They call it the Egg Bowl, but the annual Mississippi State-Ole Miss football game has nothing to do with the state’s agricultural prowess. According to Department of Agriculture data, Iowa is actually the top producer of eggs in the United States (15%), followed by Ohio and Indiana (both 9%). Mississippi doesn’t even get a mention in this “Egg-STAT-ic” post from 2021.
So what’s the deal with the nickname? Well, it’s what happens when fans need something shiny to distract them from thoughts of malice and a newspaper headline writer decides to take matters into his own hands.
Let’s start with the trophy and the original nickname. Although the rivalry dates back to 1901 — State won the first game, Ole Miss the second — there was no postgame prize handed out until 1927. And the reason for the change was practical: Officials needed something to hold spectators’ attention once the game was over. A year earlier, a massive brawl had broken out among the fan bases. So both student bodies, in an effort to “foster clean sportsmanship,” commissioned a trophy to be called “The Golden Egg.” It was gold and glossy and beautiful … and because it was more obtuse than the common football and lacked any raised edges to mimic the stitching of a football, it looked exactly like a golden egg.
Fast-forward half a century and the game-day edition of The Clarion-Ledger in 1978. Executive editor Tom Patterson — perhaps tired of an unnecessarily wordy nickname, perhaps intent on a certain style of pun — wrote the headline, “Egg Bowl Is Up For Scramble.” And the Egg Bowl evolved from shorthand to a sort of official-unofficial nickname that both schools use interchangeably with The Battle for the Golden Egg.
But this is all backstory. They could call it The Battle for the Fuzzy Soybean (the state’s top agricultural export) and it would still be compelling. Although Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State and Florida-Florida State might have more national relevance in terms of their impact on the national championship race, no rivalry week game produces more drama than Mississippi State-Ole Miss. (One SEC power broker once told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that the rivalry “makes Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama look like Sunday school.”) The first time they played, there was a one-hour delay because Ole Miss accused State of playing nonstudents.
There have been plenty of fights and more than enough pettiness shared between the two schools. When Dan Mullen was still the head coach of the Bulldogs, he refused to call the Rebs by their name. Instead, he simply referred to “The School Up North” in interviews. In-house game schedules made use of the slight, subbing in TSUN for Ole Miss.
The two current coaches are actually quite chummy these days, but the two programs can’t help but feud. They can’t even agree on basic facts. Although they both cite Ole Miss as the leader in the series with a record of 64-48-6, Mississippi State says the game has been played on Thanksgiving 27 times and Ole Miss puts the number at 30.
Whatever record book you subscribe to, the rivalry will be played for the 119th time this Thanksgiving (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). To get you ready, here are some of the most interesting games in Egg Bowl history.
1983: The Immaculate Deflection
Sometimes nicknames are misleading. The “Immaculate Deflection” wasn’t really a deflection at all — unless you believe in cosmic events. Mississippi State, which had surrendered a 17-0 lead and trailed 24-23 with 24 seconds left to play, had a game-winning field goal within its grasp. Artie Crosby attempted the 27-yard kick and it looked to be well on its way — good height, good line, good everything. State fans started celebrating. But then the ball just stopped at its apex. It was as if Mother Nature swatted it down herself, the strong wind gust sending the ball to the far left of the goalposts.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard marveled, “I’ve never seen a kick come backwards in my years of coaching. It was like something reached down and stopped the ball in flight.”
1999: The pick and the kick
This game might be the best in the rivalry’s history. It was one of those rare occasions when both schools were ranked: Ole Miss 23rd, Mississippi State 18th. The Rebs jumped out to a 20-6 lead, but the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game with only 27 seconds remaining.
And rather than play for overtime on the road, Ole Miss had Romaro Miller air it out downfield. Except Robert Bean deflected the pass and kicked it up in the air. Eugene Clinton got under it and caught the interception around the 50-yard line and ran the ball back to the 27 with 8 seconds left. Scott Westerfield then connected on the 44-yard game-winning field goal. Once Ole Miss went out of bounds on the kickoff return, fans rushed the field.
2013: Dak announces his arrival
Legends are made in rivalry games. Before Dak Prescott led Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking in 2014 and before he set school records on his way to becoming a fourth-round draft pick a year later, he was a sophomore in his first season as a starter, dealing with an arm injury that knocked him out of the two games before the Egg Bowl. And for the first three quarters against Ole Miss, he stood on the sideline.
But, with the Bulldogs trailing by a field goal with 11 minutes left, Prescott persuaded Mullen to let him in the game. After knocking off the rust during his first drive, he drove the offense 59 yards on 13 plays to secure a game-tying field goal. Then, in overtime, he ran for the winning touchdown.
2019: The costly dog pee penalty
Mississippi State escapes with a 21-20 victory after Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore was penalized for celebrating a touchdown by pretending to urinate like a dog and the Rebels missed the ensuing extra point.
First, there needs to be context about the Egg Bowl to end all Egg Bowls. Because if you thought the 2019 game was the first time an Ole Miss player faked urinating on Mississippi State’s field, you’d be wrong. Two years earlier, after a pregame scuffle, DK Metcalf scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, hiked his leg to mimic a dog peeing and incurred a 15-yard penalty.
And just to make sure the fire was still burning before the return trip to Starkville, let’s not forget AJ Brown’s would-be touchdown at the end of a third-quarter blowout in Oxford and the pushing and shoving that turned into a bench-clearing brawl . To punctuate the lack of civility, referees assessed a penalty to every player on both teams.
OK, now on to 2019. There have been wild plays and wild finishes throughout Egg Bowl history, but no game has produced more fireworks than the one in 2019. After playing to a tie in the first half, the Bulldogs went ahead on a Garrett Shrader 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And it looked as if that was that as Ole Miss punted twice and threw an interception in the fourth quarter. But then, with 2 minutes left, Matt Corral, who had come on in relief of starter John Rhys Plumlee, drove the Rebs 80 yards on 11 plays. On the 2-yard line with only 4 seconds remaining, Corral found Elijah Moore in the end zone for what looked like the tying score. Except Moore repeated Metcalf’s antics, hiked his leg right in front of a referee and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The touchdown held, but you can guess what happened next. Pushed back 15 yards from the penalty, Luke Logan missed the point after attempt and State won.
In a game in which both coaches were on the hot seat, neither survived. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke days later and replaced him with headline-grabbing Lane Kiffin. Not to be outdone, Mississippi State fired Joe Moorhead and got a big name of its own in Mike Leach.