There will be no national championship for Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs. The most successful regular season in school history came to an end with a 31-17 loss to No. 19 Ole Miss in Oxford.
The Bulldogs would have won the SEC West with a win and a loss by No. 1 Alabama to No. 15 Auburn later tonight, and presumably would have stayed inside the College Football Playoff’s top four, but the rival Rebels dashed those dreams with a second-half offensive explosion.
After taking a 7-3 lead into the break, Ole Miss fell behind with a Dak Prescott one-yard run at the 9:37 mark of the third quarter, but immediately regained the lead on a four-play, 84-yard drive highlighted by an 82-yard connection from Bo Wallace to Evan Engram, the longest Ole Miss play of the season to that point.
Ole Miss pushed the lead to 17-10 with a 39-yard Gary Wunderlich field goal, and then to 14 when Jaylen Walton ripped off a 91-yard touchdown run, besting the previous longest play of the season.
Mississippi State pulled within 24-17 on a 32-yard pass from Prescott to De’Runnya Wilson, but the dagger came on a 31-yard halfback pass from Jordan Wilkins to Cody Core. A last-gasp comeback effort evaporated when Prescott threw incomplete on 4th-and-goal from the four-yard line with two minutes remaining.
In the end, defense was Mississippi State’s undoing as Wallace’s 13 completions on 30 attempts went for 296 yards, and the Rebels ran for a combined 205 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. Engram in particular vexed the Bulldogs’ defense with five receptions for 176 yards.
In all, Ole Miss accumulated 28 points and 342 yards of total offense after halftime.
The win pushes Ole Miss to 9-3 on the season, and gives the Rebels their second Egg Bowl title in three years.
Mississippi State’s loss clinches the SEC West title for Alabama – their fourth since 2008 – and knocks the Bulldogs out of the College Football Playoff hunt barring mass chaos, and we’re talking plagues of biblical proportions infecting multiple college football programs. In the end, the first 10-win regular season team in Mississippi State history will have to settle for a Top 10 ranking and a possible Peach Bowl berth.