Nobody expected a mass exodus early in the fourth quarter of the Egg Bowl, but after the Rebels went up 38-13 on the homestanding Mississippi State Bulldogs via a superb 38-yard TD run by RB Jordan Wilkins, who seems to have a knack for making nail-in-the-coffin plays against the Bulldogs, that's exactly what happened.
As the dearly departed Jack Cristal often said, there was "action in the aisles."
And why not?
The Rebels had done a collective "shhhhhh!" to the crowd, obnoxious cowbells and all, and it started early. A 27-yard Chad Kelly TD run broke the lid off the scoring and that was followed by a short pass to DeMore'ea Stringfellow for the second score, a pick six from 45 yards by CB Tony Bridges and a 36-yard scoring strike to Stringfellow for a 28-3 halftime lead.
MSU was able to muster a little something in the third quarter that made Rebel fans pause the celebration for a minute, but that's about all the State uprising lasted as heralded QB Dak Prescott was sacked seven times on the night.
"I thought our defense got winded at the end of the game because of the injuries we have that have taken a toll on our depth," said Coach Hugh Freeze, whose team gave up two meaningless TDs to cut the final score to 38-27 in a game that wasn't that close. "Our special teams were not very good. Other than that, we played a great game."
Freeze is now 3-1 against State and had a real shot at being 4-0, his lone loss coming in overtime in Starkville two years ago.
"I understand the importance of this game and always have. This one and LSU are just a little bit special, even though we try to treat them all the same, you know they are not," he deadpanned. "Now, I don't have to dodge the LSU or MSU question all year. I can enjoy my summer golf games without fearing the 'why didn't you beat State ' question. This one gets more offseason attention than the others and particularly now that both programs are relevant."
Freeze also said he anticipates a recruiting bump.
"We didn't have to win it to have a great recruiting year, but winning and being 9-3 sure gives you ammunition when you go in a recruit's house," he added.
The Dak Prescott Era at MSU is over and it has to sting for the MSU faithful. After all, to lose the Egg Bowl on enemy turf is one thing, to lose it at home with one of your better teams with one of your alltime great players at the helm, well, ouch.
"He was not going to go away. Dak is a great competitor and I'm glad I got to tell him that after the game. I am glad he is not coming back," Freeze laughed. "I told him that too."
The Rebels now await the bowl selection, but there are good odds there will be some sweetener in this one, as in Sugar. The highest ranked team after the SEC Championship game gets the Sugar Bowl big and if Alabama takes care of business over Florida, that could very well be the Rebs.
If not, it's a 9-3 worksheet with a fluke 4th and 25 from Atlanta, which we could lament, but not now, not after this win.
By anyone's standards, a very solid regular season wtih wins over Alabama, the number two team in the country, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and State. Hard to beat that any year, in fact it's the first time Ole Miss has ever done that.
So, enjoy, Rebel fans.
An easy win over the Bulldogs in Starkville is hard to come by and about as good as it gets.
With a smackdown like this, it shows whose state Mississippi really is.