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 data from the Department of Agriculture, Iowa is currently the top producer of eggs in the United States (15%), followed by Ohio and Indiana (both 9%). Mississippi isn’t even mentioned in this 2021 “Egg-STAT-ic” post.
So what’s the matter with the nickname? Well, that’s what happens when fans need something shiny to distract them from thoughts of mischief and a newspaper headline writer decides to take matters into his own hands.
Let’s start with the original trophy and nickname. Although the rivalry dates back to 1901 — State won the first game, Ole Miss the second — no postgame prizes were awarded until 1927. And the reason for the change was practical: Officials needed something to attract viewers’ attention once game is over. A massive brawl had broken out between the fans a year earlier. So both student bodies, in an effort to “promote clean sportsmanship,” commissioned a trophy which they called “The Golden Egg.” It was gold, shiny, and beautiful—and because it was duller than the average soccer ball and lacked raised edges to mimic the stitching on a soccer ball, it looked just 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 long-winded moniker, perhaps intent on a certain style of pun – wrote the title, “Egg bowl is ready to scramble.” And the Egg Bowl has evolved from a shorthand to a sort of official-unofficial nickname that both schools use interchangeably with The Battle for the Golden Egg.
But that’s all backstory. They could call it The Battle for Fuzzy Soybeans (the state’s top agricultural export) and it would still be compelling. While Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, and Florida-Florida State may have more national significance in terms of impacting the national championship race, no rivalry game of the week produces more drama than Mississippi State-Ole Miss. (An SEC power broker once told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that the rivalry “makes Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama feel like Sunday school.”) The first time they played, there was a delay by an hour because Ole Miss accused State of playing non-students.
There were many quarrels and more than enough meanness shared between the two schools. When Dan Mullen was still the head coach of the Bulldogs, he refused to call the Rebs by their first name. Instead, he has simply referred to “The School Up North” in interviews. Internal game programs used the lightweight, substitute in TSUN for Ole Miss.
The two current coaches are actually pretty friendly these days, but the two programs can’t help but feud. They can’t even agree on the basic facts. Although both cite Ole Miss as the series leader with a 64-48-6 record, Mississippi State claims the game has been played on Thanksgiving 27 times, and Ole Miss puts the number at 30.
Whichever record book you subscribe to, the rivalry will be played out for the 119th time this Thanksgiving (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). To prepare you, here are some of the coolest games in Egg Bowl history.
1983: The Immaculate Detour
Sometimes nicknames are misleading. The “immaculate detour” was no detour at all, unless you believe in cosmic events. Mississippi State, who had surrendered a 17–0 lead and trailed 24–23 with 24 seconds left, had a game-winning field goal in easy reach. Artie Crosby attempted the kick from 27 yards out and seemed to be on his way: good height, good line, good everything. State fans started celebrating. But then the ball just stopped at its peak. It was as if Mother Nature had crushed it by herself, the strong gust of wind sending the ball to the far left of the posts.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard marveled, “I’ve never seen a kick go back in my coaching years. It was like something went down and stopped the ball in flight.”
1999: The pick and the football
This game could be the best in the history of the rivalry. It was one of those rare occasions where 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 just 27 seconds left.
And instead of playing overtime on the road, Ole Miss had Romaro Miller aired the field. Only Robert Bean deflected the pass and threw it in the air. Eugene Clinton ran under it and took the interception around the 50-yard line and put the ball back on the 27 with 8 seconds left. Scott Westerfield then connected on the game-winning 44-yard 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 No. 1 overall in 2014 and before setting school records en route to becoming a fourth-round draft pick a year later, was a sophomore in his first season as a starter, struggling with an arm injury that sidelined him from the two games before the Egg Bowl. And for the first three quarters against Ole Miss, he was courtside.
But, with the Bulldogs trailing by a field goal with 11 minutes left, Prescott convinced Mullen to let him into the game. After stopping halftime on 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 game-winning touchdown.
2019: The expensive dog peeing 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 must be some context about the Egg Bowl to finish all Egg Bowls. Because if you thought the 2019 game was the first time an Ole Miss player pretended to urinate on the Mississippi State field, you’d be wrong. Two years earlier, after a pregame scuffle, DK Metcalf scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, lifted his leg to mimic a dog pee, and took a 15-yard penalty.
And just to make sure the fire was still burning before the drive back to Starkville, let’s not forget AJ Brown’s would-be touchdown at the end of a third quarter blowout in Oxford and the shoving and shoving that escalated into a brawl. to clear the bench. To underscore the lack of civility, the referees assessed a penalty to every player on both teams.
OK, now to 2019. There have been crazy plays and crazy finishes in 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 leading on a Garrett Shrader 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And that seemed to be the case when Ole Miss punted twice and threw an interception in the fourth quarter. But then, with 2 minutes left, Matt Corral, who had come on as a replacement for starter John Rhys Plumlee, drove the Rebs 80 yards on 11 plays. At 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, he kicked his leg right in front of a referee and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The touchdown hero, but you can guess what happened next. Pushed back 15 yards from the penalty, Luke Logan missed the point after the attempt and State won.
In a game where both managers were in the hot seat, neither man survived. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke days later and replaced him with Lane Kiffin, who grabbed the headlines. Not to be outdone, the state of Mississippi fired Joe Moorhead and got a big name in Mike Leach.