Video: Ole Miss celebrates 1st Egg Bowl win in Starkville since ’03
STARKVILLE-- That's not how Dak Prescott was supposed to go out at home.
In front of the fans at Davis Wade Stadium he helped bring to their feet. Where he was Dan Mullen's poster child for development while setting 38 school records. Prescott was supposed to give the Bulldog faithful a couple more reasons to clang away against arch-rival Ole Miss.
Instead, the senior struggled out of the gate, fumbling in Rebels territory and then throwing a pick six as the visitors rolled to an impressive 38-27 victory.
The win marked No. 19 Ole Miss' first in Starkville since the Rebels blanked the Bulldogs 31-0 in 2003.
The victory is also Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze's third in the series.
"I understand the importance of this game and I don't run from it. I know I'll be judged upon this game and so will Dan (Mullen), fairly or unfairly," Freeze said. "How much that weighs, I don't get to decide that. There is no running from it. It is a huge game on your schedule and one when you win it, it makes Christmas much sweeter."
The Rebels (9-3, 6-2 SEC) got after Prescott early and consistently through the game. Even through he was sacked seven times, he still ended up passing for 254 yards with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Malik Dear. He also rushed for a 1-yard score - joining Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only quarterbacks in the last 20 years to rush for 10 scores in three straight seasons - and finished with 63 yards rushing.
"I thought he was very uncomfortable in the pocket and that was our goal, to get after him early and make him one dimensional," Freeze said. "... I'm glad he's moving on. He is through, right?"
Where Prescott struggled early, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was near in the first half to pace the Rebels. The junior ended up throwing for 236 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 74 and another score. Perhaps most importantly, the former East Mississippi quarterback was turnover free for a third straight game.
"It's just the added focus and more comfort in the system," Freeze said. "He forced some things early on in the season."
About three weeks ago, the Rebels added more quarterback runs into their playbook, which Freeze thinks has helped Kelly.
On top of a 27-yard touchdown run to open the night's scoring, Kelly connected with Damore'ea Stringfellow for touchdown passes of 2 and 36 yards in the first half.
"I think that we messed up some tackling," former Long Beach High standout and current Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown said. "We kind of dug outselves a hole in the first half. We knew what was coming, we just didn't execute very well. We had some mental errors here and there."
Former Gulf Coast standout Tony Bridges pushed Ole Miss' lead to 21-0 late in the first quarter. Prescott was flushed from the pocket and made a throw toward the Ole Miss sideline. Bridges hijacked the pass and returned it 45 yards.
After missing his first two - shorter - kicks of the night, Gary Wunderlich booted a 48-yarder with 2:35 remaining in the third to push Ole Miss' lead to 31-13.
Running back Jordan Wilkins extended Ole Miss' lead to 38-13 on the fourth play of the fourth quarter on a 38-yard run. The dash up the middle came one play after Kelly fumbled while scrambling but was able to recover the loose ball on the bounce.
The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) rounded out their scoring with 27 and 22-yard field goals by Westin Graves. Brown led MSU with 12 tackles.
Saturday's win could help the Rebels back-door their way into a Sugar Bowl bid. The Rebels are currently ranked 18th in the College Football Playoff rankings. With 12th-ranked Florida falling to Florida State, plus a daunting matchup against second-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship game, the Gators could slip below the Rebels in the rankings. The swap would put Ole Miss as the second-ranked SEC team, earning the school its first Sugar Bowl bid since the 1970 game (and 1969 season).