SuperTalk Mississippi

Fitzgerald injured as Rebels reclaim Golden Egg Trophy

Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Ole Miss has reclaimed the Golden Egg trophy with a 31-28 win on Thanksgiving night.

While a pre-game scuffle or two may have had Davis Wade Stadium rocking, the tone of this year’s Egg Bowl changed early on. Ole Miss scored a touchdown on their opening drive in just 39 seconds to take a 7-0 lead. An INT thrown by MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald gave Ole Miss a chance to widen their lead, but the drive stalled and no harm was done.

Looking to even the score, Fitzgerald led the offense onto the field but after a short gain on 2nd down, the junior QB’s night was over. A gruesome injury to Fitzgerald’s right ankle silenced all of those on both sidelines and everyone in attendance. Freshman Keytaon Thompson entered the game but was unable to get the Bulldog offense in gear. MSU put just six points on the board before the half, three of which came by way of a questionable decision by Ole Miss coach Matt Luke to call a timeout with 15 seconds remaining in the half, giving Dan Mullen time to craft a screen pass which got the Bulldogs into FG range.

On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu and the Rebels were having trouble scoring after their opening drive. The Rebels could muster only a FG to head into the locker room with a 10-6 lead at the half.

After trading punts on the opening drives in the second half, the third MSU turnover the night gave the Rebels a chance to strike, and they took advantage. Two plays later, Ta’amu would find A.J. Brown for a 77-yard TD to stretch the Rebel lead to 17-6. Later in the quarter, another big play would give Ole Miss their largest lead of the night. D.K. Metcalf was on the receiving end of a 63-yard touchdown in the final minutes of the third quarter.

Despite losing their starting QB early on, the Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight. Thompson orchestrated an 8-play 44-yard TD drive for the Bulldogs first touchdown with 9:16 left in the game. The Rebels answered with a score of their own and the score sat at 31-13 with just over 8:00 remaining.

Freshman RB for the Bulldogs Kylin Hill’s 30-yard TD run capped an 11-play drive to keep MSU’s hopes alive. After a 2-point conversion, the Bulldogs trailed 31-21 with 5:00 left.

Ole Miss was unable to move the ball and ice the game on their next possession and gave the ball right back to Thompson and the Bulldog offense with all of the momentum on their side. Mississippi State wouldn’t squander the chance to trim the Rebel lead once again. Less than two minutes later, Thompson took it himself for a 1-yard TD and all of a sudden, the Rebel lead was down to just 31-28.

An onside kick recovered by Ole Miss sealed the deal and an entertaining fourth quarter came to a close with the Rebels pulling the upset over the 14th ranked Bulldogs.

The loss of Fitzgerald early on was a substantial blow to the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball. Thompson was able make plays with his legs and eventually began to find his rhythm as the game progressed, but they were unable to overcome five turnovers forced by the Rebel defense.

Ta’amu didn’t have a particularly efficient game, but the big plays were enough to get the Rebels their 6th and most important win of the season. He finished 10/22 for 247 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. A.J. Brown was once again Ta’amu’s favorite target. The Biletnikoff Award semifinalist finished with 6 catches for 167 yards and the one TD. The sophomore WR also surpassed Laquon Treadwell for most receiving yards in Ole Miss single season history on Thursday night. Ta’amu was also assisted by the running game as well with Jordan Wilkins surpassing 100 yards and scoring twice.

The Ole Miss defense was ranked 124th in defending the run coming into the game, and even with the loss of Fitzgerald, the Bulldogs were still able to move the ball, but the Rebels were able to clamp down when it mattered to force turnovers. MSU outgained the Rebels 501 to 355 and held the advantage in time of possession by over 15 minutes, but the big plays turned out to be too much to overcome. Three different Bulldogs finished with over 75 rushing yards, led by Thompson with 121.

Injuries are unfortunately a part of football, and the injury to Fitzgerald certainly put a damper on this year’s contest, but the final product was a hard fought, down to the wire matchup, with a little bit of attitude in between; which is all you can ask for in the annual battle for the Golden Egg.

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