henry. “We had this one.”

John Rhys Plumlee addressed the situation a bit more directly.

“I didn’t really have a good look at it. Everyone was more excited that we scored a touchdown,” Plumlee said. “When you’re excited and you make a big play, you celebrate a little bit. That call just didn’t go our way. …It’s an emotional game and that’s part of it sometimes.”

According to those on the team, Moore didn’t address the team about the situation in the postgame locker room.

Moore’s coordinator Rich Rodriguez, the one calling the play that got him open for the touchdown, tried his best to diffuse the situation, taking blame off Moore. But he admitted the play hurts.

“Any defeat you can’t pinpoint to one play,” Rodriguez said. “This will hurt for a while, for a long while. But we just have to learn for it.”

The Rebel coaching staff admitted they had thought about going for two following the touchdown, but had already settled that they would kick the point after regardless. The penalty cemented that decision; at that point they had no choice but to attempt the kick.

The following afternoon, the university released two statements, one a joint statement from Matt Luke and athletic director Keith Carter and another from Moore.

“We want to apologize formally as a program to the Ole Miss family for the disappointing and unacceptable action that occurred at the end of Thursday’s game,” the joint statement read. “Elijah is a fine young man who lost control of his emotions in the moment. This incident does not reflect in any way the type of student-athletes on our football team or the culture of respect that permeates our locker room. Discipline is a staple of our program as evidenced by being the least penalized team in our league, and we will continue to uphold an uncompromising standard of behavior on and off the field. In maintaining our team’s high level of accountability, we will address the matter, and disciplinary action will be handled internally.”

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches and Rebel Nation for my actions at the end of the game,” Moore’s statement read. “It was an emotional moment, and I deeply regret it. It does not represent who I am or who we are as a team, and I will grow stronger from this mistake.”

In the end, the Rebel staff players and many Ole Miss fans feel that same word: disappointed.