Final Act

Jason Jones jogged off, a smile on his face, his jersey drenched in sweat. Ole Miss had just finished off a win over Arkansas in Little Rock. Only one more win for bowl eligibility.

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"We'll take it," he said, the Rebels using a Bryson Rose field goal late to place them on the cusp of a postseason berth. A win Ole Miss needed. Surely there was one more win somewhere in its final four: Georgia, Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State.

Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) lost each of its next three games. All that's left is the Egg Bowl, set for Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Senior night. One final shot. His last regular season game.

"As much as it means to this state, to go out with an Egg Bowl win would be good," he said. "First of all, for the fans, and for the seniors. We've been here for years and we've been getting beat the last couple of years, so it would mean a lot to us."

Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC) boasts a three-game winning streak in the series, dating back to 2009. A game Jones hasn't forgotten.

The Rebels were 8-4 overall as they walked into Starkville. A win meant a spot in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Mississippi State had but four wins on the year. Still, the Bulldogs dominated the visiting team, coasting to a 41-27 win.

"That's when it really clicked with me," he says now, three years older. "To see my guys go down there and lose a game and to see the bragging rights they've had for the years, it makes me want to go out there and play hard to win."

Jones didn't play in the game. No, 2009 was the year he suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Memphis -- the first game of the season.

So, he has plenty to be thankful for as he prepares for what could be his final game. With a win, Ole Miss punches its ticket to the postseason. A loss means the end of his college career.

Jason Jones
Bruce Newman

"To go out with a bang would be something really good for us," he said. "I'm thankful for the younger guys that play for the seniors, man. They mean a lot to us.

"When we go out with a bang, we're going to be remembered as the foundation of bringing Ole Miss back to where it needs to be."

His senior season has been everything he could have hoped for. He was named the Chucky Mullins Award recipient in the spring, and he's proven productive while remaining healthy for all 11 games.

Jones is credited with 26 total tackles, including 2.5 sacks.

"This year, just to stay healthy, means a lot," Jones said. "Entering this season, it was do or die. You play ball, if you get hurt, this is your last season anyway. It doesn't even matter. That's why I go and give it all I have. Just go out there and play ball."

He's not the flashiest of players. He's not a household name. But for Ole Miss, he's been invaluable as an unquestioned leader for a young team. Just ask his head coach.

"Jason's done a phenomenal job of representing the 38 jersey and the way he handles himself on the field, off the field, and the manner to which he plays with great heart," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said.

"He's not the most talented kid in the world, but you put on any film we've played this year, and Jason's representing this university in a very worthy manner. His leadership's been great, too."

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