"All-out War"

The Ole Miss locker room didn't lack for disappointment Saturday night.


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Hugh Freeze. Barry Brunetti. D.T. Shackelford. Name any player or coach, the sentiment was the same: the Rebels face-planted in primetime, losing to then-No. 8 Missouri, 24-10. Missed opportunities were primarily to blame.

Usually Ole Miss has a day to throw such a loss "in the trash," as Freeze often says. Not this week. Even with the loss still fresh, questions quickly turned from Missouri to the final game of the regular season, to be played on Thanksgiving night, against in-state rival Mississippi State.

Disappointment to the next opportunity, in a matter of minutes. Rivalry week is a go.

"It's not that difficult, because it's the Egg Bowl," quarterback Barry Brunetti said of the quick, five-day turnaround. "(The Egg Bowl) is a year-round thought."

Yes, the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss, at 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC games, will close out the regular season against Mississippi State, as it does every year. This time, though, the Rebels will have to make the short drive to Starkville for a 6:30 p.m. central time kickoff on ESPN.

Ole Miss defeated the Bulldogs, 41-24, last season to bring the Egg Bowl trophy back to Oxford for the first time since 2008. The win capped a 6-6 regular season in the first year of Freeze, sending the Rebels to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.


Barry Brunetti
USA TODAY images

A year later, the roles are reversed. For Ole Miss, a win would merely help boost its bowl prospects. Mississippi State, however, is sitting one win shy at 5-6 (2-5 SEC) following a 24-17 win over Arkansas.

"I think they're a good football team," Freeze said. "I know that they'll be very emotional, not only because it's the Egg Bowl, but because they're playing for extra practices and a bowl game. We better get our kids ready.

"It's always important when you play that game. Certainly with their backs against the wall, I know that they'll have their team ready. We have to get ready."

The Rebels last won in Starkville in 2003; a 31-0 shutout in the final regular-season game for quarterback Eli Manning. Ole Miss holds a 55-25-5 edge in the game. The Rebels are 20-13-3 all-time in games played in Starkville.

Thursday will mark the third Egg Bowl for Brunetti, a senior who hails from nearby Memphis, Tenn. He's 1-1 in his career against the Bulldogs, including a start in Starkville in 2011. He knows the rivalry well.

"It's a different game than any I've been a part of," he said. "Everybody's emotion is flaring, and I feel like their emotion is going to be real high. They're like how we were last year, trying to go for a bowl game. I expect us to have the same attitude we had last year going into the game."

As disappointing as Missouri was, Ole Miss is turning the page quickly. The Rebels have no other choice. No days to decompress, to dissect the Missouri film and ponder the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.

Because, in Brunetti words, "an all-out war" is but a few days away.

"Coach Freeze grew up in Mississippi, so he knows the pride for this game and what we have to put on the line for this game," he said. "We know it's going to be a full 60 minutes. Both teams can have losing records and it's still going to be an all-out war. He does a great job of getting us focused for this game, and they're going to a great job this week of getting us focused.

"We've got to bring our ‘A' game, because Mississippi State is."


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