*This year's telecast ends a three-year absence of TV cameras for the ‘Egg Bowl.' And the last time the rivalry was played for LFS's predecessor, Jefferson-Pilot Sports, was in 1997 with a split-broadcast on ESPN2. State is 5-7 in Egg Bowls played on TV, either regional or national.
About the Rebels: It's been, well, an interesting fall in Oxford. Frustrating, too, after a season featuring fourth-quarter failures and close (literally, in one case) calls that went the wrong way and made Ole Miss the first and so far only SEC team eliminated from bowl consideration. But give the Rebels credit for not collapsing along the way. Only once have they been truly blown out, and they responded to that loss by stringing together some of their most competitive contests. In fact this team has made a trademark of giving foes fits for four periods, in hopes that sooner or later one game would fall in their favor. This is the last chance and if one win won't salvage a lost season it would soothe some pride. And, prevent their first winless SEC campaign in a quarter-century.
Offense: Or make that ‘offenses' because the Ole Miss game-plan hinges on, and changes with, whichever quarterback is under-center for that particular series. Oh, Seth Adams has gotten all 11 starts, but the last four times out fellow senior Brent Schaeffer has gotten his turns, too. The best of which was his 208-yard passing day against LSU, almost as many yards as he'd netted the previous three outings. Schaeffer has been good for a touchdown off the bench most every appearance but is a 40% passer. His forte is rolling, reading, and doing something with the ball for good (5.6 yards per rush) or ill (three picks). Adams is the pocket-passer of the pair with 55% completions and 1,979 yards, though also a negative TD-to-INT rate of 12 to 16. Still it's a defensive challenge to prep for a scrambler who can make plays afoot or a deep-ball thrower. What doesn't change is the ground-gaining threat of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The second-year senior has 1,020 yards with five touchdowns, and if he's not a big breakaway threat the 225-pounder does indeed pound defensive fronts. Bruce Hall is almost as productive a backup at 4.5 yards, and fullback Jason Cook can throw his 240 pounds into blocking or swing out for timely catches. For longer strikes split ends Shay Hodge (41 catches, 564 yards) and Mike Wallace (37, 707) are the targets of choice with double-digit gains and 11 touchdowns between them. Meanwhile flankers Marshay Green (29, 235) and Dexter McCluster (26, 312) work underneath for grab-and-goes. The blocking lineup has been reasonably consistent, certainly so on the left side with T Michael Oher and G Reid Neely opening every game. Lone senior starter Corey Actis is the stability in the middle of a group that averages 320 pounds, though the ‘bulk' of that is on the right side with paired 340-pounders G John Jerry and T Maurice Miller. They've allowed 27 sacks, 9th in the league standings this week. The Rebels wish they stood that highly in other categories, because despite some good-looking numbers Ole Miss ranks 12th in SEC scoring. And last also in turnover margin.
Defense: It's not a good combination to rank last in both scoring and scoring-defense, but that's where the Rebels are after a tough season facing some pretty potent attacks. Ole Miss allows over 29 points per game, as well as 437 yards at a league-worst 5.7 on each snap. And it's a ‘balanced' business too, at 210 yards given up on the ground each week and 227 in the air. The most telling stat, though, is the 272 first downs allowed; or thirty more than #11 Kentucky. Yet this defense has some talent and much-improved speed to work with. Such as up on the line. DE Greg Hardy is having an all-star season with a SEC-best 10.0 sacks to go with three forced fumbles and 62 total tackles…and he's not even been the starter. That status goes to Marcus Tillman and Viciente DeLoach with six TFLs between them. The interior has experience and size with 310-pound Peria Jerry, who has 13.5 stops behind the line, and 300-pound Brandon Jenkins. Three juco linebackers have been instant hits. Ashlee Palmer is on the strong-side LB, topping the team with 84 tackles but also picking two passes and breaking up more. And 245-pound MLB Tony Fein has 78 more stops. Veterans Dustin Mouzon and Nate Banks have had their work cut out on both corners, and Mouzon has a pair of picks with four PBUs. Junior Jamara Sanford is all over the place as strong safety, with 79 tackles and five of those for losses. And true freshman Johnny Brown has taken over at free safety and handled the responsibility well. The secondary gets tested plenty and ranks last in SEC pass efficiency defense, while the whole unit struggles to stop opponents on third downs. Yet scoring points on the Rebels can't be taken for granted as they actually are third-best in red-zone defense.
Specialists: A couple of sophomores have the specialists jobs. Justin Sparks hits his punts for a solid 40.2 yards with nine fair-catches and 12 more downed inside the twenty-yard line. He also kicks off. Joshua Shene is 11-of-16 on field goals with a 51-yarder on the resume, though he's also 1-of-3 on 40-to-49 yard efforts. Any one of several wideouts will return both sorts of kicks and the net exchange of punting is usually positive. Kickoff return coverage is a weak point, though.
The Series: The SEC's second-most-played series began in 1901, though both schools were fielding football teams earlier. Ole Miss owns a 59-38-6 lead and has won four of the last five games. State did take the last meeting in Starkville, in 2005, but even at home the Bulldogs trail all-time by a 20-10-3 margin. Sylvester Croom is 1-2 against the in-state rival, while Ed Orgeron is 1-1 against State.
The Last Time (November 25, 2006): Despite an offense crippled by injuries, Mississippi State went down to the literal last second before falling 20-17 at Oxford as a 51-yard field goal went wide on the day's last play. With starter Mike Henig out, former QB Omarr Conner was forced into duty on a torn groin that limited his movement and MSU's gameplan. The Rebels took a quick lead as tight end Greg Hardy out-jumped his defender for a 23-yard touchdown catch at 11:02 of the opening period. A swap of field goals kept UM in front, until Bulldog halfback Anthony Dixon dove two yards 2:55 before halftime for a 10-10 intermission tie. While Ole Miss' offense did little in the last half, a clutch throw by quarterback Brent Schaeffer let the Rebels drive close enough for a 20-yard field goal. The biggest play also came in the kicking game as Marshay Adams returned a Bulldog punt at 3:29 of the final quarter. Conner hit tight end Jason Husband for a touchdown a minute later to keep it a contest. The Rebels recovered the kickoff, didn't move chains, and State got one last chance only to see Adam Carlson's effort go far enough but outside the post. State out-gained the hosts 314 yards to 200 as Conner threw for 162 yards and Dixon ran for 125 more, twice working out of a direct-snap. Schaeffer had 131 passing yards and BenJarvus Green-Ellis 37 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Did You Know? This is the longest uninterrupted rivalry in the SEC, with 91-straight games played since 1915, ahead of both Auburn-Georgia and Tennessee-Kentucky at 87-straight meetings each. The league does not count years where no team(s) were fielded as breaks in the series.
Bulldog Player Notes and Records: Senior DE Titus Brown, and the whole defense for that matter, was held without a sack Saturday. Brown also was not credited with a tackle-for-loss at Little Rock, only the third time in the last 19 games he has not scored a stop behind the line of scrimmage. Brown still leads the team in both categories with 8.0 and 12.0 respectively.
*Brown has 18.5 sacks in his career, just behind the 19.0 by Greg Favors (1994-97) for 6th place on the MSU list. Brown also needs one more sack to move into the MSU career top-ten.
*Between them, Brown and fellow senior DE Avery Hannibal have 10.0 of the team's 15.0 sacks; and 23 of the 43 quarterback ‘hurries.' In fact these starting ends have more hurries than ten MSU opponents combined this year, 22.
*State also was unable to intercept an Arkansas pass. Still this defense already has more picks, 14, than last year's team did all season, 12. Five of the interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, all in MSU wins.
*Sophomore CB Anthony Johnson has two of those ‘pick-sixes', against UAB and Alabama. His 100-yard return in the latter game set the school record. Johnson also now is tied for the MSU season record for intrerception/touchdowns with S Derek Pegues (two in 2006), Harper Davis (1948), Walt Harris (1994), and Conner Stephens (2000) for the season record.
*Johnson now leads the secondary with three picks in 2007. Pegues (Auburn, South Carolina) and S De'Mon Glanton (GW, Kentucky) have two each this year.
*The other interception touchdowns for State this year are by LB Gabe O'Neal (Tulane), Pegues (Auburn), Glanton (GW).
*Johnson is still just one pass-broken-up ahead of Glanton, 8 to 7. The pair have 15 PBUs and the rest of the squad 20.
*Pegues still holds the career record for interception touchdowns with three. He also now has eight picks for his career, one shy of making the MSU top-ten list. He averages nearly 22 yards on every interception return.
*Pegues is now tied for the career record in kickoff returns at 78, even with Tony James (1989-92). He is still second in return yardage to James, 1,862 to 1,753.
*With three punt returns at Arkansas, Pegues passed Glen Young (1979-82) for 6th place in career yardage at 531 on his 47 chances. Next-up is the 530 by #5 Billy Stacy (1956-58).
*The team tackles lead has changed, again, after a huge day by MLB Jamar Chaney. He was credited by the host stat-crew with 14 tackles, his career-high and the most by a Bulldog since Quinton Culberson's 12 stops last year against West Virginia. This gives Chaney 73 tackles for the season, edging him ahead of WLB Dominic Douglas (63) and SLB Gabe O'Neal (62).
*O'Neal is tops in ‘solo' hits with 39 compared to 36 for Chaney; and Douglas is the lead-linebacker in tackles-for-losses at 8.0, behind only DE Brown on the team.
*P Blake McAdams now has punted 195 times in his three State seasons. With three more punts he will tie the kicker he succeeded, Jared Cook (2001-04) for 4th on the list. The MSU record is 217 punts by Dana Moore (1979-82). McAdams is also 5th in career yards at 7,799.
*McAdams has had 15 of his punts this year downed inside the red zone, and only one touchback all year.
*Junior WR Jamayel Smith had a career day with ten catches and 208 yards at Arkansas. This, after getting 247 yards in the previous ten games of '07.
*The ten grabs were the most by a Bulldog since Eric Moulds in 1995. And the yardage was the highest output by a MSU receiver since Danny Knight (vs. Florida 1982) had the same total. Smith, Knight, and Sammy Milner (vs. Texas Tech 1968) are tied for second-most yards in a single game. The record is 215 by David Smith against Texas Tech in 1970.
*Smith also took over first place in '07 receiving yards with 455.
*Senior WR Tony Burks slipped to second place on the team yards list, but still added four catches and 59 yards to his totals. He also continues to lead in '07 receptions at 30. Burks has caught at least one ball in the last 19 games.
*Burks is netting 13.9 yards per-catch. He averaged a SEC-best 24.3 yards last season. Smith is getting 16.3 per-catch after 11 games.
*Smith and Burks have six of the team's 11 touchdown receptions.
*Senior TE Jason Husband has emerged as the late-year target of choice for the tough plays. Husband had a career-day with six catches, 78 yards, and a touchdown at Arkansas. It was his second scoring grab in the last three games, and Husband is up to 12.1 yards per-catch. He has the only scores by a Bulldog tight end this year.
*Eight Dogs caught at least one ball Saturday, including FB Brandon Hart—only his second catch all season—and HB Christian Ducre. A ‘stinger' from practice limited FB Eric Hoskins' day after the walk-on had produced nine catches, 70 yards, and five first downs in the previous five games.
*After getting 31 yards in the first quarter, HB Anthony Dixon managed only nine yards in the last three periods as State had to go all-air, all-the-time. Still the sophomore set a season record on his second carry, breaking the 1998 record of James ‘JJ' Johnson of 236 carries. Dixon has toted the pigskin 252 times this year.
*And his 954 yards in 2007 are the 10th-most by a Bulldog, edging Michael Davis (1994) off the top-ten list. Dixon is also having the 9th-best season for rushing average at 86.7 through 11 games.
*Dixon can post only the ninth 1,000-yard year by a Bulldog back. He has four this year.
*He remains tied for 3rd in season rushing touchdowns at 13, with John Bond (1983) and Keffer McGee (1995). The record is 16 by Jackie Parker in 1952.
*After two years Dixon is entrenched on the career lists also. He is 16th in yardage at 1,622 and just a 25-yard burst out of the top-15; 10th in career rushes at 421 having passed Dontae Walker (417, 1999-02); and tied for 5th in rushing touchdowns with Walker at 22 apiece. That career mark (27, Michael Davis 1991-94) is within reach after just two years with a big Egg Bowl and post-season bowl.
*Ducre has been a productive counterpart to Dixon. He has scored three rushing touchdowns this sophomore season, two of them in SEC games including the winning points at Auburn. He has 460 rushing yards this year and his average gain of 4.6 yards is better than Dixon's 3.7.
*Freshman QB Wesley Carroll became the first Bulldog to throw for over 400 yards in 13 years, and just the fourth ever, when he compiled 421 yards against Arkansas. That was the third-best day in MSU annals, behind only Derrick Taite (466, 1996 Tulane) and Dave Marler (429, 1978 Alabama).
*Carroll's 51 attempts were second-most by a Bulldog behind only Joe Reed's 53 throws against LSU in 1970. Carroll had 29 completions; the record is Tommy Pharr's 32 against Alabama in 1969.
*The four touchdowns Saturday tied for the MSU game record, matching Tony Shell (twice), Taite (twice), and Omarr Conner.
*Carroll is 113-of-209 this freshman year, for 1,223 yards. He typical completion nets 10.8 yards.
*Carroll went ten games with only one interception this rookie year, and set MSU records for both season and overall consecutive-unintercepted-passes at 137. That fell one shy of the NCAA record to begin a career.
*Carroll did have four balls end up in the wrong hands Saturday. Yet against his five total interceptions the rookie has thrown for eight touchdowns. And he's spread the ball around to wideouts, tight ends, and running backs with each category producing at least one touchdown catch.
*Intentionally or not, Carroll has run the ball 34 times and produced a net gain of 20 yards.
*State quarterbacks have been sacked 18 times this year, compared to 29 last season.
*PK Adam Carlson made good on his only field goal opportunity against Arkansas and is 8-of-11 for the year, 16-of-27 for his career. And after his 47-consecutive PAT streak ended in the UAB game Carlson has been good on the last 17 tries.
*Two Bulldog seniors own the team lead in career games played. Both TE Dezmond Sherrod and DE Avery Hannibal have gotten on the field in 45 contests through four seasons. The consecutive-start lead belongs to P Blake McAdams at 34. C Royce Blackledge is first among the non-specialists in starts with 29-straight.
*A total of 42 Bulldogs have started at least one game this season. Only 11 players have started every game of 2007, including the two specialists.
*This year six true freshmen have played: LB K.J. Wright, QB Wesley Carroll, ST Karlin Brown, S Zach Smith, DT Lamarcus Williams, and OT Derek Sherrod.
*True freshmen who have not played are QB Chris Relf, S Wade Bonner, HB Robert Elliott, HB Marcus Green, LB Jamie Jones, CB Damein Anderson, LB Terrell Johnson, OL Addison Lawrence, OL/SN D.J. Looney, OL Dakota Merritt, PK Eric Richards (injured), DL Quentin Saulsberry, and FB Ethan Stockett.